It’s that time again – I saw the first inspirational commercial yesterday, with two former NFL athletes who are now severely obese starting on their weight loss journey followed by millions of people. Complete with massive weekly weight losses, lots of crying and screaming from trainers, product placement shots from Jenny-O brand ground turkey and Subway and lots of manufactured drama we can look forward to another person losing up to 50% of their body weight whether it be healthy or unhealthy.
You might remember at the end of last season where the winner looked severely depleted on the finale and there was a massive public outcry about her weight loss methods and how unhealthy they were both physically and mentally (and then it was revealed that most of the finale winners do the same thing, she just did it better). So here’s a few revealing notes about this show and some things to think about when approaching your own fitness regime, if this show inspires you to get off of the couch and actually get healthier.
The Winner is pretty easy to pick right away
Here’s the thing – when your body was fit and healthy in the past it really, really wants to get back that way again. Some of the contestants have been unhealthy and overweight their entire lives, and these are the ones that have a hard time once they hit a certain point. The contestants that were formerly athletic and thin (and have a ton of weight to lose) make the final 4 almost every time (unless they get booted due to politics), and almost all of the winners have been fit in the past, either when they were younger or just a few years before. So when I’m watching and I hear that “I was a high level athlete in high school/college” or there is someone who turned 20 and then gained 200 pounds that’s the person you’re going to see going really far unless they sabotage themselves or fall victim to the game politics.
I won’t comment on the trainers except to point out that the workouts they put the contestants through aren’t anything revolutionary or different than what a decent trainer would do – except at a much higher intensity (which isn’t always a good thing) and with lots of screaming and drama for the benefit of TV. And just because they do it – doesn’t mean you should.
Lesson: Your body likes to be healthy – and will try hard to get back there even after you have done awful things to it. It might take a bit longer to do so, but odds are you can get back there as long as you stick with it.
What these people do daily is NOT healthy
Contestants on the show are contractually obligated to burn x amount of calories every day and eat x amount of calories, all of which is controlled. The workouts you see with the trainers are for about 1 hour of the day and are somewhat staged, but they do work out – for hours. People hurt themselves constantly and sometimes you see it and sometimes you don’t, but if you watch you will notice how sometimes things like knee braces and support tape start appearing. When they go home, inevitably their weight loss slows down – because they aren’t working out hours a day and they actually have a real life time management situation with family, children and jobs. If many of you could dedicate 15-20 hours a week to exercise and eating right, you would lose weight too, possibly just as rapidly. Don’t assume that just because they did it, you can too – real, healthy weight loss is much more gradual.
Most of the gains you make while attempting to lose weight are done outside of the gym by eating properly, lowering stress and sleeping well for recovery so that you can exercise again as soon as possible. This is how real gains are made over time.
Lesson: Your body also likes to make change gradually, and will fight back against doing anything forced. Give yourself time and constant effort and the weight will come off.
Buyer beware with the products that they push
Please remember that the products that they promote are based on marketing dollars – not the best products. For example, on the most recent episode they were promoting canned soup. Low calorie, certainly – but canned soups are often high in sodium. There are also highly processed ingredients in them, even if they claim to have chicken or vegetables as an ingredient. Subway, which has been a huge sponsor of the show has been shown to not have much more nutritional value than many other fast food places. Things like Lara Bars and other quick snacks are fine once in a while, but should not ideally be eaten over something natural and whole. Ground turkey and chicken are good protein options, but possibly having a whole product from your local farm would be a much better idea (and cheaper). Instead of vegetables cooked in a plastic box, get them fresh from the produce aisle. The trouble is that the general public doesn’t know and will blindly purchase something because they paid the show to be a sponsor – don’t be that person.
Lesson: Just avoid anything processed as much as possible. Eat real food whenever you can. Period.
Don’t get discouraged if your personal journey takes a long time
The main focus for anyone changing their lifestyle should be HEALTH FIRST. In case I didn’t say that emphatically enough. Scale weight coming off is a nice by product of maintaining an exercise program and eating whole foods within your caloric requirements, but it should not be the top priority. In fact, stay away from the scale at the start if you can. Compare how your clothes fit, think about things like energy levels and sleep quality and improve steadily day by day – then step on the scale. Sometimes you get a pleasant surprise when you have had all of these amazing benefits plus you’re down 20 pounds. On the show they do some brief doctors’ visits with lots of tears and crying, especially when people do things like lower their blood lipid values or successfully reverse diabetes onset. The thing is – you can do that too. It’s really not that remarkable if you just start treating your body with respect.
Lesson: Getting started is the hardest part, but pretty much any condition can be slowed, stopped and even reversed if you do things the right way. You don’t have to feel the way you do right now if you’re unhappy – it’s a choice.
Television shows are meant for entertainment, and this show is a prime example. As I have said in the past, if this show inspires regular people to get off the couch and start exercise, eating maybe a bit healthier and changing their lives then fantastic. Obesity is a horrible epidemic that will continue to get worse if we don’t start getting smarter about it. This article simply means to point out some perspective on the fact that what you see (especially in the fitness industry) often isn’t real.
Until next time, losers. And I mean that in the nicest way.