Last night, I was becoming more and more frustrated with the messages the media is sending to our culture about health and wellness. No, it wasn’t through ridiculous commercials or a radio ad to call Quik Trim to “get skinny again”. As frustrating as the plethora of those types of “information” is, I was more annoyed by something I watch regularly last night.
I have watched The Biggest Loser since one of the first seasons. I loved the show back then. It was really inspiring to see the changes these people made to their lives. The past couple of seasons have started to irk me by the producers needing to choose the BIGGEST players they can find, or the oldest, or weakest, etc. I much preferred the times where there were contestants who could stand to lose 100-150 lbs, instead of 300. I could cheer them on for their successes and not have to watch them doing things that were way beyond their physical limits and constantly wonder about the safety of the contestants.
I do continue to watch this show, partly because of the tradition of having my sister over for dinner and that we have watched it together so long, but mostly because I still love seeing these people make changes for the better.
As much as I don’t agree with many of the methods the show uses, and think that the contestants should have more than 6 months to lose a couple hundred pounds and make it a safer more lasting loss, I support the purpose of the show. To help people gain their health back and reconcile some emotional and mental struggles related to their weight.
But then last night had me questioning even MORE how this show is going to help these contestants really make changes that will last a lifetime, without adding new mental and emotional struggles to their psyche. Last night’s episode started off with a temptation. For each of their meals over the course of a day, the contestants had to go into a room to serve their plate from a buffet that had a “good” side and a “bad” side.
This really annoyed me, because it was teaching them the all or nothing mentality. It was portraying to the contestants that they had to either eat the healthy stuff OR the heavier stuff. Most of the contestants stuck with their diet plans and ate the grilled chicken, veggies, fruit, oatmeal, etc that was offered on one side of the buffet, constantly complaining about how they would LOVE to have a cookie, a fry, a donut. One contestant dove in with hopes of winning the challenge and ate a lot. Only two of the remaining contestants did anything remotely in the middle. One had a chicken wing, because she really wanted it, and then had the rest of her meal from the more wholesome items. Another had a bite of a taquito and then realized it wasn’t good and put it down. I commend them.
But in general, why not help teach these contestants that it is okay to have items like this in small portions and as a part of a healthy diet. I understand that these contestants needed to be removed from these foods to have time to learn about proper portions, the benefits of nutrition, how to fuel their bodies, etc. But fourteen weeks into the show you think there would be at least some mention of still being able to fit those types of things into a healthy, balanced diet.
What happened instead? The contestants received guilt. They were put through grueling workouts with Bob & Jillian yelling things like “chicken wing, taquito, hot dog, pizza” in their faces. They were told “time to work off those calories”! Basically, you have to pay penance for eating. Hmmm? Not quite sure how that mindset will help them in the real world. Great, Jillian. Remove the hard feelings of an unsupportive mother and how it led a contestant to being an overeater in one of your powwows, but likely replace them with “you fatty still eating too much you don’t deserve it workout for an extra hour” thoughts.
And on top of all that, when going over the results of the temptation...the HIGHEST number of calories consumed by a contestant (besides the one who “won” and overate to do so) was 1556! For approximately a 280 lb young man! That spends most of his day working out. I knew that the contestants ate too little in order to get the amazing numbers that come up in weigh ins, but I never knew it would be that bad. And to say that it was the 2nd highest from part of a temptation just screams a message of “eating more than 1500 calories is way too much” to the public. No wonder there are so many skewed views of how much you need to eat to diet.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the show allowed contestants to eat enough to fuel their bodies properly and lose the weight more gradually? And included some life lessons about eating for a lifestyle change that can last versus the “choose Extra gum as a healthy snack” commercials within the show? Sadly, money is worth more, so the show will continue down it’s path. And I don’t know how much longer I will be along for the ride.