Reality game shows on weight loss remain popular because they inspire and motivate those who share in the struggle to lose weight and live healthier lives.
By Lisa Ziegel:
Reality game shows focusing on weight loss such as The Biggest Loser or Extreme Weight Loss remain popular because they inspire and motivate others who share in the struggle to lose weight and adopt healthier lifestyles.
Weight loss reality shows are HUGE
Contestants start out at extremely heavy weights, with Body Mass Index numbers of 39 and higher (anything greater than 30 is considered “obese”). By the end of the show, they have made astounding transformations, dropping one-third to as much as one-half their starting weight.
Although contestants are medically evaluated and judged to be in suitable condition for grueling hours of workouts, contestants do fall off treadmills, pass out, or throw-up. Weigh-ins depict losses of 10-26 pounds in one week’s time. Losing only 2 or 3 pounds is considered a failure – even though that amount is considered by experts to be healthy weight loss.
Since it is not possible to show all of the background work that goes into preparing for what is shown on TV, moments that are dramatic are emphasized and keep viewers coming back for more, driving-up the ratings. there are pros and cons to weight loss reality shows, as with any diet and exercise program:
Pros – Last chance workout!
- People who have large amounts of weight to lose may lose patience in losing it slowly. Seeing dramatic changes in a short amount of time gets people more excited about it.
- Audiences enjoy watching people struggle with issues similar to theirs. And watching them succeed against the odds is even more inspiring and motivating.
- New lifestyle habits are taught, and viewers see that it’s possible to make changes on their own.
Cons – Television only shows part of the picture
- Participants are isolated away from family, work and friends, which is completely different from normal daily life.
- Exercise and diet are strictly controlled by a team of professionals.
- Losing large amounts of weight can result in loss of lean muscle mass and slowing of the metabolism.
Strongly stated: Not all weight is fat
Losing large amounts of weight does not always mean that this weight is fat. In fact, James Fell wrote in the Los Angeles Times that “muscle is three times more metabolically active at rest than fat,” pound-for-pound. A study led by Roel Vink, The Effect of Rate of eight Loss on Long-Term Weight, supported this fact. Subjects in this study consumed a low calorie diet (1,250 calories per day) vs. a very-low calorie diet (500 calories per day) each lost around 19 pounds at the end of the 12-week study period. However, the very-low calorie group lost 43% more muscle mass than the group consuming more calories.
In real life, most people do not have hours to work out as depicted on television. Following evidence-based guidelines by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) can help you gain strength and lose weight, time-effectively.
ACSM recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise spread throughout each week and at least two days of resistance training (weights, resistance bands) engaging large muscle groups (e.g., back, chest, legs). This potentially adds one-half a pound or more of muscle mass each week. Not only does this increase the body’s ability to burn calories at rest, but decreases risk of injuries and boosts energy. Add a high-protein, high-fiber diet consisting of satisfying and low calorie foods such as the Zone’s PastaRx Fusilli or Orzo, and a metabolically healthy weight loss program that can work in the real world is a reality.
While reality shows can be inspiring and motivating, recognize that they are primarily geared to gain ratings, and generate advertising dollars – bulking up dollars for the TV
networks. Following scientifically proven exercise and weight loss guidelines may be less thrilling, but is safer and easier to implement – and will help you shed pounds.
Want to keep it real?
Watch the shows for inspiration. Follow proven guidelines for a healthy metabolism.