This week sees the return of The Biggest Loser, the long running NBC weight loss show that’s been ‘helping’ obese people lose weight for the last 7 years.
As you probably know, I’m not the biggest fan of The Biggest Loser,but I certainly can’t deny its popularity – the show’s about to enter its 12th season! And The Biggest Loser is not alone. Over the last few years we’ve seen many other weight loss shows come and go, including Diet-Tribe, Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, Heavy, Dance Your Ass Off, Celebrity Fit Club, Shedding For The Wedding and many more.
Collectively I think they all work to mislead the viewing public. I understand that a TV show needs to be dramatic and entertaining but I believe in order for you to reach your health and fitness goals you need to have realistic expectations. And reality is in short supply on many of these shows….
So for today’s Top 10 I thought I’d list the Top 10 Fitness TV Falsehoods perpetrated by your favorite reality weight loss shows. How many of these do you recognize!
1. Yelling And Screaming Isn’t The Answer – Jillian Michaels has made a career of cursing out her contestants. But don’t think for a moment that all personal trainers yell, scream, belittle, and hurl profanities at their clients in an attempt to motivate them. It’s simply not true and is damaging to the profession as a whole. A great trainer will demand respect, not impose their will on you.
2. No Pain, No Gain – Even on a more realistic TV show like Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, trainer Chris Powell pushes clients to the breaking point. The curse words and expletives fly as Powell tries to get people to overcome their mental barriers – and we’ve all seen episodes of other programs of people crying while working out. Exercise is a stimulus to improve, but you don’t need to torture yourself to get better.
3. Misplaced Motivation – If you’re 200 pounds overweight your motivation for getting in shape should be to get healthy, reclaim your life and be able to live as long as possible for your loved ones. It shouldn’t be a cash prize, a luxury wedding or a new car. While those rewards are wonderful they’re also the wrong reason to get in shape. This is something you have to do for you!
4. Excessive Running – I see this so often that it makes me cringe. I’m not a fan of long distance running as you know, but many of these weight loss shows use running as a big part of the training process for their participants. While running can be used as part of a program, there are many other ways to build endurance and fitness without punishing the joints, especially when contestants are carrying around hundreds of pounds of excess weight.
5. Safety Last – I’m honestly surprised no one has yet died on The Biggest Loser given how hard contestants are pushed in the first few weeks of each season. We’ve all seen the scenes of contestants fainting, collapsing and vomiting. Hey – guess what – it doesn’t have to be that tough! Personally I think certain weight loss shows go too far in the pursuit of entertainment versus the well being of their contestants.
6. Unrealistic Goals – On Extreme Makeover, trainees get 3 months to lose 50 pounds while on The Biggest Loser, contestants shoot for double-digit weight loss each week and are devastated when they lose only 3 pounds. Successful weight loss happens the same as you gained it – one pound at a time, and SLOWLY. You didn’t gain 100 pounds in 10 weeks – why would you try and lose it that quickly? Aim for 2 pounds max per week and you’ll be golden.
7. Terrible Training Form – Weight loss fitness shows feature some of the worst exercise form I’ve ever seen. From throwing punches to squats to dumbbell exercises and everything in between. What’s worse is that the trainers don’t explain to the viewing public what a particular exercise is good for and what it will do and instead just show random montages of bad form. That’s a disservice if you ask me.
8. Gratuitous Product Placement – Yes I know TV shows have to make money, but that’s usually done during commercials. Now we have product placement EVERYWHERE, and trainers recommending everything from chewing gum to turkey breasts to Subway sandwiches and computer programs to track calories. It all seems a bit disingenuous and fake to me. I’d rather the trainers took those 30 seconds and educated the public, rather than sell them a product.
9. Fitness 24/7 – Wouldn’t it be nice to be flown to a nice, sunny, beautiful location to be part of a weight loss show? All of your meals are cooked for you, you have no job, no kids, no responsibilities… it’s great! But it’s not real! With the exception of Extreme Makeover, almost every other show has contestants living in a fantasy land where all they do is eat healthy and exercises. Guess what – the weight falls off them. But guess what happens when they return to their day-to-day lives? Yep you guessed it…!
10. Fake Psychology – Some shows have a therapist, others have the trainers try to play one. But truthfully, issues with food are just that – issues. And most people need more than personal training and a pep talk from a nutritionist. Many weight loss shows totally miss the mark by not addressing the need for therapy as an integral part of any successful weight loss program. A quick chat with a trainer on a treadmill just doesn’t cut it!
Reality TV is entertainment at its core. And while it can provide some useful information, you must always remember that’s it unrealistic for most people to lose weight this quickly. Stick with the basics, eat healthy and be active and you’ll be good. Trust me!