Thursday, May 14, 2009

Smorgasborg of weight in television

Sometimes, I get so tired of all the weight loss shows on television. Though the shows all claim that it is about health, there is always a focus on numbers.

We'd all agree that the The Biggest Loser finale certainly focused on numbers. Many bloggers, including myself, have talked about this show and the misappropriate message it is sending to the public. Last night was the season 7 finale. Helen Phillips, a 48-year old woman from Michigan, took the prize of $250,000 after losing a percentage of more than half her body weight. Looking at those finale photos, my eyebrows raise, reminding me just how much someone will do for a cash incentive. Of course, I cannot say this was her sole motivation, but clearly, there wasn't much of an appearance of "health." This also included the at-home winner, Jerry, the oldest contestant, who looked like he had aged 20 years.

So this begs the question, does the Biggest Loser finale cause eating disorders as the tvsquad suggests.

The sad thing about all this is 1) I couldn't believe I kept thinking, "well, crap, she weighs less than me" and 2) The Biggest Loser is slated for another season next year.

Since the Biggest Loser has become popular, another new show coming to the Oxygen network is hoping to prove to be just as successful. Dance your ass off combines both the aspects of the Biggest Loser and Dancing with the Stars. In this show, contestants are paired with a professional dancer and nutritionist. Each week, they perform a dance and receive scores from judges. Combing the judges' scores with how much weight loss they had during that week, determines elimination. Hmm, I just don't think this is sending the greatest message either to a general audience who craves weight loss.

On a positive note here, I caught a few episodes of the Wetv show, I want to save your life with Charles Stuart Platkin, aka the "Diet Detective." Platkin, a nutrition and public health advocate, performs health interventions on various individuals/couples each week. Platkin spends a week with the individuals, educating them on nutrition, exercise, and general well being. He leaves it up to them, and then returns 3-4 months later to see how they have progressed.

What I liked about this show was that there was a general less overall emphasis on weight. It did seem to be more geared towards a healthy lifestyle. In the show, he did not advocate for 6-8 hours of exercise a day but a much more reasonable amount for weight loss. There was more a realistic approach to getting exercise any way you could then simply hours in the gym. With eating, there wasn't an extremist ideology, but instead making health conscious choices. I wish more people watched this show, as there was much more of a realistic approach to weight loss.

Lastly, today's Dr,. Phil had an episode on eating disorders. I didn't see the entire episode, but did read through the show. In general, Dr. Phil did seem to have a little of an understanding on the plight of eating disorders. This specific show focused on a set of twins, one of whom had an eating disorder. Cynthia Bulik, researcher and author of Crave, was also in the audience to help both the eating disorder individual and the family with informative, helpful insights.

Thoughts on any of these shows?


Susie said...

Aseries of the Biggest Loser has recently started in the UK

Having never seen the US version i'm not sure how similar they are (or not). But from what i've seen of the UK version it seems to be mainly exercise based. Ihaven't seen the discuss food or diet at all other than giving them the chance to win a spa trip. The couples had to decide whether to eat a plate of their favourite "naughty"/unhealthy food but both the couple had to do it in order for only one of them to win the prize.

But then even if food isn't the main focus i guess fitness focuses can lead to over exercise and unnecessary weight loss.

Cammy said...

I thought yesterday's Dr. Phil show was an improvement over previous ED episodes, in which he has always made an insufferable ass of himself. I also liked that he showed that someone doesn't have to be concentration-camp emaciated to have a serious ED.

As for the weight loss shows, they really sadden me. I have personally never watched one, and I would hope that people in an at-risk category for being triggered would do the same, but I know that the shows probably attract just as many of those types as of people who actually need to lose weight. Unfortunately, they send unhealthy messages to both groups, I really don't see how it helps anyone. Has there been any attempt to start letter-writing campaigns to the networks?

Anonymous said...

I never watch those shows. They are so unrealistic and I think can cause a lot of harm. But that's me. :)

Lissy said...

grrrr. the biggest loser makes me crazy. they lose sooo much weight and so quickly. it seems.... well, wrong.

i caught a few minutes of this season, and they had the contestants running a marathon. that seems so -- obsessive and exessive and/or over the top. are marathons even good for our bodies? you can really hurt yourself, no?

the show seems a teeny, weeny bit about health. mostly, it's about the weigh in

L1z4 said...

Did you catch the part where they showed the second runner over-exerting herself to the point where she vomitted all over the treadmill, and Jill (I think her name is), wouldn't let her stop and yelled at her, and she was made to keep on running on the treadmill, with her T-shirt soaked in her vomit, while yelling something like "I won't quit!" or something? I was stunned, and shocked. It was blatant promotion of bulimia. Unbelievable! This show should be illegal.

Tiptoe said...

I agree with the comments.

Susie, the UK version is most likely like the US version as BL is a franchise. It's similar in Australia as well. I'm sure there is some nutrition, but it's rarely seen in the show, just more centered around weight loss and overexercising.

Cammy, from what I saw, Dr. Phil's show was better than past ones. Hopefully, it was more helpful to the general public that any size can be an ED.

As for letter writing, I have no clue. I'd think there would be some somewhere but who knows. I guess we could always start one. ;-)

Sarahgg, I agree that most of those shows have general problems. America just isn't attuned to how the body works, and that "healthy" weight loss takes time.

Lissy, it depends as far as marathons go. If you train appropriately, meaning adequate fuel and proper rest, you can run and your body will be okay. In general, however, marathons place a lot of stress on the body, so it is important to treat both the body and mind wisely.

Tiptoe said...

L1Z4, yes, I did see that. I'm sure it happens much more frequently than is shown on television. It's sad that they get away with this type of thing in the name of "health." Grrr.

Gwen said...

I don't watch any of those types of shows as I find them very triggering. The focus on weight (the number) is so disturbing.

PTC said...

I've only watched the biggest loser a few times. There is no way that someone can sustain that type of working out and calorie consumption post show. It seems like it would be nearly impossible. People have to fit in time for their jobs, kids, etc. Seems hard, but what do I know.

Tiptoe said...

The sustainability factor after being in the Biggest Loser would be incredibly difficult for anyone and is unhealthy in the real world.