Popular TV Weight Loss Programs and Competitions have been getting a lot of attention recently. I find it ironic that it took someone getting questionably too thin for the population to finally notice the negative impact of the behaviors that are practiced and endorsed during a televised weight loss competition for money. For me, it has never been a question of whether or not working out three to six hours per day and severely restricting calories is healthy. Educated professionals know that, like most things in life, exercise and healthy eating favor us best and are sustainable lifelong behaviors when a “moderation” approach is taken. Not to simplify things too much, but don’t under exercise or over exercise; don’t under eat or over eat. It’s like sailing a boat; don’t lean too much to one side or you’ll tip over. Unfortunately, televised weight loss programming promotes extreme behaviors and when extreme behaviors are practiced it’s hard to sail; the end result most of the time is being lost at sea or treading water waving hands for help from the Coast Guard.
To me it’s not a question about whether or not what they do on TV weight loss competitions is healthy; it’s obvious the contestants are overdoing it. The real question is how did our population get here? How is it people are looking for answers on TV to determine why they are overweight or obese, and what to do about it? After working as a personal trainer with hundreds of clients for over 15 years, it is apparent that in our society there is lack of education about lifelong healthy eating and exercise habits. School curriculum merely touches on these areas and it seems that once people graduate from college and join the work force, they end up pretty lost on how to eat and exercise to maintain health. Where education is lacking, so are our role models, with most people copying poor habits from their parents. Today’s typical job has long hours and places individuals behind a desk, barely moving, encouraging poor eating and exercise habits. Rushing out the door in the morning to get to work, skipping breakfast and grinding away immobile at a desk until noon before realizing that no food has been put in the system since dinner the night before, then rushing to put anything in the body that is convenient to put hunger at ease — this is a great way to neglect the body’s nutritional needs, not to mention not exercise enough.
Where do we go from here? Like most problems that took years to create, to correct them in a permanent manner it takes time. Job structure may be difficult to change but it is definitely possible to work a desk job and live a healthy lifestyle. With proper planning and preparing, healthy eating and exercise patterns are possible. The right education facilitating a move toward healthy habits is the first step. After learning what to do based on science (not a weight loss competition, fad exercise program or a fad diet), taking the time to embrace those habits so that they become part of the daily status quo is the path to lifelong health and fitness. In the same manner that bad habits are hard to break, once good habits are established it’s much easier to keep them. I can say from witnessing success in my clients and myself; it feels pretty good staying out of dangerous waters and being a responsible captain of your ship.