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SCV Voices: Weight loss reality show deceives an obese nation

Jim Berardino

Posted: October 10, 2009 8:44 p.m.
Updated: October 11, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
As America's obesity rates soar to an all-time high, it's no wonder that television's weight-loss reality shows completely captivate their audiences.

Millions are inspired watching 300- to 480-pound individuals drop 10 to 20 pounds of weight per week - pounds that took them a lifetime to gain.

What pure elation, joy and pride these contestants must have, what relief.

But the "reality" of this "reality show" is not so happy. Tragically, a seemingly harmless reality show continues to mislead millions of overweight and already misled Americans.

Although these shows feature health and fitness professionals, their methods are anything but professional as they break every rule for a healthy, sustainable weight-loss program.

Are these trainers aware of the harm they are inflicting upon these desperate individuals, yet ignoring the truth in exchange for high ratings?

Just what detrimental methods do they advocate, you ask?

Fitness professionals advocate losing no more than two to three pounds per week, not the 15-20 pounds that some contestants drop.

To lose weight that rapidly is impractical, unsustainable and downright unhealthy.

Keep in mind that to drop one pound of fat, one must either create a dietary deficit of 3,500 calories or exercise it off.

For us mere mortals, burning off one pound of fat equates to an hour on the elliptical machine for all seven days of the week.

Another contributing factor leading to the contestants' excessive weight loss is derived from exercising for four to five hours per day while not getting the essential rest days and recovery needed following such a workout.

Overtraining becomes dangerously counterproductive.

Symptoms include insomnia, decreased immunity, depression, decreased appetite and loss of enthusiasm.

Adhering to severely restricted calorie diets, contestants only receive short-term benefits in exchange for long-term disappointment.

Though the scale may be dropping, so is their metabolism, which will promote greater body fat storage in the long run.

As contestants quickly deplete their body's minerals and vitamins through such rigorous exercise, their diet fails to replenish the necessary nutrients for repairing the muscles and replacing the body's glycogen stores.

Though the show's viewers believe contestants have lost 100 pounds of fat, the reality is they lost a large amount of water weight and muscle as well.

One reality show winner, Ryan Benson, lost 122 pounds over a 10-week period. Most would say that is great.

But upon reading Ryan Benson's blog, one can understand the torment he placed on his body and emotions.

Ryan claims, "I wanted to win so bad that the last 10 days before the final weigh-in I didn't eat one piece of solid food! Twenty-four hours before the final weigh-in I stopped putting anything in my body, liquid or solid, then I started using some old high school wrestling tricks.

"I wore a rubber suit while jogging on the treadmill, and then spent a lot of time in the steam room. In the final 24 hours I probably dropped 10-13 pounds in just pure water weight.

"By the time of the final weigh-in I was peeing blood."

Now that sounds healthy, doesn't it? Ryan later confessed to falling into depression as he returned to his old eating habits.

He also mentioned that as soon as the show was over he gained 32 pounds in five days simply by drinking water.

Ultimately, most contestants receive little more than temporary weight loss. The amount of suffering and damage they inflict on themselves emotionally and physically should be viewed as nothing more than entertainment, not a life-changing path to enlightenment.

Maybe one day America will stop searching for the magic weight loss pill and get down to the business at hand - a healthy diet, an appropriate exercise plan and realistic expectations.

Jim Berardino is a Saugus resident and owner of The Survivor Challenge. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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