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TV Weight Loss Series

By Gary F. Zeolla

There have been and continue to be many TV series about people losing weight and being shown healthy ways of eating and exercising. I have reviewed several of these series. The most popular of these is NBC's The Biggest Loser.  But others that I have reviewed include: Honey, We're Killing the Kids, You Are What You Eat, Supersize vs. Superskinny, and I Used to be Fat.

All of these except for "The Biggest Loser" are no longer on the air. But a couple of others series I have seen include "Fat Chef" which was a short-lived series on the Food Network, and "Our Big Fat Weight Loss Story" currently airing on Style Network on Saturday mornings.

These various series have many commonalities that will be discussed in this article. And more importantly, this article will look at how the average person who isn't lucky enough to get on a TV show can incorporate some of these ideas into you own weight loss, health-improvement attempts.

The Shocker

Some of the series start by using some kind of "shocker" to give the weight loss seeker an extra incentive to lose weight. This can include some kind of dramatic method to show them how poor their current diet is, or it can be to show them with medical tests or in other ways how truly poor their health currently is and what dangers lie ahead if they don't change.

This is important. Changing one's lifestyle to incorporate exercise and healthier eating habits is difficult. And a person needs to have a strong incentive to do so or they simply won't stick with a weight loss plan.

Now for the person not on a TV series, this "shocker" can easily be attained with a trip to the doctor. Get a full physical done; complete with a blood test for sugar and lipid (cholesterol and triglyceride) levels, along with a stress test. And be sure the doctor is honest with you about your current state of health and what lies ahead if you don't change.

Of course, you should tell your doctor that you plan on starting a weight loss and exercise program, and get his approval for doing so. That is why a stress test is so important. It will tell you what level of exercise you can start at.

Personal Trainers

Most of these series give the person who is looking to lose weight a personal trainer. That trainer then puts the overweight person on a several hours a day workout plan. And the trainer pushes the weight loss pursuer very hard, sometimes even to the point of them throwing up or almost passing out in their initial workouts.

But most importantly, the trainers teach the weight loss pursuers how to exercise using a variety of workout modalities. Sometimes they're in the gym, using standard workout fair like tread mills, exercise bikes, various strength training machines, and free weights.

At other times, they're outside, jogging, hiking mountains, bicycling, surfing, digging sand at a beach, swimming, canoeing, or engaging in more traditional exercises, except they use less conventional objects than barbells and dumbbells for resistance.

Now, the initial approach of pushing someone who is totally out of shape so hard that they throw up or almost pass out is completely opposite to how I explain to go about starting an exercise program in the chapter of that name in my book God-given Foods Eating Plan. I advocate starting with walking at a casual pace, and gradually increasing the distance and speed, then later incorporating free weights.

The reason for my approach and my concern with how these series do it is that for someone who is totally out of shape to push themselves hard there is a good chance of getting injured. And in fact, on almost every season of "The Biggest Loser" at least one person ends up sidelined with an injury. In the current season (winter/ spring 2012), there is one participant who is suffering with a stress fracture in his leg, and thus cannot participate in many of the challenges.

Another reason I don't like the idea of pushing a totally out of shape person hard is that many who are not on a TV series with a camera following them around would probably give up if being pushed so hard initially.

However, I do agree with the idea of hiring a personal trainer if you can afford it. If you are new to exercising, having someone show you how to properly perform various exercises is vital. And once you are ready to be pushed, it does help to have someone there to do the pushing. Most people working out on their own simply do not work out hard enough to see optimal results. A trainer can provide the needed motivation to put that extra effort into it that continual results require.

A personal trainer can also give you ideas on different ways to train. That is one thing I like about these series. They show that it is possible to get in a good workout in a variety of ways. Inside, outside, with equipment, or without equipment, there is always something you can do to stay in shape regardless of what you have access to. And incorporating different types of exercises modalities in your exercise program can prevent boredom and plateauing.

Nutrition Advice

Sometimes it is the personal trainer, or sometimes a certified nutritionist or dietician is brought in to counsel the weight loss pursuer on healthier ways of eating. Either way, this is vital. Many people simply follow bad eating habits because that is all they have ever known. Or they have fallen into such habits out of claims of lack of time or simple laziness to prepare healthy meals, so they turn to fast foods as the "staple" in their diets.

In some of these series, the trainer or nutritionist will go into the person's homes and check their refrigerators and food shelves.  All of the unhealthy or "fattening" foods will be pitched. And the trainer or nutritionist will take the person grocery shopping and show them healthy alternatives that can be purchased. They then will show them how to prepare these foods.

This again is vital. Many people simply do not know what healthy food choices are as opposed to unhealthy ones, so they need someone to teach them the difference.

Of course, not everyone can get on a TV series and have all of this provided for them.  And many people cannot afford to hire a personal trainer or nutritionist to teach them all of this stuff. But that is where a book like my "Eating Plan" book comes in. It overviews each major food group and discusses what are good choices as opposed to poor ones. It also discusses the "dramatic" approach of going through your kitchen and pitching all of your unhealthy foods and replacing them with healthier choices. It also discusses how to go about things more gradually, for those who would be more comfortable with such an approach.

Speed of Weight Loss

Another commonality in these TV series is that the participants generally lose weight at a rather rapid rate. It is not uncommon on "The Biggest Loser" for instance for people to lose pounds in the double digits in a week. But it must be remembered, that in most of these series, all the person is doing is trying to lose weight. They have put the rest of their lives "on hold" so to speak. They are not working regular jobs. And in some cases like "The Biggest Loser" they have even left their families and are living on a weight loss ranch. Thus they are able to work out for several hours a day.

But the average person could not afford to take several weeks or even months off of work to exercise for so many hours a day. And most people would not want to leave their families for that amount of time either.

Now if you can afford to do so, great. Going to some kind of weight loss ranch might be the only way some people will break their old, poor habits and truly lose weight. But most people have to keep working and would not want to leave their families, so an hour or two a day is probably the most that most people would be able to work out. But that is plenty for a gradual weight loss.

And actually, most experts recommend that weight loss be gradual, only a pound or two a week, rather than the double digit a week weight loss that participants in these shows try to attain. The reason for this is that by losing weight gradually, your body can adjust, and you're less likely to gain the weight back.

Now for someone who is truly overweight to the point of being clinically obese, then a greater weight loss of say 3-4 pounds a week might be warranted. But the most important point is to look long term. Even just a pound or two a week would amount to 50-100 pounds lost in a year. And that would make a significant difference for most people.

So don't get discouraged watching the big numbers lost on these shows if you are on a weight loss program and are "only" losing a pound or two a week. You are doing just fine as long as long as you are losing weight each week.

Keeping It Off

Losing weight is actually easy as compared to the much harder process of keeping the lost weight off. Now, when these series do follow-up shows, the former participants generally have done a good job in this regard. They have managed to keep the weight off months or even years after they left the series. That is in part a testament to how well the personal trainers and nutritionists did their jobs ingraining into the participants exercise and healthier eating habits.

But it also is in part due to the very public way the person went about losing their weight. For them to have gone back to their old habits after their time on the series ended would have brought down ridicule from friends and family who saw them on the show and how well they did.

But those who are not on TV when losing weight are not so obvious about their attempted changed lifestyles. So your friends and family might not know about it and just won't be "on your case" if you don't succeed or fall back into old habits.

But the answer to this is to make your plans and progress public. This can easily be done with the Internet and sites like Facebook. Let all of your "friends" know that you are embarking on a weight loss journey, and give regular progress updates. And then you will feel like you have people looking over your shoulder and will be less likely to backslide knowing the ridicule you might incur if you do.

Conclusion

Watching TV shows like "The Biggest Loser" can be a great incentive to the person who needs to lose weight to actually start a plan to do so. And you can learn much from watching such shows. Just don't expect to make the same kind of progress as they do. Be realistic, and you won't get discouraged. And if you can afford it, hire a personal trainer and/ or nutritionist to help you on your journey. And pick up a copy of my book God-given Foods Eating Plan for even further help.

TV Weight Loss Series. Copyright 2012 by Gary F. Zeolla.



The above article was posted on this Web site March 28, 2012.

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