Is weight loss entertainment?

I recently read an article in ‘The Advertiser’ where Professor Gary Wittert, Chair of the Weight Management Council of Australia and the University of Adelaide’s head of the Discipline of Medicine was reported as stating that The Biggest Loser reality TV series is ‘misleading and an attempt to make entertainment of the nation’s obesity epidemic’.

I’m personally not a fan of the show but I have found it interesting to listen to the perspective that various personal training clients have shared with me. On one hand, there are many people who find the show motivating and it does inspire them to consider starting an exercise program or refocus their exercise endeavors.

On the other hand, a number of people that I have spoken with have commented that the show made exercise seem unattainable – who wants to exercise until they throw up?

My greatest problem with The Biggest Loser is that it promotes extreme weight loss in an ‘unreal’ environment. Contestants on the series don’t have to work or balance other ‘real life’ competing priorities with their exercise sessions and don’t have to go and shop for food, navigate social events. The focus is also only on the ‘weight loss’ benefits of exercise rather than other highly valuable benefits such as prevention of many lifestyle diseases such as cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

While contestants might lose weight and learn how to construct an exercise program, I think they are missing out on the key skill required to achieve the many health benefits of exercise. This skill is the ability to make exercise happen in a real life environment of career, family and social commitments and to make it happen every week. This is about understanding the importance of regular exercise, the value it can bring to your life and making a decision to prioritise regular slots in your weekly diary to exercise. This may not make for good TV viewing but from my experience  is what is required to change the health status of the western world.

-Kristin Lewis


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