I did something Monday night that I don’t usually do…I watched Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition, and I have a few things to say about it. If you watch the show and love it, good for you. I’ll be exercising my choice not to watch it again, and here’s why…
I was disappointed in this show for several reasons – the first being that it could be awesome, but it’s not. It’s so so far from awesome. By now, I know that I shouldn’t be surprised by the ridiculous portrayal of extreme weight-loss in reality TV, but call me naive. I already knew (from seeing various segments from earlier episodes) that the show sends a false message regarding weight-loss, but what I saw last night made me sick to my stomach.
The woman’s first goal was to lose 100 pounds in 3 months. (This literally makes me ache inside.) And while it’s commendable to make huge changes in your lifestyle that encourage substantial weight-loss, I struggle to believe that losing that much in 3 months is healthy. Doesn’t losing weight at that rate cause an increased risk of heart palpitations among other things? Obviously, I’m not a doctor…nor am I an authority on this, but highly respected weight-loss advocates (regardless of their methods) seem to agree that losing weight slowly and steadily is better.
I get it. This is TV, and as a society we love instant gratification. That’s obviously what this show is trying to provide its viewers, and it’s working. Every week, I see people tweeting, blogging and talking about this show – how inspiring it is, etc. I even have a friend who auditioned (and I wish him the best with it if he believes it’s right for him.) They like seeing these people succeed. I like seeing these people succeed, but what’s so wrong about providing the tools for long-term success? Are they teaching them how to eat? Do they know by the end of the show that it’s normal to eat a plate of food that is half veggies, part lean protein, etc? I hope so, but if they do, they don’t show it. This show, and shows like it, have the opportunity to do that, and they don’t.
It just angers me that people are watching this show without regard for what it’s like to go through such incredible changes. Maybe I’m completely off the mark, but as someone who is right in the middle of my journey to lose over 200 pounds, I find this show terribly offensive. And what I saw last night bred a lot of feelings, but inspiration was not one of them.
Last night I watched this woman struggle, cry and doubt herself throughout the show until the end when she came out at the end wearing a pretty dress and a big smile. And I hope that she understands how beautiful she is and that she keeps working toward her ultimate goal with an understanding that it’s not a race to the finish line.
Real change takes time…and a lot of it. And while I understand that the goal of the show is to produce ratings, I think they’re missing a big opportunity to breed change for viewers who may be sitting at home eating potato chips and wishing they could do it too. I was that girl at one point (though I ate doritos and watched Biggest Loser) thinking “yeah, they’re losing weight, but think of all of the help they’re getting. I don’t have that!” That was my excuse back when I was looking for excuses…
It took years for me to realize that the strength I needed was already inside me, and it has taken even longer to believe I’m worth the effort. Losing weight is not the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it’s also not as simple for most people as shows like these would have you believe. Making quality food choices is important…exercise is important…balance is important… And I resent reality TV for portraying extreme weight-loss as simple.
I loathe them for making society believe that losing weight is easy – that’s there’s nothing to it because a girl can lose 180 pounds in year – no problem. And Chris’ comments that he would have been disappointed with her ONLY losing 180 pounds if she hadn’t gone through tough stuff during that year left me feeling completely appalled. Doesn’t life affect all of us from time to time? And what do they expect to see these people do once the show is over? Does it even matter to them if they’ve changed their lives? Created sustainable habits? Dealt with the issues that led them into obesity in the first place?
I can think of a few exceptions to my rant – people who have lost that much or almost that much in a year, but I wonder what life will be like for them later – good, I hope. And I wonder what their overall health is like now. Maybe the risk of heart problems down the road or weight-gain outweigh the risks of staying obese. But it doesn’t have to be one or the other! Extreme weight-loss has many facets, and while feeling pretty is the driving force, I believe that this show should provide each of these folks with the tools to make this last long-term.
If you like the show, again, more power to you. I don’t often use my blog as a platform to spew my angry opinions, but I’m sharing my views because it’s what I do here and because I don’t want anyone who might be struggling with their weight or thinking it’s time for them to change to believe that they need to lose 180 pounds in a year to succeed. You just have to start, and keep pressing on even when it’s hard. And I do know a thing or two about that…