Extreme Weightloss NOT A Safe Reality

This blog post has been making the rounds on Facebook the past day or so, and I’m just now getting a chance to post about it. I wanted to put something eloquent together, but instead am going to write this on the fly. This is a behinds the scenes look at how Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition really is, and I would not be surprised if every weight loss show is this way. I mean, I expected promoting over-eating before the weigh-in, whether it was kind of a “last hurrah” or even just a general strategy. Many people do that before starting a weight loss journey. And if over-eating is an addiction, as it is for many people, then there’s also the psychological perspective of “one last time.” You see many addicts on Intervention (and other similar shows) wanting to get high one last time, I could see the same being true before the start of something so extreme as these shows. And rightfully so, I suppose. So I didn’t have issue with that.

What I do have issue with is a show that’s reported to be monitored by doctors, isn’t. Or if the show is, then it’s by unethical doctors who aren’t abiding by their oath. I also have issue with the dehydration techniques used. Many professional athletes, actors/actresses and other performers workout for hours a day. I believe while it will be hard for someone who hasn’t worked out to adjust to working out more, I do think someone can be healthy while doing these workouts. But they should be monitored, even on a weekly basis, by a doctor. Someone who knows specifically the exercise regimen, monitors not only hydration, but vitamin and mineral levels. The more you sweat, the more you deplete these levels. When I sweat, I tend to deplete magnesium, which makes me feel terrible. My recovery time goes down, I don’t sleep very well, and I feel achey. And that’s doing a “normal” amount of exercise (between 30 minutes and an hour with one day over an hour per week). Rest is vital to health, as is eating a balanced diet.

Eating a restricted calorie diet can lead to a wealth of problems, including perpetuating already sweat-depleted mineral levels. The less you eat, the less capable you are of getting all the nutrients you need. They recommend a girl never go under 1200 calories a day. But in a situation where you’re working out several hours a day, and have a man’s metabolism, I can’t imagine ever going under 2000 calories a day. Sure weight loss is slowed, but the thing we seem to be losing grips with is slow weight loss is not only healthier, but much, much easier to maintain. I also realize this is TV and no one wants to watch someone who’s 600 pounds lose 30 pounds in a year.

Don’t even get me started on the dehydration and diuretics method. Water makes up a huge percentage of your body, so of course having less will mean you weigh less. But does that mean you have less fat? No. Absolutely not. And the less hydrated you are, the less efficiently your body works. I liken it to a car without water. No bueno, folks. I think this technique is similar (not in compulsion, but in mindset) to bulimia. I cannot believe any doctor would condone this practice. I don’t have a problem with people who use saunas, there are lots of health benefits. But I’ve never heard of a doctor recommending a sauna in conjunction with a low or no-water regiment. The purpose of a sauna is to detox, but that detox is done by sweating out the toxins. That water is generally replenished during and post-sauna. Often times with additional vitamin or mineral supplements.

And finally diet pills. DIET PILLS?  (Said like Gina on Empire Records.) OK, first of all, I know diet pills are run of the mill, no prescription necessary, and many people take them without much thought. I have several very thin friends who take them regularly. But I have NEVER had a doctor once recommend I use anything I can buy without a prescription. In fact, most doctors will say they aren’t regulated and aren’t safe, and will be quick to offer other alternatives (such as keeping a food and workout diary – that’s what MY doctor recommends!). And in worst-case scenarios, would recommend prescribed diet pills. Most doctors feel better with something that’s regulated, tested, and controlled. So, I highly doubt a doctor was recommending diet pills. I’m sorry, I just cannot imagine it.

So, my first response is who was the doctor who condoned this setup? Or if there wasn’t one, then EMWL should step up and say they did not follow doctor’s recommendations. At that point, they would be liable for the negative impacts of the non-recommended routine. If the doctor’s recommended routine wasn’t followed,  was this made clear to the contestants? I’m sure they signed a contract saying the show isn’t responsible, but did that contract specifically say a doctor would be consulted and followed? If so, the show lied, and is responsible. If the contract states that a doctor will be consulted but may not always follow their advice, then the show, in writing, probably isn’t responsible. However, was it made clear to the contestants that the program was outside of a doctor’s recommendations? If not, then, again, the show is responsible. If a contestant is manipulated and led to believe a program is healthy, then whoever did that leading is responsible, ESPECIALLY if that person realizes they’re blatantly ignoring doctor’s advice and using someone for ratings and greed. In this case, I suspect the last scenario is what EMWL is hiding behind. And I also suspect most of the extreme weight loss shows (Biggest Loser, I Used To Be Fat, etc.) are blurring the same lines.

Bottom line: A person, even if they’re morbidly obese, and considered a pawn in a game by big networks, is not a puppet to be used for greed. I am constantly appalled at how socially acceptable it is to treat overweight people as if they’re worthless human beings. Just because someone is overweight doesn’t mean they’re unworthy of love, acceptance, accomplishments or promotion. It is only one aspect of that person, and doesn’t prove they’re unmotivated or lazy. It simply means they have issues with food, issues that have probably snowballed over the years, and they’re trying to get under control. Rather than use these people for profit in an unhealthy way, why not start a movement to help them be healthy, the right way? I know it’s not extreme, and maybe not for a wide viewing audience, but I’d find a lot more benefit in making real, healthy changes. And it’s a show I would watch, and could learn from.

Update: I JUST READ one of the emails sent to the contestants, making them to feel guilty for not hitting their goals. Holding them responsible for the next season being canceled (and affecting or hurting someone else who won’t get the opportunity), and worse, holding them accountable for trainers being out of work. I assume those trainers signed contracts and would have been paid the entire time, but how can you manipulate if you don’t lie? And Chris? Oh my God, Chris is the one who wrote this email. It is disgusting. He parades around acting like he gave up his entire life (the email says he gave up half for this and half for that – um that’s his WHOLE life, doubtful) for them, and is in risk of losing everything, including his family, if they quit. But, you know, no pressure to stick out this unhealthy program. Not only that, but they’re held accountable for the NEXT generation, and twenty people working on the show! Seriously, Chris? On the show you preach empowerment and self-esteem, and in one email you’re putting the weight of the world on these contestants for a poorly designed program and show.

If you haven’t already, go to the blog, download the screen shots, and read them. I will be throwing up if you need me.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dan Westford
    Oct 13, 2011 @ 14:08:17

    Thank you for your insightful comments. It took me years to realize how mass media repeatedly offers us flawed health information. Their sponsors sell drugs, insurance, banking services, and foods that are unhealthy. That’s why I don’t bother with the TV shows purporting to represent the best health information. Most often they just re-enforce the most popular myths. Like most products, information is designed to optimize the revenues of those making the product. In this case, it’s the product is advertising in the guise of information.

    Despite the misleading information provided to me in school, through my physicians, and mass media, I finally discovered that a whole plant based diet was a key factor to health. After shunning the high-profit convenience foods, animal-based foods, oils, sugar, and supplements, I lost 90 pounds and never felt better. I’m alert, alive, healthy, and energetic thanks to healthy eating. It took me three years to lose 90 pounds, but it was healthy and I don’t have excess skin. I’ve started to lose the last 60 pounds which now requires portion limits, aerobic exercise, and free weight training.

    A whole plant based diet doesn’t make millionaires, so don’t expect to see much coverage on TV or print media. I was impressed that President Bill Clinton lost 25 pounds and reversed his heart disease by following the whole plant based diet as defined by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Jr. of the Cleveland Clinic.

    Keep up your insightful commentary on the misleading information generated by a for profit system. I wish that I could trust my in-system physician, but he is just as misinformed as anyone else.


    • stumbletowardhealth
      Oct 13, 2011 @ 16:57:03

      I feel like my doctor gives pretty straight-forward advice, and has never recommended medication like a lot of doctors do (probably because they get kickbacks for prescribing??). And I think I’d switch doctors if I had one who did that. But I also do a lot of my own research and feel pretty well informed and like I can make healthy decisions without a doctor.

      I am working toward a cleaner diet. If I eliminate all at once, I really struggle and give up. So this year I dedicated to eliminating one bad habit at a time, and it’s working pretty well so far. My weight loss is dreadfully slow, but I’m nearing 20 pounds, so progress is progress!

      I wish we weren’t such a quick-fix society, and I wish there were shows that encouraged long-term, realistic “fixes” to our problems. But those are hardly exciting!

      Thanks for your comments!


  2. James Garrison
    Oct 14, 2011 @ 10:32:56

    thanks for talking about this… i posted a video on you tube, about what im really trying to say. Check it out please. I just put a link to it in the blog.


    • stumbletowardhealth
      Oct 14, 2011 @ 13:09:29

      Thanks for replying. Checked it out. Wrote ANOTHER post. :-) And for the record, you’re not “stupid.” Hindsight is a bitch. Keep on keepin’ on.


  3. Trackback: “No Longer Will People Profit Off Of Us Because We’re Fat” « Stumbling Toward Health

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