Weight-loss TV, patience is not its virtue

Has anyone else noticed Australia’s obsession with weight-loss TV shows?  I’ll admit it; I’ve been sucked into watching the amazing transformations that take place before our very eyes too. I mean, it’s hard to escape them, it seems there is one of these shows on almost every channel. And that’s in addition to the usual barrage of magazine covers, articles, blogs on the topic…you name it, it’s relentless!

It’s not to say that these shows don’t have their merit but when’s the last time you heard of someone losing 50kg in 3 months? No one I know. What about you? Seems to me these shows bear no resemblance to real life at all. Shouldn’t contestants (and viewers) be taught to exercise in a way that fits into a normal person’s daily routine, between work, family and social obligations? Achieving weight-loss, health and fitness as part of total life balance is probably one of the biggest challenges people face in their daily lives, yet you won’t find solutions for that on weight-loss TV.

I suppose it can be likened to the obsession with celebrities. We all know it’s not ‘real’. The airbrushed, macro-chef’ed, laser’d, trimmed, topped up, filled and botox’d to point of self-abuse is, thankfully, unattainable to most of us. But doesn’t it create an enormous amount of pressure to be this twisted version of ‘perfect’?

Weight-loss ‘reality’ TV shows are acting as a catalyst for the unhealthy attitudes that dictate the views we not only have of ourselves but sometimes the judgement we cast upon others too. In the face of a negative body image epidemic, and that’s not just obesity but eating disorders too, they just don’t care. Imagine if all the viewers of these shows went for a walk instead of watching? Together, we could smash all those crazy weight-loss records on mass: 50kg+ in an hour!

It appears that the holistic approach to weight-loss a path that has been trodden one too many times. Is it old news? Obviously, people are bored by it. Sure, we understand; it just doesn’t get ratings or sell magazines anymore. But we are now at the point of watching these poor people very publicly bear their heart and souls in a risky quest to try to over-come extreme obesity and life-long psychological issues in ‘5 mins’…just so we can enjoy some ‘light’ entertainment. You have to admit; it’s kinda weird.

Chatting to a friend the other day and he was telling me that he was at home with his family, on a weeknight, as usual, cooking dinner and a weight-loss show happened to be on the telly. He and his wife were explaining to their 8-year-old daughter why it is bad to be overweight and important to be healthy etc. She nodded and agreed, stating ‘don’t worry Dad I want to be skinny’. Not exactly the perspective we want to be teaching our kids, is it?

So instead of promoting a healthy, balanced approach to life, it seems that these shows are just another part of the unhealthy-body-perfect-pie that is feeding the dangerous attitudes toward body image in our homes and communities. It is one thing to be overweight and need to lose weight in order to avoid serious health conditions such as high cholesterol, heart problems and even stroke; it is quite another to think you can’t do it unless you get the chance to go on TV fat camp. Furthermore the overemphasis and hyperbole is leading us to lead to believe that even if you are not obese you need to follow a diet to ‘look thin’.

In a survey conducted by Mission Australia it found that body image and weight related issues are the #1 concern facing young people in Australia today. Healthy attitudes start in the home, where the TV is. So with that in mind; I know what I’ll be doing…switching off the box and at the same time switching on a healthy attitude toward myself, my kids, my family and my friends.