Weight loss

T H E ‘ r E a l’ r E a l i T y O F W H a T T E l E v i s i O n G E T s W r O n G a B O U T s H E d d i n G T H E p O U n d s a n d H O W i T ’ s a F F E c T i n G k i d s

WKND - - Diet Matters -

We can watch tele­vi­sion pro­grammes, such as The Bach­e­lor or The Real Housewives, and recog­nise that what we are see­ing is a con­trived ‘ re­al­ity’. Butwith­pro­grammes like The Big­gest Loser, Fit to Fat to Fit and Ex­treme Weight Loss, the lines be­come blurred. The con­tes­tants are los­ing weight, so it must be real, right?

The ‘ real’ re­al­ity of weight loss is com­plex and unique to each in­di­vid­ual. And the truth is that safe and sus­tain­able weight loss takes time. But weight loss on ‘ re­al­ity’ tele­vi­sion would lead you to be­lieve that los­ing 22 ki­los or more in just a few weeks is pos­si­ble.

El­iza Kings­ford, a li­censed psy­chother­a­pist and cer­ti­fied per­sonal trainer, says this skewed per­cep­tion of what con­sti­tutes “suc­cess­ful” weight loss isn’t just wrong; it’s dan­ger­ous — es­pe­cially to peo­ple des­per­ate to lose weight.

“I call it ‘ The Big­gest Loser Ef­fect’ — this idea that un­less you’re los­ing enor­mous amounts of weight each week, you are fail­ing,” she says. “Th­ese pro­grammes do a dis­ser­vice to the pub­lic — and es­pe­cially teens — be­cause they don’t show the full story, and they fos­ter a dan­ger­ous ex­pec­ta­tion.”

Kings­ford, who has worked with for­mer weight loss re­al­ity show par­tic­i­pants, says that, be­hind the scenes, con­tes­tants claim they sweat in saunas, ex­er­cise six to eight hours per day and eat se­verely re­stricted di­ets. So while the quick and dra­matic weight loss makes for en­ter­tain­ing tele­vi­sion, th­ese tac­tics can­not be sus­tained for long pe­ri­ods of time.

At Well­spring Camps, a lead­ing provider of health and well­ness camps for chil­dren, teens, young adults and fam­i­lies in the US, the pop­u­lar­ity of ex­treme weight loss tele­vi­sion has re­quired the staff to re- ed­u­cate its cam­pers and their par­ents about what healthy and re­al­is­tic weight loss re­ally looks like. Kings­ford, who serves as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, rec­om­mends keep­ing th­ese three things in mind be­fore start­ing a weight loss jour­ney as a fam­ily:

Set ex­pec­ta­tions early. Grad­ual and steady weight loss, about a kilo per week, leads to greater suc­cess, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. While it’s nat­u­ral for peo­ple to want to lose weight quickly, Kings­ford says that when you rush it, your ef­forts back­fire.

“The true mea­sure of suc­cess is con­sis­tently en­gag­ing in healthy be­hav­iours over time. This in­cludes a diet of nu­tri­ent­dense whole foods and in­cor­po­rat­ing ex­er­cise,” she says. “At the very be­gin­ning, ad­just your think­ing that suc­cess means stick­ing to your daily goals for ac­tiv­ity and be­hav­iour, not a weight goal. Over time, with con­sis­tent be­hav­iour change, those num­bers will add up, and you’ll have made long- term, sus­tain­able changes.”

Don’t com­pare one per­son to an­other. The bi­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences in our bod­ies — from gen­der, age, height, ge­net­ics and me­tab­o­lism — all play a sig­nif­i­cant role in how much weight a per­son will lose and the rate at which they’ll lose it. That’s why Kings­ford says weight loss shouldn’t be a com­pe­ti­tion, es­pe­cially if you have chil­dren of the op­po­site sex try­ing to lose weight at the same time.

“While some peo­ple en­joy a lit­tle healthy com­pe­ti­tion, when it comes to weight loss, men and women, and boys and girls, are not on a level play­ing field,” she says. “It’s bet­ter to mo­ti­vate one an­other through en­cour­age­ment and sup­port, not by com­par­ing num­bers on a scale.”

recog­ni­seitas­apro­cess. Kings­ford says the key to l os­ing weight i s sus­tain­abil­ity — find­ing ac­tiv­i­ties you en­joy that also fit into your life and mak­ing health­ier eat­ing a part of your ev­ery­day rou­tine. That’s not to say there won’t be a few bumps in the road.

“Habits are hard to break and, some­times, you reach for a cookie when you know an ap­ple is a bet­ter choice, but that’s okay. Own your de­ci­sions, ac­cept them and let them go,” Kings­ford says.

“Make a com­mit­ment to your­self that your next de­ci­sion will be in line with your goals. When you beat your­self up, it’s easy to throw in the towel and undo all the hard work you’ve al­ready put in, but it doesn’t get you any closer to your goals.”

— BPT MORE TO IT THAN MEETS THE EYE: Weight loss re­al­ity shows, such as The Big­gest Loser ( be­low), are putting out a skewed per­cep­tion of what con­sti­tutes ‘ suc­cess’

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