It’s Your Health: Reality TV weight loss shows

Hooked on the popular “Biggest Loser” TV show? Apparently, many faithful viewers are since it’s back for another run and I believe now there is also a spin-off version involving twins. Maybe triplets next time? I admit I’ve never watched a complete episode although I get the gist of it. A lot of huffing and puffing, initial disillusionment, drill sergeant type trainers, and satisfaction of accomplishment in the end, I suspect. Is this reality or entertainment, or does it matter? If the series motivates even a few individuals to make lifestyle changes, then it has value.

However, a BBC America show called “You Are What You Eat” held my attention for the entire half hour and I’ve continued to tune in now and then because I like its style. On the BBC’s Web site, the enticement reads: “Is your fridge stocked full of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats or is it full of fat-filled, overly salted processed convenience foods and abandoned take-out containers? If we truly are what we eat, what do your eating habits say about you? Holistic nutritionist Gillian McKeith works with unhealthy eaters to break a lifetime of bad habits in just eight short weeks.”

Well, that sounds rather basic without lofty or unattainable claims. That’s not what hooked me in though. The male British narrator is dry-witted (guess their writers aren’t on strike) and humorous. In contrast, petite Ms. McKeith is a ruthless, intimidating dynamo that belittles her subjects into unwilling change. The chosen person (or sometimes the entire family) must keep a week’s food diary prior to her first visit. She then gathers all the nasty food and drink and displays the mound on a ‘beastly feast table’ or floor if more space is needed. She rants and raves about bad breath, excessive gas, dehydration, and massive heart attack while her extra-large client usually says the extensive spread looks mighty tasty.

From there, she pokes the bulging belly, scrutinizes the tongue, and demands a ‘poo’ sample. (Remember, you are what you eat). Next is healthy grocery shopping, food preparation, disgust at eating wholesome food, and an exercise regime. At the segment’s end, the convert has grudgingly made the adjustment, lost a few stone (a stone equals 14 pounds), and Gillian smugly saunters out the door.

Ms. McKeith has come under fire for some of her dietary advice, her credentials, and other areas of her empire. I don’t know about her books and health related businesses, but her show is entertaining while expounding that a healthy diet and exercise are mandatory for a quality and productive life. Nothing new and radical but I liked the way it is presented. No tears, anguish, struggle, or drama as we have on our American counterpart shows. Her ‘victims’ take the browbeating with sort of a laissez-faire attitude.

No matter which reality weight loss programs you choose to watch, keep an open mind and remember, entertainment and making money is the primary objective. Of course, hopefully, tuning in will give you incentive to make your own necessary lifestyle changes.


Kay Sager is a certified fitness and aquatic specialist living at Port of the Islands. She is a personal trainer using land and water fitness and teaches swimming. She also has written articles for Physician and Sports Medicine among other publications. Kay can be reached by e-mail:

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