I’m just gonna get right into it…
1. Contestants, participants, whatever you want to call them, have unrealistic goals going into it. Whether this stems from what they’ve seen on TV show challenges, or other challenges in their local community, the goals are pretty ridiculous. Recently, a ’100 Day Weight Loss Challenge’ kicked off in Bermuda. I read the related article in the newspaper and to my surprise, there was a brief profile of all 25 participants. Many of them had goals of dropping 70, 80, and even 100lbs within the 100 day timespan. I presume the contestants are saying they want the weight loss to be from fat. Losing that much fat in that short a period is impossible. They MIGHT lose 30-50lbs, or even a bit more, and I bet they’d be pretty stoked with that. However, here is the key equation to consider:
Weight Loss ≠ Fat Loss… which leads me to my next point.
2. Results are not sustainable. Say contestants do lose the weight they wanted; it will almost always be impossible to maintain. Contestants are pushed hard during these challenges – the diet changes and exercises regimens are crazy strict. Much of what they lose will not be fat. Depending on the specific challenge, contestants will likely be dehydrated much of the time. Remember there’s a lot riding on these challenges. If it’s a TV show, there HAS to be at least some remarkable results, there HAS to be drama, or else it wouldn’t be television. If it’s a challenge in a local community and not televised, newspapers and magazines will likely follow the story. If there aren’t temporary results, the story is crap, and no one pays it any mind. The real challenge should come 100 days AFTER the challenge, so we can all see where the contestants are at…and then another 100 day check up.
3. It becomes a competition. Weight loss shouldn’t be a competition. It should be all about you. Every body isn’t the same. Every body doesn’t react the exact same to the same nutritional changes and exercise programs. Stop making it a competition. I understand camaraderie (wow I had no idea how to spell that) has it’s benefits, especially in exercise. However, we need to look at the typical person who takes part in these challenges. Many of them have been overweight their entire lives, have been subjected to emotional distress because of their physical condition, etc. What I’m trying to get at here is that psychologically, these people have been through a lot in their lives.
I don’t know what it’s like to be overweight, but I do know how certain individuals react, and many people will react negatively to the high level of competition, the expectations put on them, and the stress induced during these challenges. Now I know The Biggest Loser is one of the more extreme shows, but grown people are crying and saying they don’t want to go on. Disappointment fills the room when someone only loses 4 pounds in a week. ONLY???!!!?!!? When the person next to you lost 9 pounds that week, your 4lbs seems pretty measly. (obviously it isn’t measly; it’s even a bit excessive).
Bottom line: your weight loss is all about you, not the person standing next to you, or the opposing team.
4. People learn to live by the scale. These challenges are all about numbers. If participants aren’t losing lots of weight, they feel like they’ve failed. Although weight is an important factor, it isn’t everything. Remember you can be getting a lot healthier without necessarily losing loads of weight.
There becomes a skewed image of what happiness and success is with these challenges, and this can be detrimental. After these challenges, these images and beliefs will have been instilled in people, and all they care about is the number on the scale. Judge your success by how your clothes fit, how you feel, how easily you move. Once you begin getting success in these areas, sure, hop on the scale every couple weeks, or once a month. That’s a lot better than waking up every morning, stepping on the scale and being miserable because you gained a pound since the day before. (You will naturally fluctuate a couple pounds)
5. Individuality is disregarded. Everyone is grouped together and considered a group of fat people. Previous injuries are disregarded, certain likes and dislikes don’t matter. The ultimate goal is to lose weight, and that’ll be done by every person following the same strict diet and exercise program.
*Like any reasonable person, I do understand there are certain benefits of weight loss challenges. Some people may thrive in the competition. Some people may love the extreme change in lifestyle and may continue that lifestyle. However, all things considered, I think they still suck and are not the answer to a healthy active lifestyle, and often cause more ups and downs.
There’s always a bright side. In the Bermuda 100 Day Weight Loss Challenge, there was one individual whose goal was “To be healthy”…remember everyone else had inserted a desired number for weight loss…and yes, this made me smile.
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