The Biggest Loser

Well, I broke my carb embargo in spectacular style today, as Ed and Meiling Wong once more stupefied us with unbelievably delicious (and a tad fattening) brunch food. The lady of the house makes something particularly yummy and life-shortening called “monkey bread”, which we devoured with such voracity that I’m pretty sure we’ll all need insulin shots within the week.

That means I lasted about 6 weeks of an extremely low carb existence. Mind you, I’ve been sliding slowly back to the land of breads and sugars this past week, with the unavoidable Christmas drunkenness and the occasional bite of cake. But otherwise I’ve been pretty strong. I feel pretty gross right now, though, and need to wash it all back with a litre of Metamucil!

The gastric adventure coincided with my first exposure to an episode of The Biggest Loser, that American reality show in which a bunch of fat people compete to lose pounds. I found the show ver very troubling. Here are a few observations:

  • The show advances the belief that most fat people are just mentally weak. While I certainly subscribe to the school of thought that most people lack discipline, and that discipline is one of the surest paths to success in almost all aspects of life, there is a bit of wiggle room when it comes to extreme weight gain: mental health issues, metabolic diseases, poor nutritional education, insufficient access to proper foods and scheduling demands that prevent proper shopping and exercise among them.
  • I suspect that the show deliberately selects for contestants whose weight issues are discipline based, allowing them to promote their boot camp mentality and further propagate the above belief.
  • The show promotes weight loss as the end all and be all of fitness. This is perhaps the most dangerous of its failings. It’s easy, for example, for a large muscular man to lose weight quickly. If he focuses on aerobic activity and ignores hydration, he will drop muscle mass and water weight very quickly. This is not healthy weight loss. There are many more acceptable metrics of progress:
  1. Inches (or centimetres) around the waist.
  2. Pinchable fat at the belly, hips and triceps.
  3. Body tissue electrical resistance, a proxy measurement for body fat ratio.
  4. Body mass index.
  5. Energy levels and psychological disposition.
  6. Serum cholesterol, blood pressure, arterial inflammation and cardiac enzymes.
  7. Clothing size!
  8. Physical fitness benchmarks

So far, I am not impressed by this show. Maybe I’ll give it a few more viewings.