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Busting 3 harmful myths of extreme weight-loss shows

By Rebecca Clyde, KSL.com Contributor  |  Posted Jan 26th, 2017 @ 8:54pm


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SALT LAKE CITY — We watch TV to be entertained. Most of these entertaining shows don’t affect us negatively, but unfortunately some do.

Weight-loss shows take the cake for the greatest negative impact on viewers. We as consumers are led to believe that this extreme journey is uplifting and positive, but research shows that the reality is far from these ideals. They’re really made for our entertainment at the cost of the contestants and you as viewer.

The latest weight-loss show “Revenge Body” is no different. Although its angle of body positivity sounds good, it’s actually subtly not body positive. There is no body positivity anywhere.

Here are three myths we learn from extreme dieting shows that need to be busted:

1. You’ll love yourself after you change your body

Who hasn’t heard this or said: “I’ll love myself, I’ll be happy when I lose the weight?” Current diet culture tells us just that. We’ll love ourselves once we shed the pounds because we’ll finally be worthy of being loved. This is completely off base.

Unfortunately, that thought process doesn’t work.

Think about it — the diet/supplement industry is a multibillion dollar industry, yet more than 90 percent of people who diet fail, and 3 in 4 adults are categorized as overweight or obese. Shouldn't these numbers add up if diets worked?

Through this talk and weight-loss shows, we’re taught to believe that we’re failing our diets, but really diets, and I’d say the methods promoted in weight-loss shows, are really what is failing us. Again, because this is important, we’re not failing diets, diets and traditional weight-loss methods are failing us. Why? Because the approach of extreme dietitian and exercise are punishments. No one likes to punish themselves through diet or exercise; it’s miserable.

For those shows, including the new “Revenge Body” show that are all packaged in a "body positive" wrapping do nothing to promote self love. They’re telling you that you need to lose weight to feel good about yourself.

It’s true, eating better and incorporating enjoyable forms of exercise can help people improve their health and happiness, but it’s the nutrients and the physical benefits of movement that are causing this, not the weight loss itself.

Actually, body/weight shaming actually does the opposite. Feeling bad about how your body looks isn't a tactic to help you take care of your body in the long run. This goes back to the idea of misery. You’re not going to stick to a program if it’s miserable. Hence the fact that diets don’t work.

Related:

You may hear “it’s not about a weight number, it’s about how you feel” on these shows, but when the last scene of every episode are of contestants paraded around in their skivvies being weighed and measured, it just perpetuates the fact that weight loss is paramount to health and happiness, of which it is neither.

2. Shame is an effective weight-loss tool

Body/weight shaming and body image dissatisfaction do not promote healthy exercise and eating habits. It can instead easily lead to an ugly spiral of body dissatisfaction and less healthy behaviors.

In this country, where over half of women already say their bodies “disgust” them, and that 90 percent of women are dissatisfied with how they look, body image and shame are significant barriers to health.

Misery could easily be used to describe the feelings of anyone being shamed. Being told that you’re not doing enough constantly, that you’re fat, that you’re not worthy doesn’t actually lead to long-term healthy habits.

When your general experiences with eating well and exercising only include physical misery, exhaustion and shame, why on earth would you want to continue those habits after the fact? It would bring back too many negative experiences.

3. Lose the weight fast, and you’ll be good

One major criticism for these reality weight-loss shows is that there is no transition for contestants to go back to normal life. Moving from a completely controlled environment, where exercise and eating well is your whole life, to your real life where work, family obligations, and normal day-to-day stressors exist without any plan is setting you up for failure.

A couple studies monitored the past contestants of “The Biggest Loser” and found that all contestants regained their lost weight, partly due to a slowed metabolism post significant weight loss. That’s right, these research studies actually seem to point to extreme dieting and exercising as triggering a slowed metabolism.

This means your body literally slows down to compensate for not eating enough calories to fuel your body, and means that you can’t eat as many calories or as much food. If you eat more, you’re going to gain weight. That’s a big deal, and doesn’t do anything to boost your confidence in yourself or your ability to be healthy.

Instead of focusing on losing weight to love yourself or to "move on," transform how you feel about your body, and that doesn’t come through changing your body. It comes through realizing what your body allows you to do, from competence and enjoyment through movement, through community and feeling better — fueling your body to work better through small manageable changes.

You can find solace through exercising because movement — enjoyable exercise benefits our mental health so much. It’s a great way to release energy, tension, anger, to step outside of reality for a bit and become in-tune with our bodies, and to increase our competence in something. That’s what improves our well-being and self-esteem.

Do you hate your body and want to get past that? Take a few minutes to fill out this quick survey.


Rebecca Clyde

About the Author: Rebecca Clyde

Rebecca is a registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in helping women improve their health, energy levels through an improved relationship with food and movement. She also works tirelessly to help people reject the unrealistic and dangerous expectations for women to look a certain way and enjoys helping women improve their body image. She runs a Salt Lake City-based nutrition business. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for food and health inspiration.

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