Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Reality TV, Weight Loss and You

The Food Network recently introduced a new series called Weighing In, hosted by Juan Carlos Cruz, aka the "Calorie Commando."

This morning I had an opportunity to watch the second episode and was left completely unimpressed. The show offered no new insights or advice and the results of those "eating less" and "exercising more" to lose weight in a "real world" setting - and actually highlighted why so many fail with such recommendations.

The show follows those hoping to lose weight before an upcoming event for 90-days. So the final results are based on a three-month program that encourages eating less calories and exercising more. The participants keep video diaries to provide viewers with insights into their struggles along the way.

The show I caught was Cruise Ladies/SNL. The website promotes the show by asking "Long time friends Shawnta, Lea and Nampombe have a vacation cruise to Mexico coming up, and their mindless snacking and love of decadent desserts has led them to weigh more than they'd like. Can Juan Carlos Cruz help them eat what they love, and lose weight?"

Throughout the show were the expected recommendations - "eat low-fat," "choose low-calorie," and "exercise portion control" along with some innovative attempts to get participants to do just that with "500-calorie meals" that included chocolate candy as part of the meal.

So just how did the three women do?

The results were totally unimpressive for the level of effort and support provided. While these women lived in the "real world" they were also provided with a nutritionist and personal trainer - something few have the luxury of affording, to be at their disposal day after day for three months, in the real world.

How did they do at the end of ninety-days?
  • Shawnta lost 13-pounds
  • Lea lost 14-pounds
  • Nampombe lost 16-pounds

The first month results were losses of 3-pounds on average; month two increased to an average loss of about 8-pounds more lost; and month three saw the ladies lose less with about 6-pounds lost. This was while combining a reduction in calories with an increase in activity! These unimpressive results were celebrated as if they were incredible!

What no one can tell you is how much of that weight loss was water, body fat or lean body mass. The show also failed to address the importance of essential nutrients and instead focused on how to reduce fat intake instead - often with the recommendation to add sugars to boost palatability.

Case in point - the recipe for Roasted Pineapple includes 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Pineapple is sweet without additional sugars and roasting it brings out the sweetness, so the addition of sugar boosted the carbohydrate per serving from 9.6g with 1g of fiber (8.6g net) to 20g with 1g of fiber (19g net). This recipe does nothing to help anyone learn to enjoy the natural sweetness of fruits and actually had more calories because of the added sugar!

Don't get me wrong - these women did lose some weight - we just don't know how healthy that weight loss was or if they've been able to lose anymore or keep off what they did lose.

There are better, healthier, more impressive ways to lose weight...and not just weight, but actual body fat. The research clearly shows that controlling carbohydrate offers much more impressive body fat losses in 90-days and that those eating a carbohydrate restricted diet don't have the same level of stuggle with hunger - they report much higher levels of satiety throughout their calorie restriction. More impressive - the calorie restriction is often not forced, but just happens naturally even when dieters are allowed to eat whatever they want from the foods that are allowed.

With more and more of the "reality television" shows focusing on weight loss, it's important to remember that it isn't just the numbers on the scale - healthy weight loss is FAT LOSS, is nutrient-dense and shouldn't be a struggle each day! Controlled-carb plans offer you all of the above, but you're not going to hear much about them on television - it's just not in their best interest since network revenue relies heavily on processed food company advertising dollars, and controlled-carb diets are mostly whole foods.

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