Just as much as anyone else, I love reality TV. Of course, we all know how much ‘reality’ is actually in these shows, but oh well – I still enjoy indulging in them.
Sometimes, I’ll tune into Extreme Makeover – Weight Loss Edition. If you’re not familiar with the premise of the show, a trainer works with an individual over the course of a year to transform the individual from seriously obese to a much slimmer version of themselves.
The last episode featured a woman who was struggling with losing weight. During the course of the episode, she made several comments that really made me a) feel sad for her, and b) wonder what type of expectations this show sets for people trying to lose weight in everyday life. Here are a few comments that were made (forgive me if I’m not getting them word for word here):
- “He’ll eat them, he loves them. I love them too I just can’t have them” (She was out at her husband with dinner when the waitress asked if she should take the chips and queso off the table)
- “Here’s our Christmas table, and there’s one of the things I can’t have, the bread.”
- “I can’t indulge in this kettle corn, probably for the rest of my life.”
There are a couple things I want to address here. First, notice the presence of “I can’t” in all three of these comments. Interestingly, I watched this episode shortly after I’d read some information on a new study that came out in the Journal of Consumer Research
. This study
shows that people who say “I can’t eat ____ (insert item)” are less likely to resist temptation compared to those who say “I don’t eat ___.” Why? Saying I can’t conjures up feelings of deprivation and the notion that you must sacrifice items you love. Yet saying “I don’t” gives you more power in the situation – you are making an active choice to not eat the item; you’ve moved from deprivation to determination. You’re an empowered decision maker.
Second, and perhaps the bigger issue, is the constant theme of deprivation that this woman seemed to be experiencing. I get that this is a show that aims to shock – if people lost weight at a healthy rate of a pound or two a week, they’d drop 50 to 75 pounds over the year and the “transformation” wouldn’t be quite as impressive. But the way that this woman was viewing her diet was that she couldn’t eat any of the foods she wanted to eat.
In order to make sustainable life changes, a healthy meal plan and exercise routine needs to be flexible and you must feel comfortable enough that you can sustain it over the long haul. If you feel like you can never again eat a brownie (or kettle corn, bread, and chips in this case), you’re probably not going to be very happy about sticking to the meal plan and will likely veer off track pretty quickly.
Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that creating a healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be filled with more misery and deprivation than happiness. Let’s shift the focus away from “you can’t eat this” to “look at all these wonderful things we’re going to add!” Empower yourself to make healthy decisions and work with someone who can coach you through setting reasonable goals. And remember that all foods can be included in a healthy diet – some definitely less than others, but you shouldn’t feel like you can never eat a food again.What are your thoughts?
Do you find shows like this to create unrealistic expectations? Or are they inspirational to you? Do you think their on-camera lifestyles are sustainable? Share with us in the comments!
I can’t get over how much I love this M&Ms commercial from the Superbowl. Not because I want to promote eating M&Ms (though if you do, stick to the dark chocolate ones and practice portion control!). But because I just love the confidence of the Red M&M! He walks in and is thinking - Oh, I showed up to a nude party? No worries – let me bust out the dancing!
Of course, this is a pretty unrealistic situation for those of us who don’t walk around with candy coated shells. And no, I’m not asking you to whip off your clothes the next time you’re at a party – if I walked into a party and everyone was nude, I’d be slowly creeping towards the exit hoping I don't bump into someone sweaty.
But let’s take a clue from Red and be proud of our bodies. Definitely fuel your body well with lots of fruits and veggies and exercise to take care of yourself and stay healthy. But don’t place your self-worth on your body size. Celebrate your body for all it does, and don’t be afraid to have fun in the moment without worrying about how you look - whether it’s running a road race, trying rock climbing, or taking that dance class.
Case in point: I’m never going to be a size 2 – but I do work hard to maintain my current size by training for lots of races and planning healthy meals. Why? I want to have children at some point, I want to keep running and be one of those 90 year old road racers, and I want to live a long, joyous life free from chronic diseases like diabetes. I’m less concerned about my outer appearance and more concerned with making sure my insides are being treated well. And I sure as heck like to have enough energy to bust out some pretty awesome dance moves that would give Red a run for his money.
What do you want to try this week that you feel your body image issues have held you back from? Share with us! You can do it – you’re sexy and I know it!
What mental illness kills the most people every year?
Eating disorders. These have the highest mortality rate compared to any other mental illness. This week, February 26th through March 3rd, is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. Eating disorders have very little to do with food and dieting, and much more to do with deeper psychological issues like control and low self-esteem. They may exist in conjunction with other issues such as depression or anxiety.
Eating disorders include several different conditions:
- Anorexia, which involves self-starvation, excessive weight loss, and irregular eating patterns
- Bulimia, a cyclical disease of binging and purging. Purging may involve vomiting, laxative use, or over-exercising
- Binge eating disorder, in which the individual has impulsive or uncontrollable food binges but does not purge afterward (though there may be fasts or dieting sometimes)
- Other disordered eating patterns which may not fit the criteria above but still involve unhealthy relationships with food.
Think eating disorders only affect adults? Nope. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, the average age at onset for anorexia is 17 years, and for bulimia it’s the mid to late teens to early 20s. Eating disorders have been diagnosed in children as young as 7 or 8 years, and many times the behaviors start in early adolescence but are not diagnosed or recognized for several years. Up to 15% of US teens and women in their 20s may be suffering from anorexia.
Eating disorders can arise from a combination of biological, behavioral, psychological, emotional, interpersonal, and social factors. Some of the factors in the psychological and interpersonal areas include low self-esteem, difficulty expressing emotions, a history of being teased or ridiculed based on weight/body size, and feelings of inadequacy. Social factors include views of the “perfect body” in media and glorified thinness.
In the February 2012 issue of Fitness magazine, they included the answers that women gave to this survey question: “What do you think when you look at yourself naked?”
The answers were as follows:
- 24% of women chose the answer “I’m not perfect, but I look pretty good.”
- 29% of women chose the answer “I wish I were more toned and less jiggly.”
- 28% of women chose the answer “I look fat.”
We need to work on changing those numbers! 57% of us shouldn’t be unhappy with the way we look. The National Eating Disorders Awareness group talks about preventing the 3Ds, and I think this is a great message to focus on:
Stop the drive for thinness.
Stop body dissatisfaction.
Let’s nourish ourselves properly, stop beating ourselves up, and focus on what our body does for us, rather than hating how it looks. Be proud of yourself and your body, and treat it right!