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How realistic are the weight losses we see on weight-loss TV shows?

Q: How realistic are the weight losses we see on weight-loss TV shows? Also, do you think these shows inspire more extremely overweight people to start losing weight at last?

A: What do you think—that in the real world there are thousands of morbidly obese, sedentary clients dropping 25 pounds a week? No, those TV programs are neither realistic nor typical. When the contestants slow down to a five-pound weight loss per week, they become disappointed. In the real world, a five-pound loss would be welcome. Far from being reality TV, weight-loss shows are unreality TV.

Remember, TV contestants are seldom living in realistic environments. They are not going to work, taking care of family matters and then spending an hour in the gym. They are often living in special living quarters with a team of trainers and medical experts helping them with all aspects of their training, nutrition and even mental health.

As for motivating overweight viewers to start exercising and eating healthfully, these shows aren’t likely to succeed. A study conducted at the University of Alberta found that watching a clip of “The Biggest Loser” created negative attitudes toward exercise. According to the lead author of the study, Tanya Berry, the impression most viewers get from the show is that exercise is a horrible experience that requires individuals to push themselves to extreme levels. If you want to learn more, look for this study in the January 2013 American Journal of Health Behavior.


Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit Also, see his ad on the opposite page.   IM


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