The latest season of The Biggest Loser returns to NBC on October 15th , and while shows like Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition and The Biggest Loser may have good intentions, they may cause many viewers to think that weight loss is impossible without the resources these shows provide. As a result, the number of overweight and obese Americans continues to increase, while their confidence in achieving results for themselves continues to fall.
In the real world with real people, losing 140 pounds – or up to half of one’s body weight in a short time – is extremely unrealistic. Becoming a size 2 or looking like the celebrities in bikinis on the cover of People magazine are also unrealistic goals. By 2030, approximately 42% of Americans will be obese. So what are we going to do about it?
Instead of focusing on banning Big Gulps and taxing certain ingredients we need to focus on the substantive things we can do to actually begin to combat the disease of obesity. Currently, consumers have only three options when it comes to weight loss: radical surgery like gastric bypass, diet and exercise or weight loss pills. These three options do not work for many people. Doctors are now saying that if you can lose just 10% of your weight – even 20 to 30 pounds – you can drastically reduce your risk of diabetes and other obesity related diseases to promote a better quality of life. This is a more reasonable and obtainable goal than what The Biggest Loser is promising.
As a country, we need to shift our message to health instead of beauty and from extreme dieting to living healthier lifestyles. If you are serious about losing weight, don’t look at People Magazine’s Half Their Size stories and don’t watch The Biggest Loser. Get with a good doctor, make a realistic plan with realistic goals and get serious. The fact is that obesity is not going away anytime soon. The future of our country, in many ways, will depend on how we deal with the obesity epidemic. Obesity is the disease of our age and the only thing that can help combat it is a drastic shift of how our society perceives it. Being fat is no longer a joke. It is no longer funny, and it is certainly not something that should be made into entertainment.
Think of a person born at the beginning of the 20th century. Life expectancy in the US at that time was 50.7 for women and 47.9 for men.
African Americans could not expect to live to 35. Approximately 100 babies out of 1000 died before reaching their first birthday.
Modern medicine had yet to be invented. Surgical procedures, for those unlucky enough to face such a dreadful experience, was little changed from the 1800s or the 1700s. The popular anesthesia was ether, and more often than not, patients were given alcohol. During the building of the Panama Canal, for example, workers were dropping dead every day from malaria. At the same time, the hospital in the canal zone attempted to cool the rooms by placing bowls of water in the windows. All they accomplished, of course, was the breeding of more mosquitos.
Food contamination was common. Working conditions in America's factories and mines were frighteningly dangerous. Less than five percent of homes had indoor plumbing. And there was virtually no government safety net - Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and a host of other programs we all now take for granted had yet to be created.
Americans today, however, sincerely believe they live in a world of great risk. What would the generation that came of age in the first half of the last century think?