Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Not a sure bet. . .

When I am live tweeting during The Biggest Loser, one of the most common things I read are other twitterers saying if $250K was on the line they would have NO PROBLEM losing the weight and winning the competition. On new reality show Money Hungry, contestants put up $10,000 of their own dough to even compete on the show. If they lose, they lose their cash. If they win, they win everyone else's.

Everyone could use an extra buck, so I was surprised to read this article on AOL News that even cash incentives can't help people lose weight. If money is on the line, people can lose weight but then they eventually gain it back. Why?

"Humans are impatient," Lynham, an economics professor at the University of Hawaii, told AOL News. "And we have impulses that go against our long-term best interests -- even when those interests include money."

The article goes on to talk about websites that allow users to put up their own bucks to help them lose weight and the percentage of people that actually succeed. The statistics aren't all that great.

When I am watching these shows, I am always amazed at the big numbers the participants put up: 13 pounds in one week, 6 pounds the next. If someone puts up an average person's number, say 2 pounds, everyone looks on it like it is a failure. These shows make it seem like huge weight loss is the norm. If you were at a ranch isolated from your friends and family and you were working out six hours a day with all your healthy foods provided and no job to worry about, I am confident that you could lose major pounds.

I think of people like Erik Chopin who won season three of The Biggest Loser only to gain it all back. In a special about his weight gain, he felt that after the show his life was going to be completely different, that he would become a big celebrity. When he realized that he wasn't, he became depressed and all the weight came back on. Season one winner Ryan also gained all of his weight back. And Season two winner Matt.

Wait a sec. I see a trend here.

I tried over the years to lose weight for my family, for boyfriends, for teachers, for roles I wanted to play. Nothing worked until I made the decision for MYSELF to lose the weight. I don't think anyone could offer me enough money to lose weight and keep it off. It is not easy and it is something that I struggle with daily. The fact that it took me about six years to lose 60 pounds and not three months is not lost on me when I watch these shows. I am confident that the reason I can keep it off is because it took me years to figure out the strategies I could use to lose weight and keep it off while working and dealing with stress.

In the world of television, these contestants don't get that time to figure it out. There is the initial praise, the flash of lights and the confetti canons and the huge check with your name on it. But after the glitter is swept up, how do they keep going?

I applaud these shows for bringing awareness to the problem of obesity and using exercise to battle the bulge. Human nature proves, however, that it takes a lot more than money to beat this issue. Apparently, you can put your money where your mouth is. . .but if you eat it? Well, that just defeats the purpose.

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