Friday, January 09, 2009

Why I hate weight-loss tips

The weight-loss tip is like the soundbite. They are memorable and forgettable at the same time. The media loves them. They are the perfect length for the break to commercial, to fill in an inconvenient block of whitespace in a magazine layout. There are whole "articles" in magazines that are just a series of tips. Talk shows like to ask trainers and fitness professionals for tips and they are usually happy to oblige.

If you're reading this blog, you probably have an interest in losing weight or at least maintaining yourself. Ask yourself: How many times have you really found these tips helpful?

Yeah, me neither. The most annoying thing about tips is that they assume that the problem with overweight people is that they just don't have the information they need to lose weight. If you watch the premiere of Discovery Health's latest National Body Challenge, however, you'll see that one of the contestants is a nutritionist. Another holds up a two-liter bottle of soda in each hand and says that he drinks at least that much each day, even though he says, "that's 500 grams of sugar right there." Another used to be very thin and we see pictures of her in a bikini. Clearly, at least these three contestants know what it would take for them to be thinner. The information itself is not enough, especially not the kind of information you can deliver in a thirty-second clip, but that didn't stop The Discovery Channel from making a bunch of tips starring a weird little gingerbread man (his voice sounds suspiciously like the one from my scale).

All together, now, people:
"Take the stairs instead of the elevator."
"Park further from the mall and walk in."
"Leave two bites on your plate at every meal."
"If you're snacking when watching t.v., try knitting to keep your hands busy." There's a great Yoplait Light commercial that mocks this one, but I couldn't find a link.
And everyone's favorite: "Eat less, move more."

Has anyone heard that last one and done a big forehead smack and said, "Oh, now I get it!"

And hundreds more. Some are real information and some are just dieter mythology. There are tips about what you should eat ("Dark chocolate is good for you"), shouldn't eat ("Don't eat watermelon, it's full of sugar"), how you should exercise ("first thing in the morning is best"), when you shouldn't eat ("Everything you eat after 8 p.m. goes straight to fat").

I used to listen to two of my aunts go back and forth with these at family dinners. Neither of them is happy with her weight, years later. Obviously the tips don't help much. The problem with them is just like the problem with political soundbites: Without more context, they're not that useful. If you piece together conflicting tips without knowing their sources or how valid they are, you're not going to accomplish a lot of weight loss.

I think that getting a tip every time I found out that I hadn't lost weight really burned my hatred of these tips home for me. I have gotten over my initial infatuation and could care less what Mary Lou has to say. I'm back to my regular scale. I might not like the numbers, but at least it keeps its mouth shut. I thought about giving away the platform and only rejected the idea because of the expense and hassle of shipping it.

6 comments:

  1. I hate those tips, too. Anyone with a brain knows that stuff, because everywhere we turn we are bashed by the same sets of tips. Clearly they just go through one ear and out the other without sticking. I think I'd hate the Mary Lou scale, too. You can provide your own soundtrack.

    You wrote what's crossed my mind lately, too - but a lot better :)

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  2. Diet tips is one of the reasons I stopped going to WW meetings. Their plan is a good one, definitely. But I don't need to pay each week to listen to obvious diet tips. For me, the problem with my weight has absolutely NOTHING to do with KNOWING what I should or shouldn't be doing. It's a head thing. And I am working on it.

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  4. I hear you sister! I had to laugh because the worst "weight loss tip session" I've had in my life was when I was in for a check up with my gyno. I'm sitting on the table (post exam), pretending that this cheap, skimpy, little paper towel is keeping me covered, and all the while he's telling me all the stuff you just listed. I mean really, is there actually someone out there that doesn't already know this stuff?

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  5. It's funny, but after a week of using that scale, I don't mind how perky Mary Lou gets. My ears have learned to tune out right after the information about my weight.

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  6. Why do people go to WW meetings and sit? Why don't they have it like that weight-loss place, Curves? Each attendee could move from station to station while one person talks.

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07