Thursday, July 15, 2010

Please, no more death threats

Tuesday's episode of "Losing it with Jillian" really frustrated me (but it did mostly follow the pattern I identified in an earlier post).The dad on this episode was 290 pounds, a nighttime snacker, and someone with sleep apnea. He also came across as a really self-centered, arrogant guy who liked everyone to take care of him. Even by the end of the episode, I didn't really believe he had changed, though I think his wife had.

That's not what frustrated me.

I'm tired of "this weight is going to kill you, you're going to die" being the mantra of weight-loss shows, first on "The Biggest Loser" and now on this show. Yes, studies will show that your risk for death can double if you're obese, but they don't highlight that it goes from 1% to 2%.  The risk of this guy dying from weight-related causes might have been higher because of his sleep apnea, but he didn't look in immediate danger of keeling over.  His bigger risk was becoming more and more restricted in what he could comfortably do because of his weight.  He had beautiful, healthy daughters and his weight seemed to get in the way of him playing with them. I know Jillan's workouts were killer, but they tired him out before he even really got started. He was obviously being hurt on a daily basis by his weight, so why focus on some distant-seeming, unlikely death?

Besides, focusing on the fat = death equation is discouraging.  Even on a "Biggest Loser" style regimen, this guy was months away from  being at a healthy weight, so how could he feel excited about starting a regimen where he was going to be working hard for months before his risk of death was going to feel like it was going away, because he'd still be looking at a fat guy in the mirror every night.

On "The Biggest Loser," there has been proof that just a week or tow of eating differently and working out is enough to get the contestants off their medications and feeling much better, even though they are still hugely obese. 

It could be that it isn't the fat, per se, that's so dangerous, that it's the behaviors that got you fat that can cause health risks.  It seems logical to think that it could be the sedentary lifestyle and the junk food full of fat, salt, and sugar that is causing people to become diabetic and have high blood pressure. Replacing that lifestyle with a healthy one might be all it takes to get rid of any health risks. 

Changing the behavior would also result in the weight loss, eventually.  But flipping the way it's framed allows someone to be an instant success. We always have a choice on how we behave.  We can't quickly change how much weight we are carrying but we have an opportunity in each moment to choose how we behave in that moment.

After all, we are all going to die, no matter how fat or skinny we are. We have no choice about that. We do, however, have a choice of how we're going to live.


  1. Well said Jen! And definitely worthy of conversation! That downwards spiral in attitude and activity when you put on weight is horrible and sometimes it is hard to pull yourself out of that hole. Jillian doesn't pull them out as much as kick them out!

  2. Hi Jen! I'm new to your blog, and I'm really enjoying it. I've been following Losing It with Jillian too, and I loved this post about the latest episode. Very thoughtful and insightful.

  3. Agree! Those threats of "your lifestyle is killing you" never feel tangible enough to me. I don't think that actually is a powerful motivator for changing your habits. Perhaps it should be, but it's not. Instead, like you said...the power is in changing how you feel as you go about your daily life.

    So...I was thinking the same thing as I watched Losing It this week :)

  4. Someone told me once that the fear of losing your life is enough to motivate a change, but the love of living your life will make the change permanent. In other words, fear fades pretty fast and something like "you will die sooner if you don't lose weight" will scare you for a little while, but it fades every day that you find yourself still alive. But loving your life and enjoying what life has to offer will make the change more likely to stick. I hope that made sense :)

  5. I'm with you 100%. It's all about positivity! :)

  6. You hit the nail on the head. This is why I hate watching WL shows - because the focus is on fear, and immediate change when the ultimate solution is long-term and based on appreciating the change and being motivated from the positive.

    Instead of telling us we will die if we don't lose 100 lbs, have a realistic goal of 5% of total weight - or even less, depending on starting size. That's achievable, and when we see success, it's easy to go for the next 2%, etc. That gives time for the positive to kick in and awareness of how much better we're feeling.

    Think I'm going to continue to pass on this show. Your updates keep me filled in :)


"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