8/28/2011

Crazy Expectations - or Why I Hate Jillian Michaels

'biggest_loser_logo_highres' photo (c) 2009, Pete Thomas - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/To help with my weight loss I've been using a site called Calorie Count. It's sponsored by About.com and in the interest of full disclosure I used to work for them many years ago when they were first starting out and before they became basically an ad server for the New York Times company.

Of course, being me I also joined one of their groups - Need to Lose 100+ Pounds. It's designed for people who need to lose a lot of weight to share encouragement and advice. Some of it is OK, some decent, and a lot pretty bad. It seems that people have some strange ideas about losing weight - particularly people who are extremely heavy.

A lot of it seems to derive from shows on TV like Biggest Loser with it's complement of  "trainers" like Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels. I swear, everytime I see their stupid mugs I want to punch them both. Their unrealistic and dangerous ideas about weight loss for very heavy people should never be broadcast! A person who weighs 300 pounds or more and hasn't moved farther than the couch to the refrigerator in years shouldn't be on a treadmill trying to jog six miles out of the gate. Oh sure, they swear that doesn't happen and they just have to make it look that way for TV to keep it interesting. But, that's not what these people at home see. 

People on the website are constantly bemoaning the fact they can't do Zumba for 8 hours a day or can't run a 5K on day two. They see people on Biggest Loser dropping 10 and 15 pounds at a time and get discouraged so they try starvation and fad diets that are dangerous. One woman had reduced her calorie intake to less than 500 calories a day and was trying to work out 5 to 7 times a week for hours on end! This is woman who is headed for the hospital in a hurry! She's doing all of that because of what she sees on the Biggest Loser and what Michaels and Harper hawk on their infomercials!

Very few of the people on the site have spoken to their doctor about the proper way to lose weight. They take the advice of "trainers" like those two charlatans and jump right in! Of course, I've done that in the past too.

'Yeah, right... probably also cures AIDS, TB and senile dementia, and heals bone fractures instantly' photo (c) 2010, Newtown grafitti - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/When I was in my early 20's I decided to lose weight. I was young and gay and being fat was a big no-no. Of course, it still is in mainstream gay society but thankfully, the shallow clones and twinks are becoming less relevant now that relationships are more important than anonymous sex. But, I digress. My "diet" at the time was to stop eating - everything. I would drink water and sometimes have a foul tasting diet shake but that was it. Then I would "power walk" as much as 15 to 20 miles a day. In about 8 months I'd dropped over 100 pounds. I was going to be skinny if it killed me. It very nearly did about 20 years later.

Every time I would put on some pounds I would starve myself again. Up and down it went for about 5 or 6 years. Finally, I called a halt to it and just let my body settle where it would. That was in the 250 range. I was still pretty active at the time so I could naturally hover between 220 and 250 depending on the time of year and my activity level.

What I didn't know is that all that starvation dieting was really doing a number on my body. In fact, I didn't even know it until I spoke to my hepatologist (liver doctor) about losing weight a few months ago. She explained that the starvation diets may have contributed to my liver disease because each time I began to starve myself my body went into shock and began storing up fat in the liver because it thought I was literally starving to death. The fat was my body's way of staving off starvation by keeping fat for a last ditch energy source. When I would lose weight the fat stayed on the liver then when I put on fat elswhere and starved again MORE fat would deposit. Eventually, my liver couldn't take all the fat stored in it and failed.

Honestly, I was shocked, I'd never considered that dieting could be as harmful as eating! I figured if I lost weight it made me healthy no matter how it was achieved. Wrong! And that's where folks like Ms. Michaels and Mr. Harper lead people astray. They equate skinny with healthy and no matter how you get there they contend you're healthier for getting there. They couldn't be more wrong!

So, I've been trying to explain to folks on the site about starvation diets and trying to lose weight too fast but I'm afraid it falls on deaf ears. Most return to the next episode of Biggest Loser and starve themselves some more. They do things they shouldn't and destroy their joints and bones in the process then bemoan the fact they have stress fractures or aching bones.

Here's the skinny, people. Losing between 1/2 and 2 pounds a week is very safe and sane. It allows your body to adjust to the new food intake. Taking exercise slow is also safe and sane. If you haven't moved in months or years then your body needs to adjust. If you're 300 pounds on a 5'7" frame you don't need to be jogging or jumping up and down. You need to just be moving! Moving that weight burns a lot of calories and helps your joints and muscles get back in shape. You must realize that what people like Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels do is not only unsafe but almost criminal. They're not helping anyone other than themselves and their bank accounts! Talk to your doctor, a professional nutritionist and a physical therapist to help you find a program that is right for you so that you can lose weight safely and then learn to keep it off!

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