eatless:movemore

To be honest I am not personally a big fan of reality TV. However there is a wonderful device called the control switch enabling me to either switch off or change a channel. And nobody is forced to go onto a reality show.

So with volunteer participants and voluntary viewing you would hardly think there was a problem. Especially with The Biggest Loser, which arguably helps some people with their health, even though its primary function is ratings and entertainment.

Yet this show has attracted the ire of Professor Gary Wittert who is the chair of the Weight Management Council of Australia. He was quoted on the Australian Doctor website describing the show as “…a crass attempt to make entertainment of a serious problem by enticing desperate people to participate”.

Perhaps the good professor missed the part where people volunteer to be on the show.And given it has been running for years who would be unfamiliar with what happens? The enticement as in most contests on TV is prize money. But to be honest I suspect for many contestants this is not their prime motivation

Lets be clear. The situation is not the real world. The contestants are in a controlled environment. They have access to personal trainers. The food is controlled (although how much and what they eat is their choice) and there are TV cameras capturing their every move. It is all done for TV and is a “game”.

However, and this is a really critical point, people do lose weight and quite dramatically so. And they do this for one simple reason. Compared to their day-to-day life they are eating less and exercising more!

Yes it is taken to an extreme and no you can’t do it exactly the same way at home but the principal is still there. Any weight loss is not due to stomach surgery or use of weight loss products. It has nothing to do with government action or taxing “junk food” or banning advertisements. It does not require programs run by health departments or the funding of academics.

The show demonstrates that you can and will lose weight by eating less and moving more. Whilst Professor Wittert claimed that the show promotes misleading ideas about obesity, I would contend the exact opposite.

And therein lies the rub. Those in academia and public health love to make obesity out to be a complex issue that nobody but they can understand. And they make good money from this convincing government to spend millions of dollars paying for surveys and research.

If the secret got out that all you need to do is eat less and move more then there would be no need for countless surveys or whole of government action. And of course there would be no need to fund a gaggle of “programs” none of which have ever been shown to make any difference.

One excuse often put up by the public health lobby as to why there is so much obesity is that it is too costly to eat healthily. An American survey has actually quantified this. The difference in cost per day between a diet rich in fruits,, vegetables fish and good proteins compared to one high in refined carbohydrates and processed foods is $1.50 per day.

That takes you from the unhealthiest to the healthiest. For 50c a day you can get a third of the way there. Even if you are on a budget this is not a lot of money. Especially when you consider the savings in medical costs that flow from a healthier diet.

I suspect that describing obesity as a big problem (by overstating the percentages due to an artificially low cut off) and a complex one is great for getting money out of governments. Telling people that they can’t do it is also good for businesses selling weight loss products. All up we are talking about billions of dollars.

There are many dollars jobs and reputations tied up in making weight loss difficult. Thus anything or anyone who simplifies it will be open to attack.

I don’t watch the Biggest Loser but strip away the hype and drama and the message is if you want to lose weight you can do it – by eating less and moving more.

What a dangerous and radical concept.