Is the TV show The Biggest Loser bad for America? Does it portray unrealistic results that are in fact going to discourage people from doing the hard work necessary if they’re going to lose weight? Are the contestants put into life-threatening situations? And what does all this have to do with Triple H?
I wrote up a full article on my fitness website here about it. But, the connection to this site is that obesity is fascinating from an evolutionary and cultural standpoint. We are the ONLY primate that has an obesity problem (when was the last time you saw a fat baboon?). There are other fat animals on the planet, sure, but they are rather different from us, and all of them have a good reason for their weight gain. Some, like whales need it to stay warm in cold water. Others, like hippos, use it for buoyancy. We don’t have a good reason. The only exceptions in the animal kingdom are domesticated pets–that WE feed too much.
For all the hype and craziness, the show makes it clear that losing massive amounts of fat is possible. It will be hard, very hard, but it is possible.
Before the recent past, the only overweight people on the planet were rich people. Before civilization, when there were no rich people, there were no overweight people either.
The cat on the left has a similar history. Felines are not fat by nature. But, given enough food, and a sedentary lifestyle, anything is possible.
The real question for us as a species is, then, how do we alter our culture enough so that obesity ceases to be the norm. That is, if we live in a cultural and physical environment now that increases (by a lot) the likelihood that you will get fatter as time goes on; then how do we change it. And to what?
Self control is not enough of an answer, though, on the individual level, it is a good place to start. I think we need to build better institutions–far better PE programs in school would be a huge start.
We went through nearly 20 years of people telling us that the problem is genetics. If your parents were fat, then you’ll be fat too. Not only is that bullshit, but it’s demotivating. (Of course, genes for fat storage exist, but that doesn’t mean you were doomed from birth.) How are you supposed to get motivated to get into the gym and to eat healthier if you’re told it is probably genetics, and therefore, there is nothing you can do about it.
The show makes it clear that you CAN lose the fat. Even if they are doing some wacky stuff, huge people are losing a lot of weight. And that is inspirational. Hype or not.