Reality TV Show weigh-ins - Are they sending the wrong message?
Whilst it makes great television ratings, having celebrities/ reality show contestants stepping onto scales to see how much weight they‘ve lost whilst starving in the African jungle is flawed on a number of levels. Last nights episode of "I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here” measuring the scale weight of celebrities is yet another example. While, no doubt, there will be some debate over Yvies refusal to announce her weight, there is another issue looming here that many people will miss altogether.
They are just measuring weight.
Anyone who has ever had a body composition scan done will know that “weight” is made up of water, minerals, protein and body fat, with body fat making up only a percentage of overall weight. Weight loss does not mean fat loss. This is one of the main reasons that the use of the Body Mass Index (BMI) which is height v weight, is such an inaccurate measure of obesity.
Take a look at the male model celebrity Justin on last nights episode for instance. On entering the jungle he was muscular and very lean looking, no doubt a requirement for his occupation. After little more than 3 weeks of reduced activity and a low calorie diet of beans and rice he has lost 10kg of weight. News flash…while Justin may have lost some body fat, he has also lost muscle and water - that good healthy stuff that keeps our bodies functioning at its peak. Yes, he will emerge from the jungle a little leaner than when he entered, but he will have reduced muscle mass, reduced strength and arguably be less healthy than he was.
There will be no after, after weigh in.
Contestants/celebrities will most likely gain the “weight” back, and then some more, but viewers will never see this, it just doesn't make good television.
There is a recipe for extreme unhealthy Yo-Yo dieting and all of the ingredients are present here.
- Very low calorie diet,
- Muscle loss,
- Reduced metabolic rate (from muscle loss)
- Bland food
- Food containing fat, salt and sugar used as rewards
- Affirmation of weight loss - The weigh-in and comments “Wow, you’ve lost some weight"
A reduced metabolic rate from muscle loss means that, post jungle, the celebrities bodies will burn less calories per day than pre jungle with the excess calories most likely to be stored as body fat. Couple this with an increase focus and desire for sugary, salty and fatty food (sniffing Tim Tams - really?) and the result is rapid fat gain, aka Yo-Yo dieting.
Now throw into the mix the instilled belief that a very low calorie diet will work, "it must work, because I lost weight before.. right?” and you end up with the very common flawed thought process that - the dieter is at fault for not sticking to the low calorie diet instead of putting the blame squarely where it belongs..on the actual diet.
It worked for the celebrities, it will work for me too!
It's bad enough that individual Celebrities are exposed to the traps of Yo-Yo dieting for some TV ratings , but for television networks to promote this type of weight loss in Prime Time without the obligatory "For your own health and safety please do not try this at home” only serves to perpetuate the myth that to lose weight we need too eat as little as possible.
It remains unclear as to why networks portray the message - Eat less and you will Weigh Less, perhaps it’s just ignorance. But what is clear is that countless numbers of impressionable teenagers and young adults around Australia have just unknowingly witnessed the unhealthiest and most unsustainable methods of fat loss around.
It's too bad the opportunity to identify this and to educate so many was wrapped up and hidden under the veil of “light entertainment”.