Claire Byrne’s audience were much divided in their opinion on this topic. Having listened to the views of the programme’s resident GP, dietician and leader as well as a plus sized model and personal trainer I don’t believe that this question can be answered in a black and white manner.

Body Shaming

What I found interesting was that the body shaming, according to the participants was largely blamed on contestants having to wear tight lycra on national television. The personal trainer and plus sized model were horrified at this and claimed that baring flesh was humiliating, caused embarrassment and was damaging to self-esteem. I don’t feel this is body shaming as the leaders apply to go on the programme in full knowledge of what the role will entail. They go through a rigorous selection process, and are fully aware of what they are in for. In fact, instead of being shamed in public, these people want to be exposed to the nation as they feel they need the pressure to motivate themselves and get results. They clearly view the eight week programme as a great opportunity, receiving guidance from experts which they will use to make progress towards their goal. I agree with Dr Eva Orsmond when she explained that the attire gives people the chance to see dangerous abdominal fat and how the healthier lifestyle reduces this week by week.

Negative Reinforcement

What I disagree with is the language used towards these vulnerable individuals and the use of a basic weighing scales to determine progress. What I also see as alarming is the setting of a WEEKLY weight loss goal and this being set as the measure of the individual’s progress. The scale is the number one factor contributing to people quitting or failing at their efforts to control their weight.  My heart goes out to those leaders who try to perfectly follow the diet and exercise vigorously and find they have fallen short of the target set! Guilt and shame ensue even though their behaviours have been fantastic. I have seen panel experts claim to “not believe what they are being told”, insinuating that the participant is telling lies. This triggers further negative emotions and can lead to procrastination or even reverting back to the old lifestyle and abandonment of the opportunity for happiness. We all know that people thrive on encouragement and praise and not on criticism.  The scale is inaccurate at least two out of every three times. It can in fact reinforce negative behaviours by appearing to go down after a week of slips, and doing the opposite after a really positive week. Fluid levels fluctuate all the time, like a tide that goes in and out. In fact the scale can show a difference of four to five pounds when comparing your weight in the morning to the evening.  Using body composition analysis once a month is much more accurate and provides a much more comprehensive breakdown of body fat, muscle and water.

The Right Tools?

Surely the focus for long term weight control should be on behaviours and attitudes. John, one of the leaders is a prime example of this. He has the great quality of really wanting to change. Having been humiliated by the panel, and told he was letting his followers down having remained static on the scale for two weeks in a row, he proceeded to lose eight pounds the following week. John did not lose the eight pounds in one week, clearly the eight pounds was an accumulation of the fortnight. I was shocked that this was not explained to John as being perfectly normal and no reflection on his efforts. A slight gain the next week and the experts reprimanded him on not sticking to the plan. They talked about him pushing emotions down with food and drink. John is most certainly affected by his past, as we all are, but the Dr took it upon herself to make presumptions about his feelings instead of first diffusing his disappointment and feelings of inadequacy on not hitting target. This should have been their first reaction, John needed reassurance that the scale doesn’t go down in a straight line. I really don’t understand how educated experts can be so flippant with their words towards vulnerable people. No other health product has caused so much mental pain than the simple weighing scale, it is probably the most irrelevant statistic of our health and yet the main focus of a 2016 production. This is playing with fire and would be better replaced by fortnightly or monthly body fat analysis, tape measurements and behaviour modification strategies.

Those who apply for TV weight loss programmes do so in the name of trust and hope. They may have a positive experience but I question the long term weight loss success of participants. Being scrutinised for eight weeks certainly produces adrenalin and prompts one to take action, but what happens when the programme comes to an end and the accountability is to oneself only?

The Right Triggers

As the plus sized model said on Claire Byrne’s debate, fat is a symptom, the underlying psychological triggers must be uncovered and managed. At Motivation the best outcome for clients comes down to this. Sustainable change is a result of empowerment, not guilt and ostracism. We are empowered by identifying WHY we do what we do. Understanding WHY we behave in certain ways gives us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, change our thought patterns and make better choices. At the heart of our approach is DR Larocque’s ground-breaking discovery that each person’s habits, motivations, emotions, stress levels and self-image make up their MENTAL WEIGHT.  Measuring changes in a person’s MENTAL WEIGHT is a far more helpful tool than the weighing scale to enable one to not just lose but maintain their desired weight.

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Blog Post by Claire Jackson