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Weight loss shows: Do they help in the battle against obesity?

Categories: Canada, Health

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Weight loss reality shows like The Biggest Loser are more popular than ever, but obesity rates in the U.S. are now the highest of any industrialized nation, according to an Associated Press report.

Since Loser debuted in 2004 and became a hit for NBC, other shows chronicling personal quests to slim down have followed suit. The CW's Shedding for the Wedding features overweight couples competing in weight loss challenges to earn elements of their dream wedding. The Style Network has Ruby, a series that follows its morbidly obese namesake star on her journey to regain her health. There's also MTV's I Used to Be Fat, Discovery's One Big Happy Family and A&E's Heavy.

But there are more obese people today than when Loser premiered seven years ago.

So why aren't these reality shows helping in the fat fight?

"Obesity is an epidemic and these shows are trivializing it," said Ted Khalili, a bariatric surgeon in Beverly Hills.

He argues that the diet and exercise plans in these shows are often extreme and unsustainable. Still, Khalili says people can take some
eating and exercise tips from these popular programs.

However, JD Roth, executive producer of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition, thinks that weight loss shows are helping by making people more aware.

"The first step to changing some systemic problem in society is awareness and I think (weight) awareness is at an all-time high," Roth said, who is also the producer behind Biggest Loser.

Another medical expert believes more time needs to pass before we'll see whether the recent surge in health interest will make a difference in the numbers.

 "You will see nothing in national figures for probably eight to 10 years after a dramatic incident occurs," Dr. Terry Schaack said. "The U.S. Surgeon General went out and told people to quit smoking, I believe it was in '67. A horde of people quit smoking, and the incidence of heart disease went down 15 or 20 years later. It takes that long."

-With files from The Associated Press

Do you think weight loss reality shows help or hinder in the battle of the bulge? Let us know in the comments below.


(This survey is not scientific. It is based on readers' responses.)

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