April’s Back Page – Who’s the loser here?
BY BRUCE STEINBERG
With the film industry’s 90th Academy Awards show over and all Oscars handed out, I’ve thought to create a show honoring the best in the health industry. This I call, “The John & Mary Doe Awards,” where I’ll hand out statuettes called, “The Pretty Darn Goods.” The coveted trophy will be a figure with a thumb up in the air, signaling, of course, “Pretty Darn Good.”
Among the categories of champions will be these two and the most sought-after: The Best Pretty Darn Good (akin to best picture) and The Slowest but Surest (akin to the lifetime achievement award). The former would be given to the person who never went to extremes in weight, lifestyle and diet, avoided all fads and lived doing healthy activities he or she enjoyed while eating pretty-darn-good things most of the time. The latter would be given out to the person who improved overall health slowly but surely, while discovering healthy activities he or she loved to do while learning to eat pretty-darn-good things most of the time.
I brought this idea to the cafeteria lawyers I sometimes meet with before our court work gets started. “It would be a great awards show,” I pitched. “Who’s in?” Out of the seven there, six fell asleep. The last excused herself for coffee and a doughnut.
All right, I get it – shows such as the one I pitched beginning with the words “Extreme” or “Biggest” don’t go over too well. Whether it’s plastic-surgery shows, houses-built-in-just-one-week shows or weight-loss shows, the titles signal the utmost, not pretty good. A lifetime of sensibility, a life changed for the better carefully and thoughtfully are not the stuff of high TV viewer ratings. They should be. Consider the following:
My own hometown newspaper runs a “Fittest Loser” annual contest that goes for 12 weeks during the winter and spring. Ah, notice the title change, as if the point of the program is more palatable. But the pitch for five new contestants for the 2018 edition still announces that “The Fittest Loser winner will be chosen based on percentage of weight loss.” In other words, not fittest, still biggest.
Contestants will have personal trainers as well as nutritionists at their disposals. How many of you have such folks on your speed-dial and automated-checking withdrawal?
This newspaper also ran a follow-up article on the 2017’s contestants. Out of the four chosen that year, only one managed to keep the weight off lost during the 12-week contest, and impressively lost some more; but the rest gained weight back, from 12 to 22 pounds, by about six months after the contest ended. Maybe it’s a reflection of who among us are willing to put our most personal affairs out there in the public, but the contestants had some sad stories to tell. They all hung to the belief, at least for public consumption, that they did benefit from the contest. The three who gained weight back admitted in some fashion that they couldn’t maintain what the contest provided and required. The one who continued to lose weight seemed to have found something that worked for his lifestyle and reasonably enjoyed doing. Regardless of post-contest weight gain and the focus on percentage weight loss as the “winner,” all praised the program.
Last summer media reports indicated that the national TV program, “The Biggest Loser,” would be cancelled after 17 seasons. Many, if not most comments on this report indicate a “good riddance” attitude. Allegations arose claiming false reporting of weight loss, extreme dehydration before weekly televised weigh-ins, body shaming, dangerous and unrealistic exercise programs and fad diets and significant weight gain by most after the contest ended. Those who kept weight off had gone into some form of the weight-loss business and/or were paid to promote the show, and providing weight-loss pills (some illegal). Denials by the show’s network and staff have poured in, and lawsuit filings are like their own aerobic workout. Go ahead – the Google search on this is both interesting as well as sad. After all these years, are we not tired of applauding significant (if not suspicious) weight loss in one week or ashamed of focusing perceived fitness, and overall health improvement on body size?
My hometown newspaper makes the claim and I have no doubt it is true, that its contest and others like it draw interest in fitness and diet; but I ask, of what type?
Meanwhile, the sign-off motto of The John & Mary Doe Awards is this: Find healthy activities you enjoy and eat pretty darn good most of the time.
The show may get low ratings but, unlike “Extreme” and “Biggest,” it has the better chance of lasting a happy, healthy lifetime.