Let’s Call A Spade A Spade

O.M.G. Taco Bell is marketing a “drive thru” diet??

Please hold on while I throw up.

Those of you who read my blog (whether you eat fast food or not) are probably just as disturbed by this “diet”.  And anyone who is serious about nutrition already knows better than to take their diet advice from a fast food chain.   The problem is that the people who need to read this probably won’t…and the people who need this information most are people who probably aren’t serious about nutrition.  And with obesity climbing at an alarming height in America, this is scary.

There are so many things wrong with this, it is hard to know where to begin.  Here are the four biggest gripes I have with Taco Bell promoting anything as a diet:

  • Results not typical- The girl on the commercial says “Results are not typical but for me they worked.”  By not typical she means they won’t work for you.  And by you, I mean everyone.
  • The small print- If  you have super fast reading eyes you can catch their disclaimer on the commercial but you can also look on the Taco Bell website where it reads: “The Drive-Thru Diet is not a weight-loss program.  The Fresco menu can help people reduce their calories, but it is not a low-calorie food. (You don’t say!) For a healthier lifestyle, pay attention to total calorie and fat intake and regular excercise”  Now THAT’S the spirit Taco Bell!
  • Nutritional Value- They do not give you the nutritional value.  They are promoting their Fresco “healthy choices” but won’t list their nutritional value.  Um, lil fishy dontchathink??
  • Drive-Thru Oxymoron- In addition to calling fast-food a diet, they suggest the drive through (as opposed to, I don’t know…say, walking into).  I suppose this is the excersise program that goes with the diet.

When questioned about the validity of the “Drive-Thru Diet”, Tom Wagner, the VP of Taco Bell’s Consumer Insight had this to say: “We mean ‘Drive-Thru-Diet’ to be a noun, not a verb. It’s not intended to be marketed as a weight-loss program.”  So you call it a diet but don’t intend for it to be marketed as a weight-loss program.  Ah, semantics.

So basically, the drive through diet is not a diet at all. This is just the corporate world playing off of people’s fears about their weight; promoting  products as ‘healthy’ when in reality, they’re anything but.  I made a choice long before I even got into fitness and nutrition to not eat fast food.  I do not like how it makes me feel.  And I would not recommend it to anyone.  But if you have a fast food meal every once in a while, and for the most part make healthy choices, you’ll be fine.  It doesn’t have to be black and white.   Just don’t kid yourself that you can eat this stuff regularly and your overall health won’t suffer.

What do you consider “fast food” and do you eat it?

Dear Biggest Loser: Stop The Gimmicks!

I have watched The Biggest Loser since its inception.   There are a lot of things about the show that I haven’t liked since the start, but I always liked it enough to keep watching.  At the beginning of the last two seasons I said I wasn’t going to watch but I did anyway.  I actually wasn’t sure I would ever totally stop watching.  Until last night.  Nothing (not even when Dane completely cheated and said he “ran” the marathon last year) has turned me off more from watching than what I saw last night.  And it was the straw that broke my back.

Over the last few seasons, I have been growing steadily frustrated with their gimmicks and the way in which they humiliate their contestants, but last night…when they made them stand in front of all their friends and family for the first weigh-in, that did it for me.  As if it isn’t difficult enough for them to see their weight (for some, it was the first time in years) they had to be publicly humiliated?  To me, that is just wrong.  Sure, everyone will see them on TV weigh in week to week, but at least then the contestants aren’t directly in front of them.  To do it publicly…it is just not okay.  And then…even worse, to get all of those people there, challenge them and then send the bottom four home right away.  Get their hopes up and send them home before they even had a chance to begin.  Seems me to the ones who came in last need it the most.  And they call this inspirational?  I call it heartless.  Cold even.  Not at all inspirational, actually.  Sure, they told them later they would be brought back in 30 days but WHY???  Why even do that at all??  Like I said, gimmicks.

A few other things I have noted that bother me about the show:

  • Rapid and extreme weight loss- And by rapid, I mean much too rapid.   This is dangerous. End of story.  Oh, and extreme dieting doesn’t work.  Just ask Ryan Benson, winner of season one who admitted on his blog that he “starved himself” and by the night of the final weigh-in he “was peeing blood.”  You can read even more here.  And if this is what people are admitting imagine what they aren’t saying.
  • Contestants are over-trained- Last night, on the very first night contestants had to bike 26.2 miles.  Last year, on the first day they had to run a full mile.  Prior to last year, the first challenge (which they didn’t even have the first couple of seasons) was always something like climbing or running up a hill for a prize.  People typically train for this kind of workout.  But not on the Biggest Loser.  And even worse, they make it a competition.  So let’s have these obese people who never exercise, compete to run a mile.  Or bike 26.  Or climb a mountain.  Sooner or later they will have them participating in a triathlon on the first day.  In addition to the welcome workout, the first few weeks are brutal.  The contestants get thrown right in, doing workouts that no one in their right mind would consider beginner.  Simply said, it is too much, too soon.
  • Nothing like the real world- The Biggest Loser does not focus on real-life weight loss strategies or encourage realistic expectations.  In other words, there is no relevance between the show and the real world.  For starters, these contestants are brought to a family-free, work-free, fast food-free environment.  They have complete access to gyms, refrigerators packed with low-fat and low-calorie food, personal trainers and group support.  Oh, and something else, the biggie- something not one of us at home has…a chance to win a quarter million dollars.  In short, the contestants are not given at-home, real world strategies for long-term weight loss.  In an article here, winner of season three, Bill Germankos says he was “hungry all the time” and gained weight when he went back home because “all his demands were waiting for him.”   Again, this is just what they tell us…think about what we don’t hear!
  • There is so much yelling- Bob and Jillian maintain that they use the “hardcore trainer attitude”  to motivate their contestants.  I would agree that this was the case at least through the first few seasons.  But then something changed…they got caught up in the hype.  Now their idea of motivating the contestants is screaming in their faces and yelling “F-you.”   That is not my idea of motivation.  In fact, I would characterize it more along the lines of verbal abuse.  I have had hardcore trainers and tough coaches in the past…and I want to be pushed hard, but I don’t want to be disrespected.  You can be tough without being an asshole and over the last few seasons both trainers have become almost unbearable to watch.

The one lesson that is missing from The Biggest Loser is the lesson people need to learn the most: being thin does not equal being healthy.   Being healthy means being smart about fitness, nutrition and overall health.  In my opinion, The Biggest Loser does not play smart.  They just play.  The  Biggest Loser has become laced with so many flaws, that they simply outweigh the good that it could offer.  This show should be strictly about weight loss and changing people’s lives, not money and game-playing.  The truth is, I really think this show could have been successful even without the prize money.  But I guess that wouldn’t make for good TV, huh?  I see this show now for what it really is…pure entertainment, where high ratings are what is most important.  And because these are people’s lives we are talking about, it pisses me off!

In the beginning, the show had a purpose- focus on worldwide obesity and encourage people do something about it.  But somewhere along the lines, it lost that purpose and went to gimmicky reality crap.  I am aware of the shows successes and I know that it has inspired a nation.  And I acknowledge those people who use the contestants as sources for inspiration, but I caution them not to use the show as a basis for their own weight loss program.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, whether you agree or disagree.  I look forward to hearing your open and honest opinions.  What I have found from talking about this show with others is that either you love it and defend it or you hate it and critique it.  I used to think I fell in the middle but I think my side has been established.