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TV's couch potato diet

In the midst of a cold and very snowy Sunday, many Thunder Bay residents watched the Panthers get crushed by the Broncos.  What else were we going to do?  Shovel?

We’re in the middle of our annual Canadian hibernation – that time when we can curl up in our elastic-waisted stretch pants with a bag of Cheetos and a diet soda (just to balance out the calories) and bad-mouth professional athletes.

Of course, they’re not the only ones we can judge from that spot on the sofa that’s slightly dented to match the shape of our butt-cheeks.  Right now, the networks are offering a steady diet of exercise and weight-loss programs.

A re-formatted The Biggest Loser premiered in January.  Fan-favourite coach, Jillian Michaels, left in 2014.  Long-time host, Allison Sweeney left last season.  And with so many articles and former contestants condemning the show’s behind-the-scenes training and diet tactics, viewers have been leaving too.

So this season, veteran trainer Bob Harper took over as host and “Big Daddy,” overseeing a lot of workouts both on and off the ranch.  The episodes were also shortened to one hour, airing back-to-back to speed up the weight-loss journey.  However, the soul-sucking weigh-in is still followed by the infamous “I love you but I’m sending you home” vote.

ABC recently tried My Diet Is Better than Yours, hosted by Shaun T of Hip Hop Abs and Insanity fame.  The clients chose from a variety of diet regimens and followed them with the help of the plans’ creators.  Some of the diets followed basic common sense.  Others suggested putting butter in your coffee and eating only twice a day.  None inspired me to try them.

A&E’s Fit to Fat to Fit has trainers purposely gaining copious amounts of weight so they can lose it again with their clients.  Theoretically, they get a better understanding of what their clients go through as an unfit person trying to change.  And it makes for dramatic TV.

But an oncologist doesn’t need to give himself cancer in order to treat his patients properly.  And while the trainers are certainly more empathetic afterward, their experience has nothing to do with their clients’ weight loss issues.  Not to mention that it’s unhealthy.

Not to be outdone, TLC has been airing early seasons of Extreme Weight Loss.  Each two-hour episode spans one year during which the client starts out with one-on-one training in Arizona with Chris Powell who specializes in excessive obesity.  After three months, the client returns home with a proposed prize if they meet their next weight loss and fitness goals on their own.  After nine months, if they’ve lost enough weight, they get skin removal surgery.  What a bonus!

So are we inspired to work out by watching crazed trainers and weeping clients?  Or do we just feel better about our less-than-perfect thighs by comparison?

One thing’s for certain, television is the worst place to get weight loss advice.  Especially since the biggest contributor to obesity is that couch we’re sitting on.