Dust got in my eyes when I watched Extreme Weight Loss this week, and it wasn’t even one of its more emotional episodes. When Georgeanna, a 44-year-old pastor’s wife, nailed her back handspring after losing 100+ pounds, I lost it a little.
It was obvious Georgeanna would get that handspring — after all, this was the woman did cartwheels down a field and back on her first workout, when she weighed 315 pounds. She did cry during those cartwheels (who wouldn’t?), but she did them, and seeing someone push back against everything that was holding them down gave me chills. And, yes, made my eyes well up a bit.
It made me want to go to the gym and start working out, right that very minute, even though I will never, ever personally do a back handspring.
Generally I have mixed feelings about weight loss TV, but this season’s Extreme Weight Loss has rocked. It has helped illustrate some of the underlying emotional reasons can lead people to become morbidly obese, and it shows what it can take to battle against those issues as one goes through the transformation process. Loss, tragedy, fear of failure, grief, anger — all sorts of things can cause us to take refuge in food. Changing our behaviors and thoughts is hard, and this show helps us see the self-awareness and self-growth that can be necessary to make lasting change occur.
For Georgeanna, it was all about having to be perfect — when she was a young gymnast she strove for perfection, and she felt a lot of pressure as a pastor’s wife to be perfect. And, um, that drive for perfection maybe had something to do with why her battle resonated so much for me. So, yeah, anyway ….
As a trainer, my main worry about this show this season (I will leave concerns about The Biggest Loser for another day) is that it sets up unrealistic expectations for how quickly you can lose weight. The people it features often lose a pound a day during the first three months of their year-long transformation. At home, that’s likely not gonna happen. During those three months they live at a weight-loss facility and are under medical supervision, getting help with not only their workouts but their nutrition.
And that’s another thing: the nutrition. The show is a little vague on what specifically their diets consist of, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Health and nutrition go hand-in-hand, and showing what works for one person might not be the most healthful for another. And besides, the last thing we need is more battling over what the ideal human diet is (again, another topic for another day).
If you need some inspiration, check out the show. It’s good. But have your gym shoes ready, because chances are you’re going to be inspired to hit the gym.