"My Diet Is Better Than Yours" has proven that a reality TV weight-loss show can show positive nutrition tips. So let's look at how a long-time player handles the topic of food temptations.
"The Biggest Loser" is focusing on temptations this season. In Episode 2, the show promised us footage of the contestants dealing with food temptations.
The track record of the program has been about exercise like Ivory Soap has been about pure. The rare instances of nutrition have come when the show featured teenagers. Adults need help, too.
Collapsing on a treadmill!? TV gold. Learning good nutrition? Off-camera, please.
We were taken to a pretend food court. Since we can't learn anything without a game, the contestants had to identify the correct food based on the nutritional content questions, race down and grab that food and bring the food back to the starting line.
Which one of these dishes has the most fat? chicken parmesan, meat lasagna, pepperoni pizza, cheese calzone
This isn't really a question about actual nutrition; this was more about pointing to which fat food had slightly more fat than the other fat foods. Also, the serving size was chosen at random so the contestants couldn't really factor portions into their thinking, like they would do in real life.
Pepperoni pizza is the answer: 3 slices of pizza with 1050 calories, 48 grams of fat, and 1920 mg of sodium. Half the calories came from saturated fat. And no, we don't know which dish was the "healthiest." That would have been more helpful.
They didn't mention that most of that fat comes from mozzarella cheese. Few Americans know the fat content of food, and the question ignores potential good fat.
Which of these food items is considered to be the unhealthiest on the school lunch menu? chicken burritos, cheese nachos, steak tacos, cheese quesadillas
Cheese nachos won out with 1570 calories, 60 grams of fat, and 2380 mg sodium. We learned that the nachos had more calories than a kid should eat all day.
The question is subjective: based on fat, sodium, calories, or all of the above? Also, cheese nachos can be made healthier with black beans and plenty of vegetables, though school children aren't getting that version.
Chicken alfredo, macaroni and cheese, and pie a la mode were the other answers to the food court questions. Then again, if you aren't sure about these dishes, you won't learn anything advantageous on this show.
The message was AVOID, AVOID but without any positive reinforcement. Jasmin on My Diet was still able to eat macaroni and cheese with healthy upgrades. The Biggest Loser contestants were just scared. Did they learn how to avoid said temptation? Nope. Just learned that BAD was BAD. Sigh.
After the food court games, the contestants were taken to a lab to see how much sugar and fat they were putting in their bodies. Colby, a large man with a thick Georgia accent, has a drinking problem: in an average day, Colby drinks a 6-pack of soda, 3 sweet ice teas, 6 glasses of juice, and a sport drink. That comes out to 1.25 lbs. of "sugar" a day, with a lot of that sweetener being high-fructose corn syrup.
Scary, to be consistent, but helpful in that Colby was consuming mass amount of calories that didn't involve food. A small nugget of knowledge, even if it isn't positive.
The food court losers also had to eat the food as punishment for losing. In the second half of week 2, the contestants had to drag food trucks, and the losing team had to eat off the food trucks for the week.
Yes, these shows are designed to humiliate and play up emotions, but there is so much the people and the viewers could be learning on these shows. Good nutrition would be a significant start.
photos credit: The Biggest Loser/NBC