The Wrong Goal Leads to Wrong Results
When reality TV became popular over 10 years ago, it was only a matter of time before weight loss diet shows became all the rage. Thanks to shows such as The Biggest Loser, many people have formed diet groups and hold contests to see who can achieve the greatest weight loss. Much like the popular NCAA basketball office pool, many employees now take part in office weight loss contests. The premise is relatively simple. Employees each put up a certain amount of money and whoever loses the most weight (or percentage of weight) wins the pot. On the surface, it seems like a fun way to both build morale and get healthy. But I have personal experience in this matter and the end result was somewhat unexpected.
The place where I work has held two weight loss contests and I am not proud to say that I won both times. In the first weight loss contest, I noticed that each week, fewer and fewer people showed up to weigh in. I later realized what was happening. As it became obvious that I was on a crash diet, those who knew they had no chance of beating me gave up on their diets. So the goal was not to develop healthy eating and exercise habits. Rather, everyone wanted to win the contest. So they either gave up or did their own crash diet to lose as much weight as quickly as possible, neither of which is very good.
Crash Diets Are Dangerous
What is wrong with crash diets? In the long term, they do not work and they are very dangerous. According to Bryan Miller of cnn.com, a crash diet will slow your metabolism which eventually leads to weight gain. Also, your body will lack necessary nutrition and you run an increased risk of dehydration and heart stress. Weight loss contests encourage the very behaviors that entail these risks. After winning the first contest, I quickly gained back most of the weight. And when I heard we were doing the weight loss contest again, I purposely gained even more weight before the first weigh in so I would have more to lose!
A Free and Easy Alternative: Walk, Don’t Run
If you are anything like me, you definitely don’t want to change your eating habits and you have neither the time nor the patience for a serious exercise regimen or group therapy meetings. Living in the New Orleans area, with its great restaurants on nearly every block, makes developing a healthy diet next to impossible. But I have found that walking is a great method of weight loss. According to Martica Heaner of msn.com, walking just two miles a day, at a rate of 15 minutes per mile, can result in burning 182 calories for a 200 pound person. If you live in a mountainous region, a two mile hike will burn 273 calories for the same person. Of course, if you can walk for an hour, these figures double. Also, your metabolism will increase which is even more important. If you can jog or run, that is an even better option for your overall health. But keep in mind that running will increase muscle mass and you may not experience as much weight loss as you’d like. Also, for an obese person, running can harm your knees. So walking may be a safer option.
Bryan Miller, “How Crash Diets Harm Your Health”, cnn.com
Martica Heaner, “Walk Off Weight”, health.msn.com.