fitness · weight loss

TV shows, fitness, and weight loss: Love and hate

Television hasn’t been part of my life for many years, not since I gave it up as a pre-tenure faculty member with small children. Indeed, I blogged about the decision to abstain from TV here.

We do watch television shows on DVD and Netflix again so it’s no longer a complete ban. But what is missing is regularly scheduled programming and ads.

This past year though I was on sabbatical in Australia and New Zealand in rented houses that came with televisions. For the first time, I got to experience reality TV.

Given my interests it’s not a surprise that I watched shows about weight loss and exercise.  Here’s my take on the best and the worst.

It’s no shock that I hated The Biggest Loser.

I worry about very fast, competitive weight loss and the circus freak mentality around fat bodies. That said, it was refreshing to see big people exercising.

The show I liked though was Are You Fitter than A Pensioner?

Here’s a description of one episode:

America has given birth to a new breed of super-fit pensioner. In Oakmont Village, California, the senior residents are doing everything they can to live long and healthy lives. What happens when four young, unfit and unhealthy Brits are sent to live with some of the fittest pensioners in the world?

25-year-old lazy Welsh socialite Ashlei Swain, 20-year-old bone-idle punk student Jennifer Lovell, 22-year-old fried food lover Nicole Pereira and 18-year-old chain smoker Ben Katchi are about to meet their fate. For a week they must stay with 68-year-old Bev Levy and her 71-year-old husband Ron, and 77-year-olds Carol and Jim Cotton.

The hosts might be in their retirement years but all four are fitness fanatics. From competitive swimming to yoga and daily gym workouts, they look forward to whipping the young Brits into shape.

In a life-changing week, the Brits are forced to quit their usual lazy lifestyles and exercise to the max. They swap burgers and sweeties for a healthy diet and are pushed to their physical and emotional limits. At the end of the week they face the ultimate battle of the ages when they take on four golden oldies in a cycling relay race, to find out if they really are fitter than a pensioner.

Can stroppy rebel Ashlei conform to the strict regime? Is punk rocker Jen able to conquer her fear of exercise? And how do the Brits fare in the big race – are they victorious or do they suffer defeat at the hands of super-fit pensioners?

I loved the super fit pensioners, a stark contrast to what we’ve traditionally thought of as old age. No rockers here! They really did look to be having a great time, enjoying yoga, cycling, swimming, dancing, whatever. They also looked to be thriving in communities of like minded people. Good to have happy role models paving the way ahead.

Nice too to see seniors as the font of wisdom, as having something to offer the youth.

There’s of course the angle of national stereotypes– unhealthy Brits versus fitness obsessed Americans–but it’s made okay, I think, by the cross generational interaction.

I’m no fan of TV but I did watch and enjoy a few episodes of Are You Fitter than a Pensioner? Do you have any fitness/weight loss reality TV shows you love or love to hate?

4 thoughts on “TV shows, fitness, and weight loss: Love and hate

  1. I also greatly dislike The Biggest Loser, though I can see how it would be motivational for people who think they can’t do it (the problem is normal people can’t keep up with the regime they have during the show).

    There are a few shows I watched during maternity leave (yes, out of boredom) that were awful – they were mostly the bootcamp-style show, for a bride getting thinner for her wedding, etc.. Basically, the get thin quick recipe, where you know they’ll fall right off the wagon after the event they were preparing for.

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