Friday, January 16, 2009

Biggest Loser - revisited

As you'all know here, if I am wrong, I will gladly admit it. And people have written comments to show me the error of my ways and if I see merit in what they say, I am more than glad to admit I was in error.

I guess my humble blog has gotten the attention of one of the winners on "the Biggest Loser" show, second season, Pete Thomas. Thomas lost a lot of weight in a 9 months - 185 lbs and apparently if his blog is to be believed, he's kept it all off (but of course, Eric Chopin didn't tell his cyberfriends how much he had regained so that's why I say this with a grain of salt.... IF his blog is true).

Be that as it may, he is ANGRY at me. Very angry and has written a long comment which raises some issues that I think I should address in my main blog. So here goes:

Pete writes:

"You are doing such a poor job in your analysis. The media does want to see failure."
Ignoring the insult, (and to use Pete's phraseology, "it doesn't take a big leap in intelligence" to realize that ad hominem is a faulty argument tool), I feel Pete is very wrong. The media did NOT to this day, cover much about Eric Chopin's massive weight gain nor the weight gain of other "big losers". And there is a good reason for this. The media is driven and financed by the diet industry, a billion dollar industry of which "the Biggest Loser Show" is of course, a part (it sells products when folks watch the show unless they fast forward through the commercials like I do and not a lot of folks DO that). And the diet industry is pushing the myth that "all of us" can "get the body we always wanted" just by buying this or that diet when in fact studies have found (all of them have FOUND THIS, PETE) that 95 percent of people who diet to lose weight, regain the weight within 5 years! And the results of weight loss surgery are not much better - even with a permanent change to the body, 93 percent of patients cannot keep all the weight off! And most patients still end up in the severely to clinically obese zone and then WITH a new set of comorbidities. (the Swedish Obesity study and others). I've given these cites in some of my other blogs so won't labor through them here.

Pete gives as his reason for his belief that the media is highlighting failure as this:

"It does not take a giant leap of intelligence to see this. Look at the local news or national news – How much positive vs negative news do you see? The media thrive on success and more so on FAILURE!"
True, negativity and fear dominate the media EXCEPT when it comes to selling product and that means the DIET INDUSTRY so most of what we see on the media is SUCCESS to perpetuate the myth that "most people can successfully keep off the weight". As I mentioned before, I saw no mention of Eric Chopin in the news and a search of Google news I did right now, came up with the following message:

Your search - "eric chopin" - did not match any documents.
So I am wondering, Pete, if your theory is true and the media is highlighting failure in weight loss, why didn't Eric's appearing on the Oprah show even warrant a SMALL mention in the news?

And according to Pete's biography on his website, he's appeared rather often in this media which he says "highlights failure"

"He has appeared on ABC's The View, The 700 Club, and eXtra as well as being featured in People Magazine, Runners World, TV Guide, The Detroit Free Press, inTouch Weekly and Real Health."

Next Pete you are getting a bit confused here when you wrote:

"One successful author I know says ANY publicity is good publicity. He FRAMED BAD reviews of his book! Be assured – your blog qualifies as good publicity."
Doubtless you were referring to the saying sometimes attributed to Will Rogers but apparently said by many that "there is no such thing as bad publicity, only publicity".

First of all, I think you are overrating the nuisance value of my humble blog so if that's your worry, please don't worry... I'm sure no one on the show or in charge of the show would be convinced by this blog. First of all, the show is a cash cow and you will find that people _really don't care_ whether it's healthy or "right" if it's bringing in the bucks. First American TV principle... that you have not encountered this, leads me to wonder what planet have you been living on? :)

Secondly, actually there IS such a thing as bad publicity... Joyce Brothers said that and we can see that bad publicity helped greatly in defeating Sarah Palin in the recent election. Her name was on every lip so she got plenty of publicity, all bad.

And third, if you feel that my blog is good publicity then it should help your business of "motivational speaking" and thus, why are you so angry at me? I must say, you seem to be contradicting yourself a bit (well more than a bit).

So bottom line, my blog may be bad publicity for the show but as long as the ratings soar (whether people who watch it LIKE the show or not), the networks will run the show (and sell the sponsor's products). And people wanting to believe the myth that "all of us can have the body we always wanted" will continue to call you for "motivational speaking" right?

You then accused me of being ignorant so you wrote patronizingly:

"So let me educate you a little – Oprah called Eric – Remember! He turned her down initially. It is a known fact that contestants regularly turn down the media ‘When they start gaining their weight back’. You just don’t know that because your not knowledgeable enough on these things. So let me help you."
First of all, Pete, seems you didn't read my blog very well because I SAID that Oprah had called Eric previously and that he'd turned down the appearance (what he said on the "Oprah" show). Perhaps you might be the one needing help in reading things a bit more carefully. And by the way, Pete, in the statement of yours "Your not knowledgeable" I think you meant to say "YOU'RE not knowledgeable", right?

You further wrote:

"Oprah called a lot of us a few months back and those of us familiar with the process KNEW exactly where the show was going."
Have you counted the number of POSITIVE "amazing weight loss" shows Oprah has done? It way exceeds the couple of "weight loss problem" shows she's done.

"Misery loves company. My opinion - Oprah wanted company in her own struggles (or rather her producers choose to portray it as such)."
Aren't YOU assuming something about Oprah i.e. her being "miserable"? She's never been extremely large and she's sold a bunch of magazines and shows with her latest "confessions". And I do not see Oprah appearing on shows like "The Biggest Loser" which regularly humiliate people of size. Bottom line, there is no evidence that she's feeling miserable at all. Only that she's a very clever TV show host who knows how to get the audience's attention.

After that, you wrote:

"I will leave you to your ignorance on that one and I will just continue to laugh from a distance."
And I ask why you have to laugh at me at all and if life being so slim is so wonderful, why are you so angry? Happy people don't write angry, ad hominem letters like you wrote me. A psychologist might have a field day with your letter, Pete. :)

Then you ask:

"WHY is the type of weight loss on the show unhealthy?"

That you don't know, suggests you may be the one who lacks knowledge especially that you mentioned no one has shown you any evidence of this... incredible since evidence exists all over the internet and in many books that quick weight loss is unhealthy.

Your body cannibalizes organs and muscles with a quick weight loss and lowers your metabolism so that you will gain more quickly. Since you are apparently was unaware of the tons of stuff available written about this, you may be more amenable to watching a video than reading an article or book, so I will provide a video explaining the process:

I would also recommend Dr Linda Bacon's book, "HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE" which well covers obesity research.

Additionally, working out so hard and so long every day (and in most cases, high impact) is foolish and ASKING for injury... just ask the personal trainer at your local gym about this. Again much has been written about this on the medical and fitness sites... if you haven't yet seen it, you obviously do NOT want to see it. Because it's easy to find.

The show not only sacrifices health for audience appeal (no one wants to see someone lose slowly on a healthy program - that's boring) but also, it humiliates people of size. Again, if you do not see this, perhaps you don't WANT to see it and nothing I write will convince you...

One more thing you brought up ... you wrote:

"You believe that size does not matter and it is ok to be morbidly obese."
This statement is way too general. But I don't think I said this in any of my blogs. Fact remains however, that for every study which suggests a danger in being clinically obese, there is another study which suggests NO LINK between clinical obesity _alone_ and morbidity but rather other lifestyle factors instead... food choices, whether the person yo yo's the weight or stays steady and a host of things, even things like stress and anxiety.

Dr Rudy Leibel, probably one of the most respected obesity researchers, stated in a speech to the NIH that "there probably is some advantage to being of normal BMI but it is UNCLEAR whether someone forcing their weight to a lower range than their bodies want, enjoys that advantage".

Now, Pete, I have provided some sources and clarified what I have written and of course, I invite comment but if you DO comment, I hope you will do so more respectfully than your last comment as I feel insulting comments do little to enlighten folks who are reading this. Provide me with facts and cites and I will listen. Your anecdotal "I know all about the show" attitude is not really what I call unbiased observation especially since you apparently walked away with a tidy sum of money. I can understand that you do not like it when the show is criticized for being unhealthy or for exploiting fat people (although some of the Biggest Loser candidates have talked about that themselves), and while I understand your point of view, your anecdotal information does not qualify for scientific data. I hope you understand that.

Overall, I think we can discuss something, even disagreeing upon various aspects and still remain adult and civil, yes?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Biggest loser - not?

Again we return to the controversial TV show everyone hates to watch. That's because Eric Chopin, one of the winners of the "Biggest Loser" who lost the most amount of weight, appeared on the Oprah show yesterday.Oprah had invited him a few months ago to one of her "amazing weight loss shows" to tell his weight loss story. But he declined the offer, saying he couldn't get off from work.

"I lied about that" he told Oprah yesterday. The truth was Eric Chopin has regained 107 lbs of the 214 lbs he initially lost. He said he decided to reveal the truth to his fans after Oprah's courageous move of revealing her 40 lb weight gain (which she has exploited in her "O" magazine as well as the last two weeks of her show and I guess plans webcasts as well - leave it to Oprah to dis-arm the tabloids while upping the ratings of her show... no wonder she's one of the richest people in the country - she's very clever to say the least!)

How did Eric gain the weight? Well, he didn't really know - it just crept up on him, he said. Perhaps the fact that he wasn't working out 5 hours a day like he was on the "Biggest Loser" ranch, helped.

In an earlier interview which I did blog about, I said Eric looked like he had gained some and then, he told the interviewer that when he was on "The Biggest Loser" that WAS his job but once he got back into the REAL world, he didn't have the time or energy to exercise all those hours a day.

On Oprah, Eric looked ashamed of himself, the old "I did this to myself" and Oprah, now the world's most renown expert on "falling off the wagon" consoled him that 2009 would be a better year and she said it shouldn't be about the number on the scale (which is a laugh because of course, that's ALL what it's about).

But should Eric or any of the "Biggest losers" who were unable to maintain the loss really be blamed? It's quite possible that the only thing "they did to themselves" was offer themselves up to be on the show.

Perhaps everyone should take a second look at the methods used in the "Biggest Loser" show. The people do back breaking workouts for several hours a day, and they also cut the calories (they wear counters which log their steps - these are uploaded into the computer and then, they have to log their food).

Eric told Oprah that he hating working out but he was athletic in High School. Oprah has always hated working out so she commiserated there. "Does anyone LIKE working out?" she asked, grimacing and the audience laughed.

But I have often wondered if those personal trainers on the "Biggest Loser" by putting these people through such pain (in order to win the show) have turned these people AGAINST working out for life... Workouts became for them, nothing BUT pain (the latest "biggest loser", a 30 some year old, told "The Today Show" that just before she won the show, she had packed all her bags to go home because she couldn't take it any longer and her young body hurt all over). But workouts shouldn't BE pain... aerobic workouts are supposed to be pleasant and can be fun. In the normal schema, workouts are NOT for "losing weight" but for health and as an aging person, I can attest to the fact that my hubby and my workout habits HAVE kept us healthier despite some health issues we have.

Eric told Oprah that people had warned him that keeping the weight off is the hardest part. He said he had scoffed at the warnings saying "you ever lose 214 lbs in 6 months?" but added that he found out those who had warned him were right.

After mistreating his body as the show did, it's not surprising that he regained but I don't feel HE should be blamed but rather the show. And yet, people keep lining up to BE on the show and they talk about "saving their lives".

Killing their metabolisms and working out for 5 hours a day doesn't sound life saving to me. On the contrary.

In the Game show hearings (the $64,000 question show in which contestants were given the answers), in defense, the TV exec told the Congress members that he didn't see what the problem was. "People won money, contestants had fun and the audience was entertained - everyone won!" Few seemed to realize the deceit involved could become a slippery slope into shows in which really nobody won and people COULD be hurt.

Perhaps we have arrived there with shows which exploit human beings.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

dying from a surgery which might not work anyway

The doctor gently told the family to dis-robe and remove their jewelry. They were standing outside a modern facility and were told that they would be released but first were to be allowed to take a shower so they would be presentable to their loved ones. The people wondered if this doctor could be trusted because he worked with their jailers but surely since he was a doctor, he had their best interest in mind. Most of all, they WANTED to trust him. So they suppressed their fears and doubts. Showering would be nice, they thought since, they had not had this luxury during their time there. After taking off their clothing, they filed into the what looked like a community shower. They might have had hopes of "getting their lives back" because this is what they were told by those who led them into the building. Somehow one thinks they might have been in denial about things because their jailers were not really into saving their lives. But people will believe what they WANT to believe and they wanted to believe the nightmare would end with their shower. Standing in front of the shower head, they looked forward to living normally again. But no water came out of the shower head. Instead a deadly gas filled the air tight building. Their "release" was only by death. This was Nazi Germany.

And the kindly doctor who led them into the "shower" to their death, was on hand to sign the death certificates and report that he had further "taken care of the Jewish problem".

In 2006, Ray, a very large person, blogged for a year how he felt a radical type of weight loss surgery was going to "magically" save his life. To their credit, several bariatric surgeons refused to operate on him. He weighed close to 500 lbs and was still mobile (he drove a truck) but was in kidney failure from diabetes and required dialysis three times a week. One of the surgeons who refused him was Dr Baltazar of Spain who tried to explain to Ray that he didn't have a prayer of surviving weight loss surgery. But Ray bought the hype he had heard on some of the discussion groups and TV. He truly believed that Weight loss surgery would somehow make him slim and "normal". He did not speak well of those doctors who refused to operate on him and finally, he found someone who WOULD operate. Because insurance did not pay, Ray's grandma went to her savings to come up with the $50,000 for Ray's surgery. Ray's last letter before surgery, expressed hope that he would "get his life back" after surgery and he went into the hospital, confident and optimistic.

But after surgery, several other organs joined his failing kidneys and went into failure. He was awake, awake enough to realize that what those doctors who refused him surgery had warned about, was happening. His surgery was not going to save his life. On the contrary. People who went to see him, described him as very depressed before he died about 3 weeks after his weight loss surgery.

Ray may not have had the life he wanted before surgery (dialysis isn't everyone's first choice of a fun thing to do) but he _had_ a life. He drove his truck, he held his nieces and nephews, he saw his Grandma, he still could get around. Instead of giving Ray his life back, the bariatric surgery had denied him of the life he had.

TV just showed another similar case. Renee Williams was a pretty lady who at 29 years old, looked young. She had been bedfast for 4 years, partially due to a crushed leg from a car accident. And she had gained weight to 900 lbs. She video blogged and said she wanted to "get her life back" and do more things with her two kids. Like Ray, she had contacted many surgeons who refused to operate on her because she was too big a risk. But finally she found a surgeon who agreed to do a gastric bypass on her. After her bypass, he came out smiling at her family. "The surgery went well," he told them. Visiting Renee after she woke up, this surgeon said to her "and you will soon be skinny". And in the next 3 weeks, she lost 60 lbs. But then one night she had a sudden heart attack. The surgery HAD been too much for her. Her older daughter said tearfully that her mother had been her best friend.

"I know I have 100 percent chance of dying in the next year," Renee told her video blog.

But seems with the gastric bypass, Renee didn't even have a year to live but only weeks.

And Manual Uribe who refused the offer of a gastric bypass, and only a hundred lbs or so less than Renee, is still living albeit still bedfast. (It's a no brainer that walking is a lot more than being slimmer - many muscles must be developed before that even should be attempted.)

Somehow, I feel Renee's life was wasted and that she was given false promises because this drastic invasive surgery is not even that effective on larger people. One of the few studies we have which looked at many patients 10 years post op, found that 34 percent of them with a BMI over 50 regained all or most of the weight they lost.

We to date, have no data on weight loss 20 years after gastric bypass despite the fact that gastric bypasses have been done for 40 years. Why is that, some wonder. Dr Paul Ernsberger, associate professor of nutrition at Case Western Medical school, opined:

"A number of trials have been started, and the final results have never been reported. We have to ask, you know, why haven't we seen the final results? I think it's because it's bad news." (Dr Ernsberger on "The Donahue Show")

When these very large people showed hesitation about the surgery, this surgeon (now under lawsuit for the death of another patient) paraded a woman who had had a gastric bypass and lost 400 lbs. "It's the best decision I ever made in my life," this patient who works for the surgeon as a "liaison" said, enthusiastically. But that woman is only two years post op. We should remember that 6 months after Big Pete Herida appeared on Oprah and said how losing 600 lbs with his gastricbypass had "saved his life", Herida died of congestive heart failure.

And then there is another lady I know who weighs in excess of 500 lbs who is in her 50's and not real mobile. She says she's _outlived_ 48 of her friends who had Weight Loss surgery. One never hears about that on TV.

There is some evidence that losing a lot of weight even slowly, may be more of a strain on the heart than NOT losing it.

What really upset me was the misrepresentations going on.

"If Renee survives this surgery, she will lose 700 lbs" stated Renee's surgeon to the TV cameras.

None of the very large folks I know, have lost more than 400 or 500 lbs with gastric bypass (many have lost less) and most of them regain a significant amount of weight (if they live) within 4 or 5 years.

"Renee only had a year to live" was another thing we heard a lot on the TV show and no one can predict that at all. Surely it's not real healthy to be in bed weighing 900 lbs but who really can predict the lifespan of anyone. Telling her that seemed more like a misrepresentation in order to scare her into surgery.

And the worst thing was the spin they put on the show "If Renee had been accepted for surgery earlier, things would have been different. She called many doctors and begged them to help her."

This seems to suggest that those surgeons who were ethical enough to NOT operate on her were somehow guilty of her death.

"The show has inspired many to call for help - to not wait until it is 'too late' like Renee did. " the show told us detailing two other patients, both of whom got bypasses but are still in bed.

It's way past time to realize that what we hear on TV may not, and probably IS NOT the truth. TV makes only a commitment to entertain, not to tell the truth.

During the trials after the game show scans in the 1950's, one of the producers shrugged his shoulders when confronted with their lies, giving contestants the answers etc (there is a movie called "QUIZ SHOW" which details this famous case). "Well," said the producer, "no one was hurt. The contestants won money and the people were entertained."

Now with today's spin, giving people false hopes about surgery which may not even help them (and may cause their death), can we really say anymore that "no one is being hurt"?