I’m an addict. Deep down, everyone knows that TV addiction is certainly unhealthy, especially when the drug of choice is reality TV. But my addiction has nothing to do with hoarding, competing chefs, fashion designers, or salon owners, spoiled housewives, eating chalk, or the Kardashian family. I am addicted to Heavy, the latest weight-loss reality TV show. (This one’s on A&E.)
Of course, for years The Biggest Loser has dominated the small screen with its huge participants on NBC, and then there’s Thintervention With Jackie Warner on Bravo, which I’ve blogged about on Blisstree. But Heavy is a completely different animal.
For those of you who haven’t seen an episode of Heavy (A&E calls it a “docudrama”), it follows 22 participants (two each week) as they attempt to make serious lifestyle changes and lose a ton of weight during a six-month in-patient/out-patient treatment program. But this is no contest; there’s no money to be won, prizes to gain, or titles to claim. There are no celebrity trainers with major endorsement deals and product lines. And because of these differences, Heavy is much smarter and more sensitive and comprehensive than any other weight-loss reality TV show out there. Most of Heavy‘s dangerously obese particpants suffer from health problems including sleep apnea, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type II diabetes, and hip and knee problems. Plus, their immense weight directly and negatively affects their careers, relationships, spouses, kids, and hobbies. Some of them have trouble walking, can’t fit into car seatbelts, and have to buy two airline tickets just for themselves. Tom, for example, starts out on Heavy at an astounding 638 pounds.
So, in pairs of two (they don’t know each other beforehand), they pack up for a private, 30-day stay at an exclusive (and beautiful) weight-loss/fitness/spa facility where I would gladly spend the rest of my life. After a month of intense physical activity (with two private trainers, one male, one female), nutrition counseling, mental health therapy, private accommodations that are much more “resort destination” than “boot camp,” regular weigh-in sessions, and anything else they need (but virtually no contact with the outside world), the participants are released back into their regular daily lives, where they need to use the health and fitness tools given to them at the facility. (They also regularly work with private trainers in their respective hometowns.) But all those same temptations remain: Junk food, fast food, girls’ night out, pizza, friends who don’t have your best interests at heart, beer, lethargy, birthday parties, excuses to skip the gym, ice cream, and cake, among many others. So, if they feel like they’re failing on the outside at any time during the remaining five months, Heavy participants may return to the private facility for an extended stay to face more hardcore support and forced fitness and nutrition. I don’t blame them. Homesickness or no, once I started dropping major weight and seeing serious results, I’d never want to leave this place. Plus, I like the trainers’ styles, and the pool is really nice. Food looks good, too.
I’m not obese, dieting, trying to lose weight, or in a high-risk category for having a heart attack, diabetes, or stroke, so why am I obsessed with watching people who are? Well, why are millions of other people? When we don’t want to see people fail (Real Housewives?), we want to see them succeed, especially at something as difficult and challenging as weight loss. Like mine, most addictions are fed by the promise of instant gratification, and what could be more instantly gratifying than watching a miserable, 400-pound person who’s near death lose 150 pounds in 60 minutes? Nothing, I say, except maybe smoking a rock if you’re a crack addict. But I’m not, so I’m stuck with the boring old TV, which, with its potential mind-melting and radiation hazards, can be impressively dangerous in and of itself.
My seemingly harmless addiction (and oxymoron, I realize) becomes somewhat more serious when I admit the fact that I usually watch Heavy (and any other weight-loss-oriented reality TV show) while eating an entire pint of ice cream (or almost) straight out of the carton, which, as editor of a health and wellness website, I know is the worst way to eat anything. Even as the health and wellness experts on Heavy are instructing their charges to put that utensil down after every bite, I’m doing exactly the opposite with my Haagen-Dazs. In my defense (Damn, I really do sound like an addict in denial!), I usually just buy the pint in order to pick out the chocolate-covered Swiss almonds one by one, and leave most of the vanilla ice cream behind (a habit that annoys my husband to no end). However, I’m currently 25 weeks pregnant, so as far ice cream restraint goes, all bets are off. (Still, the OCD-like behavior of methodically picking the chocolate-covered almonds out of my ice cream while watching a TV show about really fat people struggling with physical and mental obstacles isn’t lost on me. Perhaps I should contact the My Strange Addiction casting people over at TLC.) In the meantime, I’m living for next Monday night at 10 p.m. EST.
More on my strange addiction to “Heavy” next week.