Weight loss as entertainment?

Reality TV hit the gym as the Discovery Health Channel Body Challenge 2 recently spent 16 weeks chronicling the sweat and sacrifice of six 20- to 40-something Southern Californians who collectively were carrying 250 extra pounds.
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Reality TV hit the gym as the Discovery Health Channel Body Challenge 2 recently spent 16 weeks chronicling the sweat and sacrifice of six 20- to 40-something Southern Californians who collectively were carrying 250 extra pounds. Included in the six-part series were challenges such as nosing out the best and worst food choices at an amusement park, the every-episode "Moment of Truth," where contestants faced the scale and body fat analyzer, guided trips to the grocery store with personal trainers and even mall visits with a personal shopper to proudly model tinier clothes. The final episode showed participants triumphantly meeting almost all of their personal resolutions (run up a killer hill, complete a triathlon, perform 20 male push-ups and others more -- shall we say -- difficult to measure like "look better naked"), then pleading their case to four stern judges who awarded a Maui spa vacation to the one they deemed the best life changer.

Described as "a hotshot in the high-pressure world of advertising" with an undying penchant for cheese, 33-year-old Matthew won; he lost 41 pounds, dropped his body fat from 25 percent to 15 percent, quit smoking and hiked the Grand Canyon. Although all the contestants made significant strides, Matthew met every goal, posted arguably the best numbers and transformed himself downright remarkably.

Missed the mania? You can still meet the contestants, check out before and after shots and weight loss tips, and catch all the episodes at www.health.discovery.com.

SNEWS View: Clearly never underestimate what Americans find entertaining. Born skeptics, we at SNEWS really wanted to poke fun at this program. Although there was plenty of silliness -- with teasers like "their loss is your gain," Matthew's preference for "hot" trainers and Kia's dream to become a professional wrestler -- all in all, we admit that good has been done.

The program properly educated consumers that successful weight loss and life change demand true grit without shortcuts. Personal trainers devised and supervised individual workouts, a real doctor measured weight and blood counts and provided sound nutrition advice, and apparently, weight loss supplements were banned, although we don't know how this was enforced. The show even explained things like body fat percentage and triglyceride levels.

The final lesson was that shedding fat and getting fit boast oodles of benefits. We even found ourselves rooting for the contestants a bit -- goofy as some were -- and cheering what appeared to be heartfelt commitments to keep going after the cameras were turned off. And because not everyone accomplished everything they aspired to, the show indeed was believable. We're all for more reality TV if it actually inspires people to get off the couch and start making some healthy changes themselves.

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