Saturday, December 01, 2007
Biggest Loser and Why Can't Everyone be So Successful
The reason I really like this show is that it demonstrates that people can become healthier by losing weight, exercising, and eating healthfully.
On the most recent episode, the remaining seven contestants met with the show's doctor. One contestant's cholesterol dropped by 100 points. Another who was pre-diabetic no longer was glucose intolerant. And, one contestant who had hypertension no longer needed to take blood pressure medication after his large weight loss.
These feats were all accomplished by a change in lifestyle -- not with medications.
Why can't I get my patients to do the same? Many of my patients are overweight, eating terribly, with risk factors for heart disease -- diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol. They're often fortunate that they have not had a heart attack or stroke YET.
I try to give them the knowledge to eat well and exercise on their own. Most are receptive to my advice and willing to make changes. But invariably, they come back a few months later.... HEAVIER!!!
Sometimes, I liken it to my high school cheerleading coach, who when she would get annoyed at us not listening to her, would turn around, face the wall, and continue to talk, until we all noticed and started giggling. I feel the same way -- I might as well be talking to a wall.
But, I think a lot of it is our society. Sedentary is acceptable. Restaurants serve non-healthful foods -- they really don't care how healthy their food is for the most part, as long as it tastes good. And when you're hungry on the run, what do vending machines have? Junk.
The Biggest Loser contestants are sequestered on "The Biggest Loser Campus". They aren't exposed to negative influences of society. They have personal trainers. They have healthy food.
I have had one successful patient who I cared for during cardiology fellowship. He was hospitalized with a heart attack. He was a smoker, overweight, with a history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I gave him my usual talk -- quit smoking, eat better, consume more fruits and vegetables and less meat (most doctors won't say this, but it's true, meat is not good for you), exercise and lose weight. He quit smoking, lost 50 pounds, and as a result, dropped his cholesterol and blood pressure. In the two years that I cared for him after his heart attack, he did really well, without any angina (heart-related chest pain), and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Lifestyle change is possible. It takes a motivated person. When successful, these people can live longer, healthier lives.