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Can “Village on a Diet” Inspire You?

written by Head Health Nutter January 25, 2011

What does getting healthier really mean? It’s about releasing old habits that no longer serve you and adopting new ones which will make you stronger, younger and more vivacious. It’s about learning to embrace change and sometimes, you can find inspiration in the least likely places, like movies and T.V. shows!

Did you see the 4th episode of Village on a Diet last night? Normally reality shows aren’t my thang (actually, we don’t even have cable or satellite) but I was encouraged to check it out when CBC contacted me with an offer to participate in an telephone conference with three experts from the show and two other health bloggers.

A big thank you goes to Erin, the CBC rep for inviting me to yesterday’s call. Not only was the Q & A session interesting and informative, it was what spurred me to go to CBC.ca and watch last week’s episode.

Village on a Diet is exceptional programming – I rushed outside for my daily walk, looked forward to my healthy, home-cooked dinner and as I watched last night’s episode, I actually jumped off the couch and did core exercises!

Village on a Diet

The Canadian town of Taylor, BC, wants to lose weight. Yes, the entire town (60% are overweight and obese) have a goal to lose a ton of collective weight within 3 months. To help them out, a team of health professionals arrive: a medical obesity expert, dietitian, chef, psychologist and two hard-core personal trainers.

The stars of the show are, of course, the Taylorites. The show’s creative team does an amazing job weaving the personal stories of some of the most dedicated townspeople, even their overweight pooches! We watch their ups and downs as the health pros push them beyond their comfort zones to help them attain their health goals.

Village on a Diet is a part of CBC’s health initiative, Live Right Now:

Live Right Now is a movement of Canadians making a difference in their own health, and the health of our country, and it’s designed to help you make small, manageable changes that will have a large and lasting effect on your health.

The heart of the movement lives online at LiveRightNow.ca, where you can join the movement for access to tools and resources like healthy living blogs, a body age calculator, recipes and videos.  Plus, you can log your progress, create groups and challenge your friends.

What makes Village on a Diet unique from other weight-loss reality shows?

Dr. Ali Zentner, Obesity Specialist

On the conference call was Dr. Ali Zentner (the physician specializing in obesity and cardiac risk management – and who was once obese herself), Mike Veinot (one of the tough personal trainers) and Maria Thomas (registered Dietitian). When asked this question, they inevitably chose to compare Village on a Diet with the popular show, The Biggest Loser.

Mike Veinot, Trainer

In a nutshell, this was their combined answer:

The Biggest Loser was a contest for a small group of people. A monetary reward was the incentive and they were whisked away from their daily lives to a ranch where they trained for 5 to 6 hours a day. Also, when the biggest loser went home, they had to convince their partners and family to adopt the same healthy lifestyle.

Maria Thomas, Dietitian

The participants in Village on a Diet, however, involved a whole town working together as families and a community [including the town’s popular Pizzeria] in creating healthier lifestyles. They continued their daily lives and had to fit healthy living and the help from the experts into their schedules. The only reward for them at the end of the 3 months was the benefit and satisfaction from achieving their goals (if they do – we won’t know for sure for another 6 weeks!).

What I don’t like about Village on a Diet

The show may actually de-motivate some people in adopting healthier lifestyles because from just watching the program, it appears as if there’s too much change, too quickly for the residents. Margaret Wendt from the Globe and Mail points this out in an off-hand way, too, although I disagree overall with her negative review. (The show is inspiring me!)

From my own personal experience in getting healthier over the years, the old adage, “no pain, no gain” just isn’t sustainable. (I wrote about it in The Secret to Making Healthy Living Easy in 2008). Some of the workouts the Taylorites endure look down-right painful while it’s obvious their palates haven’t had time to adjust to the taste of the healthy meals Chef Jonathan creates for them. (You should see the grimaces when they try the tofu kabobs!)

Saving Graces

Perhaps between the show’s time limitations (3 months) and publicity factor, it placed too much pressure on both the Taylorites and the show’s health experts. After all, and I’ve heard it in both the show and in yesterday’s conference call, the townsfolk are learning new and healthier ways of living – not just going on a diet.

Maybe the challenges of discovering our limitations is part of the story and it’s still too early in the show for us viewers!

Actually, the 4th episode reveals several instances where the experts are starting to realize the change is too much for some of the residents. And it was a consensus among the experts in the conference call when they answered the question, “What are the top 3 take-aways from Taylor that can help the rest of Canada”:

  1. Tenacity. Although many of the residents were overwhelmed with the degree of change they faced, the message is, “Never give up!” If something isn’t working, then adjust the plan, perspective or approach, and/or create more reasonable goals.
  2. Small changes. The residents gained more when they implemented the expert’s tips and ideas, like portion sizes. Little changes add up over time.
  3. Sense of community and support. The group weekly challenges and joining group activities motivated many of the residents to overcome their resistance to physical activity. It also helped when families worked together and supported one another towards the common goal of a healthier lifestyle. And sharing your goals with others creates an accountability which helps some people keep going when the going get tough.
  4. Remember why (BONUS): Nothing else motivates you more towards change by getting a clear picture of why you want to change in the first place. (I wrote about this in Why Being Healthy is Worth the Effort.) When you’re struggling, envision your vision to get back on track.

What I learned from Village on a Diet

It’s time to kick it up a notch or two. I agree with Dr. Ali, Mike and Maria that incremental changes are the way to adopting healthier habits, and it requires implementing those little changes! I’ve been too easy on myself and it’s time to get a little more serious.

And I have been since watching Village on a Diet! I’ve already added in a workout and decided where I can be a little more strict with myself. Before editing this post I went for an hour long walk and found myself treating it like a workout: being more mindful of the intensity and my breathing, adding a bit of intervals and stretching afterwards.

If you choose, Village on a Diet is much more than pure entertainment. There’s a practicality to it which gives it real meat. It reminds us we are not alone in our challenges to live healthier lives, and we have the option to take action on the tips and tricks offered to the Taylorites by the health professionals.

Village on a Diet airs on CBC Television, Mondays at 9pm but if you missed it, watch it online at CBC.ca (click here).

Have you seen Village on a Diet yet? What do you think of it? Has it inspired you towards changing some of your habits and lifestyle?

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3 comments

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Sherry M Roy February 10, 2011 at 9:04 am

It is so wonderful that so many people now have the help they so desperatly need and want . Alot of people look at obese people and think either too themselves or say out loud , why are they so big or They deserve too be fat because they MUST eat too much . And I can say for myself as I have expereinced this that most overweight people Dont need others pointing fingers or telling them they are over weight because THEY already know and the more this does happen , they ( we ) just turn too food once again for comfort . You know its the same as everything else that has been shoved under the carpet over the years and never talked about . Once shows like this bring support instead of neg insults then and only then is when we will see a Postive outcome . Peopel need too understand that there are many factors that cause a person too have weight issues and not just because they want too eat .THANKYOU CBC and VOAD for showing you care .

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tumblr.com June 3, 2013 at 6:36 pm

I’m amazed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative
and amusing, and without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The issue is an issue that not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy that
I came across this during my hunt for something relating to this.

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