Exercise sells – Inside Work Does Not

Three episodes of the A&E Documentary “Heavy” have been broadcast and I watched each of them. One of the first things that I noticed is that the majority of time you see them doing something about their problem you see them in the gym sweating and grunting and being motivated by two superbly fit physical trainers.
TV shows like A&E Heavy emphasize exercise over other forms of  therapy

This bothers me. Obviously these men and women who appear on the show have some very deep problems with food. I identify. To watch the show you would think the answer to their problems, or at least ninety percent of it or so, is exercising their body. Most of what you see on the A&E show “Heavy” are the subjects hard at work in the gym.

A distant second is some education on nutrition. Behind that is a glimpse of some therapy work. I don’t count the typical attention to the enablers – that’s another external.


The external aspects of weight loss gets more attention than inner work on the mind, emotions, thinking, and attitudes. No one wants to look inside, or watch others look inside on prime time television.
I watched a behind the scenes type video of the subjects on the A&E site. This was an interview with the subjects from the second episode. They were taking questions from the audience via the web site. At one point they unanimously exclaimed that the work they did in therapy, looking within themselves, was huge. They indicated this was a big turning point in their progress and seemed to have a very significant impact on their progress. I identified with that too. This is consistent with my experience as well.

Why not show what really works on food addiction?

I did a little more research and found the name of the facility where these people go. It is called the Hilton Head Weight Loss Spa. A major part of what they offer deals with finding inner solutions. There are group sessions, classes, counseling, etc. Apparently, this is what works for their clients. Why so little attention to this element of treatment on the show?
I point all this out not to criticize the A&E television show “Heavy,” but to point out the disparity between what is known to actually work treating food addiction and what mass media and pop culture pushes on us. Apparently, they push what sells.
There are a few out there who have everything they need within themselves to turn things around except enough knowledge about nutrition and physical fitness to begin a productive and healthy exercise program and nutrition plan. Learning how to exercise, some nutrition guidance, and a little motivation is all they need. This is not the case with someone suffering from food addiction.

Long term problems require long term solutions

For the food addict or anyone else with food or weight related disorders knowledge about nutrition and exercise will, at best, be mostly useless in the long term. For many it may even be a liability. Exercise and diets result in temporary changes but the problem for a food addict or someone with deeper issues around food is sustained solutions to their problems.
We are barely seeing six months of these people’s lives. I honestly hope they will be able to do a special in a few years and we’ll see all the participants normal sized, healthy, and happy. If those people only rely on exercise and diets and willpower I doubt we will.

Looking inside does not sell

This is a chicken and egg thing. The world wants to sell us exercise machines so that’s what will populate the media and pop culture. On the other hand, I know from personal experience, not a lot of people want to deal with food and weight problems on the inside. I didn’t.
Depression, marital problems, grief – these are things more and more people are willing to seek professional, spiritual, or self-help resources to deal with. But they don’t want to turn over food problems.
Why is there a disproportionate resistance to inner work when it comes to treating food problems? Is is because we are so attached to food we hide from anything that might actually work? Is it that there is a stigma and cultural expectations which insist it is a willpower or self control thing? Or does it just not occur to most of us that food problems can be a mental/emotional issue?

Why I think it is important

Exercise and diets will help you lose weight, but not keep it off long term unless the regimen is maintained. The weight goal is reached or approached and the motivation to maintain the regimen is reduced. At this point, if the person’s inner health is off kilter they are going to turn to something to sooth and return to what they know. People who suffer from food addiction and other serious problems with food need lasting solutions but pop culture doesn’t want to show them to us.