Are Weight-Loss Success Stories Inspirational?

Pick up almost any weekend newspaper and turn to the health pages, where you will find at least one story about someone who has lost an enormous amount of weight by making radical changes to their diet and/or taking up a vigorous and daunting exercise program – often literally going from “couch potatoe” to “body builder”. (click here for some bizarre success stories)

The articles will often include mention of the disastrous state before weight loss, the immense changes and efforts made, and the remarkable improvement in every aspect of life – truly inspirational it seems – or not?

There is no doubt that every year 1000s of people turn around their lifestyles by changing their diets and increasing their physical activity levels – not seldom in response to specific events or encounters (e.g. “When my doctor told me I have diabetes, I decided enough is enough!”).

We also know from the National Weight Control Registry and other sources that it is indeed possible for some people to make “permanent” lifestyle changes that will result in long-term weight-loss maintenance.

But how “inspirational” are these stories really? How many people actually read an article in the newspaper about the 35 year old former fast-food junkie, who lost 240 lbs after deciding to take on a 2 hr paper route before work everyday or about the formerly 350 lb 45 year old mother of four, who just participated in her first Iron (Wo)Man competition, and decide to simply emulate these “exemplary” individuals to conquer their own weight problems?

Not too many I would guess.

On the other hand, how many people struggling with excess weight read these stories and recognize, given their own personal situations, the sheer impossibility of making similar changes for themselves. How many readers simply throw up their hands in despair: “if that’s what it’s gonna take – I may as well give up!”

I also wonder just how many overweight people are sick and tired of having these “inspirational” articles rubbed under their noses by “well-meaning” friends and family? “After all if so-and-so decided to give up all white foods and become a marathon runner to solve their weight problem, why can’t you?”

I am sure that there is probably research data on these questions but I’d really like to hear from my own readers: who actually finds these weight-loss success stories inspirational?

I’d certainly love to hear from anyone who as a result of reading such a story was inspired enough to do the same. Let me include in this question anyone who after watching X-Weighted or The Biggest Loser decided to hire their own personal trainer and lose those pounds ‘forever’.

From those readers, who don’t find these stories helpful, I’d also definitely like to hear what you’d rather like to be reading.

Edmonton, Alberta