Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bulging Brides trainer Nadeen Boman claims her show "encourages a guilt free attitude"

Readers of my blog may remember my post detailing the press release where the headline sounded alarm bells about Canadian women battling with body image and then proceeded to call on the Canadian women reading the press release to explore their own, "problem areas" and specifically look for,

"muffin tops to thunder thighs, from junk in the trunk to flabby arms"
I also referred to Nadeen Boman, she's the trainer quoted in the press release and the trainer on the Slice TV shows, "Bulging Brides" and, "The Last 10lbs Bootcamp".

Nadeen read my piece and left a thoughtful comment (scroll down through the linked post (it'll open in a new window) to get to the comment).

Now I've got nothing against Nadeen and she's certainly entitled to her opinion and her approach.

Me, I think Bulging Brides and The Last 10lbs Bootcamp encapsulate everything that's wrong about society and its approach to weight management, nutrition and healthy living.

I also think Nadeen's got a serious case of cognitive dissonance if she can in the same sentence no less, describe the existence of the show's "Aisle of Shame" as part of a process that "encourages a guilt-free attitude".

So now you know what Nadeen and I think - what do you think? Have you watched the show? Do you think it fosters a healthy attitude towards health and life in general? Leave us your comments, I'm sure we'll both be reading.

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  1. I think Naden's (and many other's) notion that the "frank truth" can "shock" people into adopting healthier lifestyles in the long-term is the exact opposite of my 25 years of medical experience working with 1000s of patients with obesity.

    Yes, a handful of folks do make lifelong changes (many do so on their own) - the vast majority, despite being well aware of their lifestyles are as likely to pull out of it or make lasting changes as people with depression will get happier by simply being told they are unhappy and advised to focus on "happy thoughts".

    Although excess weight can affect health, simply equating weight with health or fitness is another error in Naden's comment. I have run into 100s of overweight and obese folks, who live way healthier than I do (and will probably live longer than I will).

    Excess weight simply does not equate to poor health, nor does normal weight equate to good health - you simply cannot measure your health on a scale (or by your pant size). See our proposed Obesity Staging System for our take on this (

    As Yoni said, shows like Bulging Brides or Biggest Loser go against everything what is known about evidence-based weight management and the producers are kidding themselves if they truly believe they are providing a public service.

    The truth is that these voyeuristic shows are designed for one purpose alone: getting higher viewer ratings by exploiting the suffering of people who should be in medical treatment if their weight is truly affecting their health or should simply be left alone if its not.


  2. Regardless of whether the behind the scenes experience may end up positive for some brides, aisle of shame is not something I would intuitively think to be positive. A “reality” show commonly emphasizes the fantastical, absurd and extremes of one's situation and never tells the whole story. While it makes for interesting TV viewing to those who thrive on satisfying voyeuristic interests on other people’s experiences of triumph and shame, it sheds unrealistic light on what weddings - and health goals - should be about. This, unfortunately, can be to the detriment of both the brides it tries to serve and the viewers who watch it. It provides only short term snap shots of what it takes to allegedly achieve and maintain health (and “happiness”). If brides are willing to work 110% in a short period of time just to fit into that dress or to shed a few inches for the camera (whether it is by shock therapy or other), they risk falling into the trap of short term sacrifices for short term gain. This includes undergoing drastic changes that are neither realistic nor sustainable in a practical non-televised world - the one she will return to following the show. In some cases, the clips that end up making the cut in the show lead the women to be portrayed in ways that may be to the detriment of their self-esteem, sense of worth and belief system. As a naturopathic doctor who works with women to understand and adopt healthy weight management through healthy lifestyle education, I know that it takes time, education, stages of change, support and an intrinsic reward system that focuses on health and not the scale or the mirror to achieve such goals. Women need shows that teach women to love their bodies enough to take care of them and accept them; not shows that emphasize short lived quests for "perfection". I feel the show exploits women's/brides' desires (however true & common they are) through the language used (ie. “bulge” “shame”). I would suggest using healthier languages that don’t serve to mock the participants’ failures and appearances. I would also suggest differentiating b/w health vs weight goals (I agree with Dr Sharma in that they are not necessarily the same) and a longer time frame to achieve their goals. But of course, this may not make for good TV would it? Any TV that buys into and continues to sell or exploit the idea that women/brides must live up to a certain socially constructed idea of perfection in a short period of time does not have my vote.

    1. Anonymous6:17 pm

      I a way I agree. A lot the grooms are pretty sloppy looking, but hey, they didn't force their brides to buy a dress too small, or too far a head of time. It seems like the brides pick up some new eating habits and then have the opportunity to share them with their new mates. What's wrong with that?

  3. Anonymous4:00 pm

    Ms. Boman,

    I appreciate your taking the time to comment on Dr. Freedhoff’s post. Unfortunately, there are so many points in your comment that I take umbrage with that it would take me all day to respond. As Drs. Freedhoff and Sharma and Ms. Nguyen have already addressed some of these points, and as I don’t have all day, I will submit the following.

    As someone who struggles with her weight and body image, I can tell you that I have stopped watching both programs. As per my comment on Yoni’s initial post on this subject, I started watching them to see what nutrition and fitness advice they provided. I was very disappointed to see the shame -- yes, there is a lot of shaming and “tsk-tsk'ing” -- heaped on these women as they were measured and weighed (and re-measured and re-weighed). I think that health -- rather than appearance -- should be measured. Instead of buying a target outfit that is too small, why not aim to have their current clothes fit better, i.e., encourage the women to get into better shape -- better physical health -- by improving their diet and having them engage in regular physical activity, both of which should be SUSTAINABLE?

    How do you think those of us who are at the “body-morphed” weight -- shown to participants who say things like, “Stop! That’s disgusting! That’s horrible! I can’t look at it!” -- feel when we watch this? Why not, instead of showing these women a distorted image of their body, talk about the conditions they might face if they continue to put on weight? For example, you could educate them – and your viewers – about Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure, bad and good cholesterol, stroke, heart attack, depression, etc.? Information on body image and eating disorders would also be beneficial. I know that some would say this doesn’t make for “good television”, but are we really at the point where we think good Canadian tv is simply an emulation of junk American tv? Why not give us a good alternative? (By the way, I don’t watch “The Biggest Loser”. I was hoping that Slice’s programs would provide a good-quality alternative...)

    The “new” meals on both of your programs do not contain enough calories to ward off hunger, and there are not enough snacks - omissions which usually lead to overeating/bingeing; nor is there enough protein, whole grains, fruit and vegetables. A simple example of bad nutritional advice is that you always throw out the peanut butter; not only is it a source of protein and good fats but it is also – for those who love it – one of those healthy comfort foods that we all need to incorporate into our diet (within reason) if the diet is to be sustainable over the long term.

    I follow three blogs on healthy weight loss/management, and have eight newspapers/tv networks’ on-line health/nutrition/fitness sections bookmarked; none of them advise what you do on your programs. Can all of them be wrong??

    I worry about the women on your program, and your viewers, because I know what is going to happen to them if they follow your advice. My first diet was at the age of 11 (yes, 11) when I felt that I needed to lose 5 pounds (I grew up in the age of Twiggy et al.). That lead, two years later, to my “needing” to lose 10 pounds. Each successive diet led to not only re-gaining the weight that I had lost but also a further 10 pounds, until, 37 years after my first diet, I needed to lose approx. 200 pounds, had high blood pressure (among other worries) and was afraid that I was not going to reach my 50th birthday. By the way, the last time I had dieted I would have received a lot of high-tens from you and Tommy: I got down to 125 pounds (I’m 5’ 5 ½ “); I got there by eating approx. 1000 calories/day and by exercising for 1 ½ hours/day, 6 times/week. How long did I stay at that “target” weight? About two weeks.

    I took the time to write you not just for the sake of myself but also for my three nieces; they are bombarded with so many more images of unnaturally thin, unhealthy women -- as well as messages to be perfect -- than women of my generation were, and they do not yet have the life experience or knowledge with which to combat these images and messages. (When one of my nieces was 5 years old she said, “I don’t want to eat any more supper because I don’t want to get a fat tummy.”) Programs like yours do not help.

    I know that you are in the reality television business, programming which is based on, among others, dramatic moments to attract viewers; however, I KNOW that good programs not only exist but also attract viewers – case in point, “How to Look Good Naked”. It’s not perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the other shows out there. You could take the basis of that program -- how to develop a positive body image -- and build on it by adding good, solid information on nutrition and fitness, and end up with a great show. That, I would watch.


  4. Anonymous8:00 pm

    After reading, on Slice’s website, the synopsis of “The Last Ten Pounds Bootcamp”

    and, even more horrific, that of “Bulging Brides”

    I decided to post a copy of Bulging Bride’s logo on my Facebook page and ask my FB friends to boycott both programs.


  5. Anonymous8:17 pm

    From what may be considered the other end of the spectrum (and yet, in my opinion, just another manifestation of the same challenges), I have to agree wholeheartedly with VP. You said it much more eloquently than I could, and you're so brave to write it. Thank you.

    I am a 36-year-old now finally in recovery from a virtually lifelong battle with eating disorders. My most recent bout with anorexia landed me - finally, mercifully - in a three month treatment program which saved my life.

    The kinds of behaviours around food, exercise, and thinking encouraged by Bulging Brides, Last 10 Pounds Bootcamp and the like are exactly the same behaviours that I had to fight as an anorexic. The extreme control around restrictive eating, the unrealistic focus on exercise and the shame about how one looks (real or perceived)... all part of the anorexic's script. And so damaging (and in mine and many other cases, life-threatening).

    Thank you so much for addressing this, Yoni. These types of programs are so destructive, and I really appreciate your thoughtful commentary.


  6. It has all been said. Even the title - Bulging Brides - makes my stomach turn.

    I wish I could remember the source, but I just very recently read about a "recruit" who was under the impression she would be on a show called "Buff Brides", and was horrified to see herself instead on "Bulging Brides", complete with an extremely skewed reveal of her kitchen cupboards (some items planted) and what she ate on a daily basis. Reality TV? I think not.

  7. Anonymous12:06 am

    I want to clarify something in my comment above: I mean in no way to suggest that these television programs (or any one source) directly encourage the development of an eating disorder, nor do I profess to speak for all people with anorexia. Eating disorders are much more complex than that, and I know that, and I'm by no means an expert on anything but my own experience.

    I just wanted to join the conversation because I see the patterns encouraged on these shows as precisely what the professionals who helped me defined as "eating disorder thinking", and the shaming (through the Aisle of Shame, morphing, tone of voice around measurements etc.) is very much along the lines of the things we say to ourselves (long after they cease to be true; in my case, that was nearly 20 pounds underweight and organs that were starting to fail). A key to my recovery was countering these habits, and I've maintained a healthy weight (even by Tommy and Nadeen's standards; 5'5, 123-126) for over a year now.

    Diets were, at least in my case and in that of many of the women with whom I was in treatment, the "gateway drug" to our eating disorders. Whether a full-blown "addiction" develops or not, the shame, the starving, the obsession, the focus on appearance and the time wasted spent on all of these is not healthy, not happy and not conducive to long-term health of any kind.

    Thanks for allowing me to clarify, and thanks again, Yoni, for raising this important issue.


  8. This article:

    ...which I read not too long ago, caused me to snicker when I read the line in her response: "We didn't create the results, they're a culmination of the data compiled. Our aim is to provide help and assistance." -- because the aim of any television show is to provide the network with viewers, to generate ad revenue. And if that can be done by planting food in someone's fridge to make reality more real, she's apparently not above creating SOME results.

  9. I'm very much in agreement with all of the above comments on this post. I'm not a dietian, or a nurtritional expert. But I do have research experience in feminist psychology body image research and eating disorders research. And I'm a Canadian women who has battled from weigt problems my entire life.

    Among university populations, one in four women report suffering from an eating disorder. Over three in four university aged women report being extremely disatisfied with their bodies.

    Yes, obesity is a major risk factor for health problems such as heart disease and diabeties. But over analyzing and becoming preoccupied with one body mass is a major risk factor for low self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders.

    The premise of these television programs is not to prevent long term health problems in the participants. The premise is to overanalyze women who are only mildly to moderately overweight, while making more severely overweight viewers overanalyze themselves at home.

    The television programs do nothing to benefit society, nothing to give back and enhance the quality of life in Canada. Shows like Bulging Brides are complete junk. Just like junk food appears tempting but only has empty calories and nothing good for you, these programs might appear appealing but will only rot your mind.

    I have attempted to lose weight one separate occassions at the age of 12, 14, 16, 20, 21, 22, and 24. At 16, my attempt bordered on an eating disorder, as I would hide food in my locker at school to make my parents think I ate it. At 20 21, and 22 I told myself I hated my body and got angry at what I saw in the mirror. All attempts were extremely unsuccessful.

    Last year, at age 24 I decided I wasn't going to try and lose weight for those reasons. And I decided I wasn't going to diet. I was going to make lifestyle changes and see what happens (Do I really want to eat a junior bacon cheeseburger twice a week for the rest of my life? Do I want to eat a chocolate chip muffin for breakfast everyday for the rest of my life?). I stopped drinking pop and only ate out once a week. As I lost weight, I added more goals. I told myself I was making lifestyle changes because I loved myself and didn't want myself to get heart disease. That was my goal. Between January and July of 2008, I went from 205 to 172. I've been able to maintain it, and I'm currently 168lbs. Looking a bit better in the mirror was just an added bonus.

    I truly believe I was only successful because I attempted change with a positive, loving attitude toward myself, and not a hateful, shameful negative attitude. Anything that those television programs has to offer would have only backfired and made things dramatically worse.

    1. Anonymous6:20 pm

      That's your story. It appears that most of the women on this show had put on weight more recently, since purchasing their wedding dresses. I don't think they have the same, life-long issues that you do.

  10. Anonymous5:15 am

    I find all of your comments very dull and stupid. Just because you don't want to lose weight doesn't mean others feel the same. Some women actually want to look thin on their wedding day. What Tommy and Nadeen are doing is a good thing. They are helping brides get healthy and fit into their wedding dresses. Oh! And by showing the
    a distorted image of themselves the brides get shocked I to realizing how they could end up. Any person with a brain should know what health risks come with obeisity.

  11. Anonymous12:29 am

    I'm shocked that so many of you, well educated, professional women, are taking such a negative view point. Of course not everyone who watches Bulging Brides or The Last 10 pounds will be affected in the same way. But if so many people, even those who have been on the show, have taken away something positive then it can't be all bad. Even the girl in the Georgia Straight who had food "planted" said the experience was a good one that she is glad to have done.

    Nadine is showing people how to eat healthy and make it work for their style of life. Tommy and Nadine never insult anyone or call them names and in fact it's often the particiants that are using the foul language.

    I've personally lost almost 10 pounds since I started using some of the tips they give on the shows. I can identify with the women who are struggling and know that because I'm not hugely overweight sometimes it's hard for people to accept that I want to change my eating and exercise to be healthier...weight loss is part of that process.

    The bottom line is these shows are helping lots of people like me and just becuase it doesn`t work for you doesn`t mean it`s all bad. Just turn the channel and let the rest of us benefit from the nutrition and fitness advice that`s delivered in an entertaining and fun format.

    I do appreciate your views and respect your opinion. It`s important thought to realize that others are learning and bettering themselves even when you aren`t.

  12. Anonymous9:51 am

    I enjoy both shows and am actually watching Bulging Brides as I type. Although I do not like the names that Nadeen gives each table as she takes the brides down the walk of shame (i.e. thunder thigh...), I do think that seeing how much "junk" you eat a month is an excellent eye opener for us all. I love watching the exercise portion of both shows and their eating plans always gives me ideas of what I could add in my diet. Call me weird, but I enjoy the morphing portion of Bulging Brides show. I can see myself as the before person and as the morphed person. I used to be physically fit woman who weighed 157 lbs and wore a size 6. I have totally let myself go. At present, I have gone from 240.8 lbs to 200.8 lbs -- IMO there is enough snacks in the meal plans. The shows show me that losing weight is possible and by watching it, it shows me the impact a self defeating attitude can have on our losing weight. Don't hate on the people on the show who are trying to make a difference in their life.

  13. Tough Love5:27 pm

    If you let it affect you, that is your problem. If you are easily influenced, that is on you. Not society, not the show, not the magazines. Let us take accountability and not put blame on everything else around us! There are plenty of shows out there and we have a choice on watching what works for us - or not watching what doesn't. We ALWAYS have a choice.

  14. Belinda :c)7:00 pm

    I very much enjoy watching "Bulging Brides" and The Last 10 Pounds Boot Camp". I feel very encouraged to know weight loss is possible with much hard work and healthier eating habits. I really wish I would have had all of this knowledge 60 pounds ago. Both of these shows and "The Biggest Loser" have been an inspiration to myself and my family. Keep up the good work!!

  15. Anonymous3:27 pm

    Lighten up people! The show is entertainment - it's awesome I love it. It inspires me to try better in my nutrition/fitness efforts and gives plenty of useful information that I can adapt to myself. Keep it up Tommy & Nadeen

  16. StephJones11:59 am

    Bulging Brides does not "encapsulate everything that's wrong about society and its approach to weight management, nutrition and healthy living." Watching these shows, it's obvious that most people who're overweight need a smack in order to experience that lifestyle shift. You watch a show like BB and here's a woman trying to fit into her $2,000 dress and sitting on the couch eating chicken wings and poutine. Invariably--to my knowledge, without exception--the women on BB are completely sedentary (in terms of pre-show exercise regiments). As someone who is definitely not a fitness freak but, without outside pressure, impending weddings, a spouse to consider if I gain forty pounds, adheres to a balanced diet and works out regularly, I find it offensive that people want to criticize BB for its treatment of weight loss. If you have an eye disease that affects your sight, no one is justified in telling you to see better. But if you're twenty pounds overweight and you're 130 pounds, then do what it takes to spark a change.

  17. I know I'm about a year late but I was googling Nadeen Boman to found more nuggets of wisdom from her on nutrition and I come face with THIS blog condemning her views and approach on two shows. Shows that I really love watching as they motivate me to keep exercising and watching what I eat daily.

    I am APPALLED that people with your level of education cannot see the good these shows do and yes an in your face attitude is absolutely needed to make people realize just how dangerous their lifestyles can become.

    It's professionals like yourselves who handle your patients with kid gloves that need to be reproached, nobody makes a significant change until it becomes clear that what they are doing or not doing is a health hazard.

    And DO NOT think that losing 10lbs or so is nothing, for many that makes a huge difference, and the benefit of looking and feeling great makes you a person people want to be around becomes you are HAPPY. And there's nothing unrealistic about Nadeen's plans and on her site she provides plans suited to whatever food you prefer. You are not forced to eat things you normally would not.

    All of these comments by doctors are why common sense trumps Ph.D's any day and why many people don't trust their doctors. Good job. /sigh

  18. I think both show's are amazing. I believe what they are doing is encouraging overweight women that they can go out there and lose the pounds and look good and feel fit. For these so called professional's that have there MD status should be ashamed because first off they may be healthy on the inside and live those long years but all it takes is one person to look at them and make a nasty comment and they start to think a certain way about themselves. Its human nature regardless if your skinny fat muscular, it truly doesn't matter. People are influenced by the media and what this show depicts is that if you wanna feel healthier and look better for yourself you can do it.

    This show is about educating and show women out there that no matter what weight or how they look they can lose the weight and meet the goals that they have set out.

    All I gotta say is those doctors/professionals are pathetic and they need to go back to school and learn somemore.

    That is all


  19. Nicole7:38 pm

    I agree with the latter comments - these shows can give a basis of how to live healthier - for those who are apparently confused, this is a good thing. I also agree with Nadine that they have little time with the women and "shock" is needed. And as for "shaming" them in their wedding dress, well, let's face it, a wedding day is a BIG deal for a lot of women, and it's probably one of the best motivators a show can have. Can you blame them for using it so they don't end up with girls who stop caring 2 weeks in cause the work is too hard? Just keep reminding them what they are working for. Work hard and get rewarded.. what's so effing wrong with that system? And after those six weeks, I bet a few of these girls keep it up to an extent (the show gives them all the exercise equipment too!) and end up living better and healthier lives because of it.

    I also wanted to comment on the fact that the first comment left by Dr. Sharma is joke. He condemns this show but when you go to his website it's all about how we need MORE surgeries to combat obesity. Yeah, that's right. Let's not put down those cheeseburgers or exercise, let's just cut ourselves open.

  20. Anonymous2:25 pm

    I am appalled by the number of people commenting here to say that they actually enjoy these shows and think they are a good thing.

    How in the world is it good to put a stick-thin woman on national television, in a dress that's too small for her in the first place, and repeatedly tell her she's fat?

    This show is disgusting and should be taken off the air.

  21. Anonymous2:01 am

    I haven't read all the comments, but from what I've read, I think most of you are taking it to an extremist level. The show is not for people who are significantly overweight, it is for generally healthy or average-sized people who are looking to lose about 10 pounds. It's NOT about lifelong changes, it's about quick results by working hard and paying attention to what you eat.

    The point of the isle of shame is to show people, at once, what kind of foods they are eating in a given day. And yes, it is normally a disgusting amount of crap. What is wrong with showing people how crappy their eating habits are? I wish someone would show me all the junk I've eaten for my family dinners on Sundays...maybe then I would be less inclined to pig out the next time!

    If you are morbidly obese, this show is not for you. That's completely not the point of the show. People volunteer to go on it for a jump start in their activities and eating habits and to lose the last few stubborn pounds. It's VOLUNTARY...therefore, the people on this show know what they are getting into. Sometimes a little shock therapy is just what the doctor ordered. Plus, it's entertaining and easy to relate to. I just had a baby so I definitely know what it feels like to have 10 pounds that just won't go away. This show is great inspiration for me to get off the couch and do some exercising and watch what I eat. I guess if I were really overweight, it would bug me to see cute average sized girls work hard until they look even better. But if this were the case, I just wouldn't watch the show, rather than pointing fingers and telling them that they are bad. I personally love the process, and hope I can find the motivation to lose my last 10 pounds as well. Heck, maybe I'll apply for the show and let you know how I feel afterward. Perhaps 10 pounds lighter?

  22. Anonymous6:00 pm

    I watch "The Last 10 Pounds Bootcamp". I did gain about 20 pounds after I retired and am in the process of losing that weight. I use the program along with "X-Weighted" as motivation to keep on exercising, to watch my food portions and not to eat junk food. I want to feel and be healthy over the long term. I want it for myself.

  23. Anonymous6:14 pm

    The show is funny. There's too much seriousness associated with weight-loss. This lightens the attitude, points out the obvious, and it seems to me, leaves a trail of happy brides with a new lease on life.