The Bachelor has been on TV for what seems like 39 seasons, but I confess I’m late to the game and just got into it with watching Kaitlyn Bristowe’s Bachelorette season. But for any of you who know me, you know that as soon as those flood gates for reality TV open…there’s no going back. Hence, I’m now stuck on Bachelor in Paradise, which conveniently premiered the week after The Bachelorette ended. Damn you ABC and Chris Harrison…you got me again. Plus, I’ve sucked my fiancé into it. I figure since we’re in this marriage thing for the long haul, he may as well get on board with my reality TV obsession.
Now when I watch reality TV, whether it be Housewives or Bachelorettes or saying a certain word (yes) to a certain garment (dress), I watch for pure entertainment. I’m not trying to emulate the characters – yes, I said characters – or follow their fashion trends. But I have a hunch that a good portion of the reality viewers ARE. Young girls and women, especially, are likely to watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians and immediately want to take a selfie or try some new laser fat removal treatment, just because Kim did it. And this is what concerns me.
Case in point from my new favorite reality show, Bachelor in Paradise. It’s all about taking a free vacation to Mexico with other good-looking singles in the hopes of finding “love” (or fame, whichever term you prefer to use). One such contestant is Ashley Iaconetti, the “wannabe Kardashian” from Chris Soules’ Bachelor season. You know her, she’s the one who looks like Kim Kardashian and cries a lot…and it’s not pretty. I visited a blog post of hers, thanks to a former fitness colleague, Naomi (go visit her blog 1 Fit Foodie for awesome workouts!), where Ashley explains her workout and nutrition mentality. Oh boy, here we go…
I’ll start out by saying at least Ashley points out she’s NOT an expert, so I’ll give her that one. But that said, she goes on to very convincingly declare (she put it in bold, that’s how I know she’s sure) that “women should not be eating 2,000 calories a day”. Annnddd we’ve taken a turn. She goes on to explain that women should be eating 1,300-1,600 calories per day and that she personally aims for 1,400. She even details her typical diet, which consists of coffee for breakfast, two 200-calorie snacks/lunches, dinner, and a 200-calorie dessert. She does not work out at all. Step aside Ashley, it’s time for the Pocket RD to have her 15 minutes of fame.
First of all, it is so dangerous to put a statement like “women should not be eating 2,000 calories a day” out there on the Internet, and here’s why. Every single woman requires a different caloric intake, as well as different concentrations of macronutrients. It’s not an exact science, but there are some well-researched equations and methods to at least give you a good estimate. Judging from her musings on the opposite sex while in Paradise, I’m guessing she’s not aware of these equations. In addition, 1,300-1,600 calories per day is VERY LOW. You don’t typically need to dip into this calorie range until you’re 70+ years old. But if thousands of young women read her blog and see her skinny body in selfies, they are bound to follow this routine, and it’s not healthy.
Consuming coffee for breakfast is not breakfast. You want to start your day with a complex carbohydrate, protein, fiber, and healthy fat. I don’t believe coffee contains any of these. A 200-calorie snack or lunch is equivalent to 1 ounce of almonds + 10 grapes. Not enough. Sure, she says she stays away from processed foods, sodas, and refined carbohydrates. That’s a good way to go. But she’s not getting enough calories to fuel her body overall. When you don’t consume enough calories, your body goes into conservation mode, and your metabolic rate decreases. So if you just think of the opposite effect, if you eat enough to fuel the fire, it keeps burning. Your metabolic rate stays high throughout the day, constantly burning calories.
I could go on for paragraphs explaining the science behind metabolism, but I’m pretty sure that’s only interesting for a select group of people. My bottom line is that public figures like Ashley are sharing their less-than-educated opinions on nutrition and fitness and thousands of young women and girls are LISTENING. Not only are they listening, they’re emulating. Extreme calorie restriction is a bad path to go down, because you may not realize you’re at the end of the road until you hit health problems or an eating disorder.
So my advice is this: reality TV isn’t going away. The shows pick pretty people to go be pretty alongside other pretty people. It’s ok to watch for entertainment, but try to stop there. Between hair/make-up/lighting/editing, the shows often portray an impossible standard of beauty, and Ashley is a prime example. It does not mean you should try to look like her, dress like her, and certainly not eat like her. She may look good on TV, but who knows if she’s truly healthy. Plus, she calls everyone on the show who’s north of age 30 “old ladies”, so she was on my s**t list from the beginning.