As someone who loves exercise, fitness, and bingeing on crappy television, My Diet is Better Than Yours came as a happy surprise this weekend.
Recommended to me by a coworker, the show is everything you want out of a reality show—dramatic life stories, angry and with-drawled contestants, a kooky mom, and feuds when the whole group gets together. The added bonuses? The beast and beauty that is Shaun T and weight loss ideas that can actually work for the average person.
Compared to shows like The Biggest Loser, My Diet is Better Than Yours doesn’t require you to workout for 8 hours a day or follow one set meal plan alongside the other dozen or so contestants. Instead, on My Diet is Better Than Yours, there are only five contestants, and each one picks a diet plan/trainer that will work with their schedule and responsibilities over the course of the show. The contestants are still going about their daily lives, and thus their families are also often participating in this new diet plan. In the first seven weeks of the competition, the participants train with their specialist, eat according to the plan, and get weighed in every week. If their weigh in results don’t appear satisfactory, the participants are able to choose a new specialist if so desired. After seven weeks of learning all of the new tips and tricks that their specialist has provided for them—as well as competing against the other contestants in weekly fitness challenges—the contestants are on their own to continue training and losing weight for the final half marathon, which takes place after another eight weeks.
So, after that run-down of the show, why, you ask, should you still watch?
Because the methods shown actually feel like attainable ways for anyone to lose weight, get fit, or eat healthier.
1) None of the contestants on the show seems extremely far-fetched at their beginning weight— they appear representative of what many people feel about their own bodies: As I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that many people feel similarly about different parts of their bodies—my thighs are so jiggly, my butt is so flat, where did that cellulite come from?! With the five contestants we see here, you can relate to them in those aspects, even if you are at differing weights.
One contestant, Jasmin, draws a picture of herself with her new trainer Dawn and writes out what she thinks about herself beside her stick figure drawing: multiple chins, unhappy, fat stomach. Haven’t we all related to one of these sentiments about our bodies at one point or another?
By showing these contestants in their home/family environments, their habits and hardships become even more relatable, and help us to root for their successes by the end of the season.
2) While Shaun T isn’t given much screen time, his personality shines through when we do see him: I’ve been a huge fan of Shaun T for a while now, and seeing that he was the host of this show helped to cement my TV viewing plans for the weekend (check out my previous articles on Shaun T and T25 here, here, here and here). He’s a pretty hilarious and inspiring dude, himself having started on a healthy living kick by losing the 50 pounds he gained in his freshman year of college, and going on to be a backup dancer for Mariah Carey (bless).
Unfortunately, Shaun T isn’t featured that much on the show, as he is a host rather than a trainer for a contestant. Yet, the times when he is on prove to be valuable—especially his reaction to Taj’s description of “Cookiegate” and the shade he throws at Clean Momma Carolyn Barnes as the weeks go by.
Make sure to listen for quality catchphrases that remind you of the T25 and Insanity DVDs—you’ll definitely be chortling by the end of the series.
3) The contestants’ reasoning for losing weight and trying to be healthier hits you right in the feels: Unlike other weight loss shows where you see contestants range in age from early 20s to later in life, all of these contestants’ are solidly in the middle of their lives, from 35 to 47. It’s extremely commendable to see people with young children, long hours at work, and other family responsibilities choosing to still make room for healthy changes, especially when it can be so difficult after a certain age to have major life changes.
Of the five contestants, three—Jasmin, Jeff and Latasha—have young children. Forty-seven year-old Kurt has grandchildren, who are his motivation for losing weight and changing his life. Thirty-five year-old contestant Taj may not have children, but wishes instead to gain back her strength, energy and vitality.
No one is looking to be bikini-ready or a personal trainer themselves. These contestants are realistic in choosing to change for a healthier life for not only themselves, but also their families, for a long time to come.
4) (Some) trainers are super awesome: The three trainers who truly stuck out to me were Dawn Jackson Blatner, Jenn Cassetta, and Rob Sulaver, all for differing reasons.
Dawn, whose Superfood Swap Plan seemed to be the most interesting to try, was honestly the sweetest person on the show. Her chemistry with her partner Jasmin was amazing, and made us believe that there can actually be sane people on reality television (who knew?). Dawn was always cheering Jasmin on, no matter what the scale said, and helped to bring truth to the phrase—SPOILER— “slow and steady wins the race.”
Jenn, who was a replacement trainer for Taj, brought feminism and empowerment to the show via her Strong, Safe and Sexy Plan. With the plan, Jenn encourages you to be strong both mentally and physically, safe from lifestyle related diseases, and sexy from the inside out with your new confidence. In the limited time she worked with Taj, Jenn showcased the benefits of a pescetarian (holla) and gluten free diet, alongside martial arts, HIIT workouts, and strength training. This plan seemed to most similar to my current life (except for being gluten free—gotta have pasta sometimes!).
Rob, the only male trainer I was actually inspired by, was super helpful for his partner Latasha in terms of getting her on track with getting toward her goals. With his Nutrient Timing Plan, Rob encouraged Latasha to focus on eating veggies, healthy meats, and balanced, natural fats, alongside an exercise routine that included weight lifting and cardio endurance. Rob came in late to the competition, as a replacement for Latasha’s former instructor Carolyn, but showed Latasha the right steps to get an end result she was pleased with.
5) The competition is really more about building each other up rather than tearing one another down at every possible chance: While this wasn’t always commonly shown, the contestants really did have a special connection that made the competition aspect of the show seem unimportant. In the finale, the contestants are each tasked with running a half marathon, 13.1 miles.
As we see the contestants go through the finish line one by one, we also hear more than just their trainer yelling congratulations to them; everyone is proud of everyone else, and all of the contestants, trainers, and hosts help Jeff to cross the finish line at the end of the race.
It’s really a sight to behold, and doesn’t feel as staged as it may be, because all of these contestants and trainers seem to be genuinely nice, even great, people. You can’t discount that when they’re technically competing against one another, even if the producers want to remind us that this is still a competition at the end of the day.
And, yet, there are some aspects of the show that make it feel too hooky or “made for television” to actually enjoy.
1) Some of the drama is incredibly unrealistic: The two characters who gradually had poorer attitudes throughout the episodes were Jeff and Taj.
Jeff, a 35-year-old dad who often puts in 85 to 100 hours a week at work, doesn’t seem to have the time or energy to be on this show in the first place, although it’s admirable that he is trying to change his life for the better. As time goes on, we see Jeff break a poster of himself in frustration at not winning a competition and telling a host that a workout is “f****** stupid” before it’s even begun. Perhaps his frustration is due to the lack of guidance in his diet plan or other factors not shown, but his attitude is utterly deplorable by the conclusion of the show, making it hard to root for his impressive weight loss.
Another contestant that rubbed me the wrong way was Taj, who goes through a fair amount of silent battles over the course of the series. Aside from the absurdity of “Cookiegate” semi-proving to viewers that Taj may be a bit overly sensitive, it wasn’t until we realized that she was going through a divorce that her attitude continued to go downhill. Taj decided not to complete in a 5K run/walk with the other competitors, and did not tell either her trainer Jenn or host Shaun T what was the cause of her unease; instead, she acted—truly—like a spoiled brat, not communicating with Jenn directly about how she felt, even though Jenn made it clear she was there for Taj. Toward the end of the series, we see Taj completely give up on Jenn, and Jenn feeling incredibly hurt by the obvious lack of interest Taj displays. Taj, however, doesn’t seem to realize that Jenn or anyone else can hurt from her actions, and focus solely on herself until her last minute on the show.
2) The attitudes of a few contestants makes you wonder if they were cast to simply stir up drama: Again, this point largely correlates with the point that precedes it, but the point definitely makes you question how casting directors are picking contestants for these types of shows. Did we really need the cussing and violence that Jeff showed as the show went on, especially when he continuously played up a pompous attitude as to how he was going to beat everyone at weight loss (while still acting like a sore loser every time he came in second or third place)? Did we really need to see Taj at this point in her life, when home life honestly isn’t all that great and is impacting her mood for the lesser?
Did the casting directors already know the full scope of these contestants’ personalities, or was Jeff’s and Taj’s downward spiral as surprising to them as to the viewers at home?
3) Some of the diet plans are fairly…bizarre: With any weight loss show, you’re going to have some loony trainers. In this series, that belief is proven to be true yet again with the diet plans of Abel James and Jay Cardiello.
Abel, who trains Kurt, follows the Wild Diet, which focuses primarily on plant-based foods and proteins. However, from his introduction, it seems like this diet is really too good to be true: you’re able to eat burgers, steak, bacon, loads of butter, work out only 7 minutes per day, and lose weight? What am I missing? Turns out, we—and Kurt—are missing some pretty vital nutrition. As we learn in Episode 7, it appears that Abel’s plan allows Kurt to not be hungry for the majority of the day, thus eating maybe 800 to 1100 calories total daily. Why is this a problem? Because Kurt is likely in starvation mode, which causes you to lose weight fast but also lose muscle fast, making your body hold more onto the fatty foods than anything else. Plus, with the amount of fat Kurt’s eating, it’s likely that he will have problems with cholesterol he may not have had in the past—not a good sign.
Jay’s plan with Jeff, called the No Diet Plan, isn’t as absurd in the sense that it could cause other health issues. However, it is still nonetheless fairly absurd. Instead of providing a clearly-thought out eating and exercise plan, Jay focuses instead on getting Jeff to (a) eat off of blue plates, (b) sleep on purple sheets, and (c) work out and walk in red clothing. Fun fact: if you’re still eating low quality foods off of blue plates, not sleeping the hours you should be for your age, and barely working out, the colors do nothing. Luckily, it appeared that Jeff took more initiative as the series went on to work himself to the max, with or without Jay by his side. Jeff still lost a tremendous amount of weight and body fat toward the end of the season, but I believe that his kick into high gear came from himself rather than his trainer.
4) There are only eight episodes: Only one weekend/day of this show? I want moreeeee!
Hopefully, ABC will be cognizant of the hordes of fans this new reality show has and renew it for another season. Can I recommend more Shaun T screen time—and perhaps some BeachBody celebrity visitors?
Check out all 8 episodes of My Diet is Better Than Yours on ABC. Enjoy, and be healthy!