Fifteen Minutes of Fat Fame
Posted by Cags R on 2 March 2012 at 10:53 AM
Earlier this week @majicmonkey surfaced a photo which is a more commonplace image in the media than that of amateur sporting events or the celebration of exercise.
Still slightly amused by the discussion surrounding Nick's picture, on Tuesday night I turned the TV and watched Supersize VS Superskinny, the diet show which swaps the eating habits of chronic under-eaters and chronic over-eaters to shock their systems into recognising their own diet's ridiculousness. At the end of the 1 week feeding clinic both participants are presented with eating plans which will encourage sustainable weight loss for the overweight participant and weight gain for the superskinny participant.
'Good for them' I thought when after 2 months the fast food junkie had shed 3 stone and the caffeine guzzling superskinny had changed her ways and gained 7lbs.
To my surprise following the show on another channel there was the show The Biggest Loser which pits a group of obese participants against one another to lose the most weight in 3 months. Each week a participant leaves the show following the ITV standard elimination style which works so well with X Factor - this is arguably the least healthy concept for these participants suffering from extremely low self-esteem to start with but, hey, it's all entertainment, right?
It was at this point when I picked up the TV guide to do a quick scan of how many hours a week one could spend watching shows of people suffering from varying degrees of obesity go through this miracle transformation. Half Ton Mum, Half Ton Dad, Half Ton Son, Half Ton Dad - they were really running low on titles here - World's Biggest Boy, Obese: A Year to Save my Life, Accused: The 74 stone babysitter, The Fat Fighters, Embarrassing Fat Bodies, Fat March USA and Fat Plague are just a handful of the shows which focus on obesity.
Participants of these shows are freqently stripped down to their underwear or less to reveal the shocking mass clothes conceal, their clothes and dignity having been stripped away they are introduced to the show's personal trainer/nutritionist/surgeon and the results speak for themselves! After they have trained/starved/cut away a percentage of their fat, the show's then give them a make over and surround them with cries of 'oh-babe-you-look-gorrrrrrrrrgeous'.
Not only do some of these shows seem to remove personal responsibility from morbidly obese persons, they frequently promote unsustainable results (having removed the participants from their homelife and work environments) and the concept that these people could not manage the changes without the aid of the TV shows. The selection of the participants make the average viewer at home (overweight or not) feel tiny in comparison and thus does not encourage activity from the viewer, merely judgement and the well churned out phrase of 'how do they let themselves get like that?'
The most shocking part of these shows for me were the overweight relatives surrounding these supersizers who are clearly on their way to obesity but are overshadowed (literally) by their morbidly obese relation. It seems that there is a threshold in the eyes of the media that means that unless your BMI is over 50% then you're simply not fat enough to bother with.
Our society shies away from addressing the issue of being mildly overweight as our perception of the term 'obesity' is increasingly being made synonymous with 'morbid obesity'; thus our perception of 'normal' is getting larger and larger.
I have to admit the Supersize VS Superskinny does provide a more rounded show than some of its competitors - it highlights the dangers of under-eating and eating-disorders as well as the health risks attached to obesity.
The exhibition of obesity and eating disorders as the modern freakshow (the bearded women having now been put out of work) makes entertainment out of our society's biggest cost to the NHS since World War 2.
So who should be shouldering this responsibility? Do the shows simply sensationalize obesity? Is there a right way to tackle the epidemic that is not only sweeping the UK but has already rooted itself in American culture too?
Have your say.
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