One of my pet gripes is with the continual somewhat exploitative media around obesity and weight loss. I understand that this is serious issue in today’s modern society but the unrealistic way in which these issues are portrayed, the gratuitous exposing camera angles and the high levels of emotion (just make sure they cry on camera seems to be the message!) just continue to perpetuate the myths around weight loss and fitness.
The Biggest Loser is, in my own opinion, one of the worst culprits, continually focussed on losing pounds without any of the explanations behind why any of the “contestants” – lets not forget this is an old-fashioned reality competition – are on specific diets, how their exercise routines are worked out or how much warm up, stretching etc goes on behind the scenes. All we get to see are humiliating intense routines where someone always has to fail, public weigh ins and eviction for those who don’t do well enough. Whilst, for those who take part it may seem like an extreme but effective way to lose the weight, I would question how many of those people are happy with the way in which they are portrayed on camera.
There are countless others based around the same format – let’s get a bunch of ‘fat’ people/teenagers (choose your subject matter), stick them in an unrealistic situation (fat camp), watch them undergo gastric band surgery or watch them fail whilst all the time the viewers get at sit at home with their family pack of chocolates, pizza and a beer feeling smug that it’s not them Just how healthy is our obsessive voyeurism? And how far have we really come from the days of the ‘come see the fat lady’ at the local travelling freak show?
In the UK we have just come to the end of the Jessie Pavelka series “Obese – a year to save my life” and whilst it was good to see how hard it can be to undertake the extreme weight loss, the emotional baggage associated with food for many people and the ups and downs of their undoubted battle; yet again it was accompanied by pictures of each participant naked in the bath or shower and at least one segment of them crying. Is that really necessary?
Possibly more realistic than many of the shows on TV at the moment, it did show the ups and downs, was filmed over a year (far more realistic view of extreme weight loss) and certainly not every participant succeeded, no matter how much they thought they would or how strong their commitment at various points in the process. I still take issue with never explaining how much medical clearance each person needed, the level of medical support throughout the filming and the necessity for the some of the more exploitative segments.
Losing weight, getting fitter is a tough battle and for many people it IS a long hard road. We all need to eat daily and the very thing that sustains us is often the thing that is our addiction – it’s not like giving up smoking or drinking, we have to eat every day to survive. Families and friends whilst not consciously sabotaging our weight loss battle often find it hard to accept the emotional and physical changes and so daily life is also complete with arguments, temptations and emotional crisis’ – it is so hard to change something that you have done all of your life and to do so whilst everyone else appears to be against you is an uphill battle.
It is hard to maintain the commitment of going to the gym or training or exercising as often as you should and we are all programmed to do things that feel easy or comfortable rather than difficult or hard so, when you are tired, stressed, cant face it or know its going to hurt it’s really difficult to continue going day after day.
I just wish that the media would produce programmes that realistically reflect what happens when people try to change their lives, the stresses they go through, the medical hurdles people have to jump over, the pain and distress it causes within families rather than produce quick fix, easy, cheap TV that leads everyone to believe that if they just cut down a bit on their food the weight will fall off. Oh if only it was that simple.