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Friday, 22 December, 2000, 12:06 GMT
Germany's new 'light' entertainment
Overweight man
Obesity is on the increase worldwide
By Rob Broomby in Berlin

German TV viewers recovering from the festive season will have something healthy to feast their eyes on in the New Year.

Endemol, the production company that created the TV programme Big Brother has another project guaranteed to grab the headlines.

In the original series, a group of young people were locked up in a purpose-built house and filmed day and night.

At the end of each week viewers voted on who to eject.

The new programme is to be called The Big Diet - but it is bound to be dubbed Fat Brother.

10 contestants

In it, five male and five female contestants, each weighing at least 100kg, will be locked up in a health farm.

Anna, Darren and Craig, finalists in UK's Big Brother
Big Brother was a big TV hit in the UK

Every pound lost, every ounce of sweat exuded, will be caught on camera.

Each week the person who loses least weight will be thrown, or rather squeezed, out the door.

The winner is the slimmer who lasts longest.

Endemol hopes to replicate the success of Big Brother, which saw TV viewers across Europe glued to their sofas.

Couch potatoes

Success this time depends on coach potatoes at home, watching couch potatoes sweating on the screen.

From sauna to gym, from meagre meal, to worried work-out, every second of calorie-counting angst will be captured on camera.

But doctors are already concerned at the health risks.

At least four weight-loss experts declined to take part in the series.

Dr Wolfgang Siegfried, of the Insula Rehabilitation Centre, said the contestants risked developing eating disorders, such as bulimia, and could develop psychosomatic problems.

A gradual change of lifestyle without pressure would be preferable, he said.

Rising childhood obesity

The programme comes at a time of increasing concern over obesity, particularly amongst children.

A recent issue of the respected news magazine, Der Spiegel, described the present generation as Generation XXL... or extra large.

Two million children in Germany are now thought to be overweight.

Slouching on a sofa watching others trying to slim on TV is hardly going to help.

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See also:

20 Dec 00 | Medical notes
Eating disorders
22 Dec 00 | Health
'Obesity a world-wide hazard'
11 Dec 00 | Entertainment
Big Brother reaches for the sky
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