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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 15:24 GMT
Television's popular fat intake
Graeme Wands

In this week's reader's article, business development manager Graeme Wands, from Motherwell, analyses television's fat content.


It would appear that as a nation we have a voracious appetite for everything fat. Or more accurately have become obsessed with "Telly Tubbies" and by this I don't mean colourful children's characters.

Obese man
Have expanding waistlines become public entertainment?

I am referring to the almost nightly parade of overweight and morbidly obese individuals who seem to be monopolising prime time television.

We have delights such as "You Are What You Eat" to thank for inuring us against gagging at the sight of poo in a plastic box.

To have the strange but engaging Gillian McKeith critique your own waste to an audience of millions is surely a high a price to pay for 15 minutes of fame.

Another treat for our consumption is the annual chubby B-List celebrity parade that is "Celebrity Fit Club".

In exchange for several weeks of self deprecation and ritual humiliation, TV has-beens are afforded the opportunity to give their flagging careers and bodies a lift.

There is a relative banquet of programming out there to choose from, "Biggest Loser UK"," Biggest Loser US", "Perfect Bodies", "Extreme Make Over", "Honey We're Killing The Kids", "Super Size Surgery" to name a few - enough to satisfy the biggest appetite for this particular brand of reality TV.

It is hard to believe that a human being can reach a weight approaching 80 stone on one continent and others are dying of hunger and malnourishment on another

The question that I pose is why have we become obsessed with these types of programmes? Are we watching because we want to see positive change for those involved? Or are we watching because it makes us feel better about ourselves and our own physical failings?

Failings defined by programmes at the other end of the scale where beauty and physical perfection is celebrated. If we are honest with ourselves perhaps it is a bit of both.

One program that was completely engrossing was the unimaginative but attention grabbing title "Half Ton Man". It is easy adopt a holier than thou attitude when watching a documentary such as this is, but even the shallowest of us must have been moved by story of these obese people.

It is hard to believe that a human being can reach a weight approaching 80 stone on one continent and others are dying of hunger and malnourishment on another.

This only emphasizes further the polarization of the world we live in today.

Personally I will be cutting down on my intake of high fat, high cholesterol TV shows and start to feed my mind and imagination with a good book in future.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and are not endorsed by the BBC.

Are you tired of reality television shows? You sent us your views.

With all the diet/weight loss/fatwatching programmes on the TV I have yet to find a cookery show which concentrates on more healthy menus. I am a sucker for cream, chocolate, cheese and butter, but watching celebrity chefs like Nigella, Gary, Rachel and co making delicious meals out of such ingredients does not inspire me to switch to healthier options. So how about a show which combines information on nutrition and health, a cookery section and novel ways to exercise and keep fit? If the BBC or any other production company are interested then you can contact me and we'll talk!
Lorna McCubbin, Broughty Ferry, Tayside

Before 'fat' programmes it was property programmes, before that it was antiques programmes, before that it was DIY makeover programmes, before that it was gardening programmes. The problem is that unfortunately most tv production companies do not have the will to invest in original programming or the talent think up new 'concepts' themselves - they just jump on every bandwagon that comes past.
Lyndsey, Scotland

Fat malodorous people have feelings too!
Paul, Dunfermline, Fife

You don't need TV for this! Just take a wander around Glasgow and play spot the normal weight person. Where have all these fatties suddenly come from?
Gary, Glasgow

Unfortunately we have these "reality" shows here too. Not to the gross extent of the "Poocromancy" mentioned in previous comments, but give 'em time. Not that I watch much TV anyway, the commercials channels drive me crazy with the constant breaks for advertising. Much better to sit down with a good book or watch a DVD of your own choice if you must watch the box. TV had lots of potential at the beginning, but as usual the commercial people got there and ruined it like many other things. Putting soapbox away.
Bill Coventry, Eaton, Australia

I think these shows are some what informative. Although I am not a really heavy person it has inspired me to take a different appraoch to healthy eating and gave me some really tasty healthy alternatives to the norm.
Vicky , Edinburgh

Are these programmes not simply a reflection of the lunatic idea in modern society that there must be a cure either medically or pseudo medically to all life's problem. Kids are noisy give them ritalin rather than time and opportunity. People are fat so give them a television programme rather than dietry advice and support. Swings in parks are dangerous because occasionally kids fall off them so let's ban them. Life should have no risks so let's make programmes that focus on this modern neurosis that blames everyone else for our personal problems. There is a simple reality if you do not take personal responsibility for your own life you simply have to take what the world throws at you until you accept you are what you made yourself. If that happens to be obese then don't blame Ronald MacDonald - look in a mirror. Rant over!
Peter Thomson, Kirkcudbright

In answer to Graeme's question - these programmes cater to the great British need to feel smug. We can't get enough - you see it every day in the news. How nice to have soft targets like fatties - even better if they were once successful. I did not happen to see the programme showing excrement in a box but is it really surprising considering there is already so much of it on the box?
Jon, Leeds

I tend to agree with the article. What I don't agree with is the notion that reality tv is all bad. Some can be fairly entertaining. I think that most people watch these "fat" programmes because they do tell the classic story of triumph over adversity. They offer hope, proving even the fattest, most inactive people can change their life. The one show that I do hate though appears on a non-descript satellite channel. The programme is entitled The Swan. It takes a so-called "ugly duckling" and spends three months butchering them, "lipo-ing" them, chopping them, and carving them until they turn into......a swan. What a disgusting, vulgar reflection on modern society.
Alistair, Motherwell

I am sick and tired of the tripe that is reeled out as prime time viewing. The latest offereing is celebrity singing, give me a break. Utter rubbish, waste of money. The best thing on the box at present is the off switch.
Richard, Glasgow

It is because of "brain-rotting" programmes like this that we finally got rid of our TV and do other more interesting things instead. It works too - as a family we have lost around 50lbs weight and "gained" lots of threatening letters from the TV Licensing agency. Just get rid of your TV - listen to radio instead!
Irene, Scotland

How is it that when I ask people about reality shows most of them say that they hate them too and yet we are subjected to more and more of them each year. Cheap TV .. that's why. It probably costs a fraction to produce than the dramas or movies we could be watching. With reference to the "You are what you eat" shows I feel the reason that a lot of people watch this is the "Well my diet/house/car/cleaning rituals are better than that" and makes people feel good about themselves even though in general they are not much better. I'm not saying my diet/house/car/cleaning rituals are better than anyone but I have bad habits as everyone does but I damn well wouldn't want the population of Britain knowing about them. Personally I can't stand these so called experts telling me how bad I or others are in relation to our lives. I would rather spend time with the people having a good time than have Gillian McKeith scuttling about pointing out what I shouldn't be eating and when I should be eating.
J Dickson, Glasgow

It is rather ironic that health guru Gillian McKeith comes from Dunfermline, where the local coat of arms should be changed to show a sausage roll, fags and extra large leggings. We've become obsessed in this country with "Belly Telly". All these programmes do is encourage couch potatoes to indulge their laziness even further.
Paul, Dunfermline, Fife

What would be my thoughts after watching TV for a few hours in the evening and seeing a few off these high fat programmes? Well for one the chance of my brain actually being able to produce a coherent thought after watching the, how can I say it, the brain rot that is far too evident on today's idiot boxes is unlikely. As an example let's take the programme "You are what you eat". What would make any self respecting human being take part in this programme. Maybe that's the problem that these poor fatties have such low self esteem that they think a rude women examining their excrement is going to radically change there lives. I watched this particular part of the programme with, shall we say, puke inducing disgust. I could not believe the horrible little presenter when she exclaimed in shock that someone's faeces in a margarine tub was in some way unappealing. Obviously if it were her own it would have come out looking like a fine china tea cup and smelling of spring's early blooms. But what can be done. If people want to watch this sort of "entertainment", then I say let them. It will leave the rest of the population time to sit in darkened rooms wondering what has become of the human race.
Josh Underwood, Scotland

I'm pretty bored with TV as a whole; personally I much prefer a three hour cycle over the moors near my house to an equivalent time spent watching TV. I've noticed that if you go on a 3 hour cycle instead of watching TV, your weight can become much less of a problem. Celery, anyone?
John Holland, Rawtenstall, UK

I agree with the article that we live in a culture that finds it much easier to judge others than to face their own problems and failings. Although I can not admit to taking 3 hour long cycles like John Holland I do find it much more productive just to switch off the television. I also have to disagree with people who say that watching these programmes shows people overcoming adversity. Personally I can think of more dignified ways in which to deal with problems, even those of extreme obesity, than having my face plastered across the television screen while my entire lifestyle is dissected and criticised. Why don't we stop showing others exercising their bodies and go out and exercise ours and maybe put something on television which stretches the mind rather than kiling brain cells.

These programmes have been fantastic inspirations for me to lose weight. Gillian McKeith may be 'strange' but if I know six people who have been inspired by her to eat healthy foods, how many others are there across the country?
R Lerwick, Stornoway

Those who think that these shows are in any way reality need their heads checked. They are so cut and edited that they make tabloids look truthful! I'm also sick people who are not a size 8 being called "fatties". Charlotte Church is a beautiful, perfectly normal young woman, and yet she is called a fatty! Give me a break! Unrealistic goals are causing more and more people to develop eating disorders, and shows like these are not helping. Being overweight is not something to be laughed at. It is not entertainment. Being thin does not mean you're perfect. Being beautiful does not mean you are more intelligent or more worthy of success. Once people learn this, our society can begin to move forward, but not before.
D Patrick-Brown, Edinburgh, Scotland

I love watching the Biggest Loser series. It is inspiring to see people who are massively overweight not only admit they have a problem and need help but conquer their problem with food. I'm no supermodel myself yet nowhere near the contestants and their start weights but I can empathise with them for their problems with temptation and comfort eating. I watch the show to inspire myself to stay active and understand I can use my own willpower to help me break the cycle of over-eating. I don't have the time to watch all the other rubbish on tv as I'm too busy working, exercising (running, cycling and swimming) or sleeping.
Alison, Edinburgh

A few years ago, reality TV shows were an interesting diversion from the TV norm. Now they are the TV norm (look at the number of them in the morning and evening slots). They are cheap to produce (in fact the suckers that call in, pay for a good part of the show) and they are watched by a large cross section of society. I suppose you cant blame the TV companies for creating them. Personally, I would like to see most of them removed from the screen and more TV shows like The Blue Planet or Life on Mars created. Hopefully the reality TV show think tanks will run out of ideas soon.
Doug, Edinburgh, UK

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