This post has been bubbling away in my mind for a long time but it's hard to write, it's close to home and raw, so bare with me.
The TV prime time slots are crammed full of reality shows with titles like:
The Biggest Loser
Obese: a year to save my life
Supersize Kids: under the knife
Bigger than Britney
Diet Crazy Mums
Supersize vs Superskinny
What do these shows hope to achieve?
Are they all about helping our society become more healthy?
I don't think so. I think they're all about being popular, gaining viewers and selling advertising. And of course millions of us watch them.
Why do watch these shows?
We watch them because we:
- like to see real life stories
- love to see people worse off than ourselves
- think we might change if we scare ourselves into it
- have nothing better to do - like go to the gym or cook a fresh meal for example
- feel so guilty about ourselves that we're desperate to find "The Answer"
What happens when we watch the shows?
This is only my own experience, and that of people I speak to, but I doubt I'm alone, we watch them and we feel:
- even worse about our weight
- worse about our lack of solving our problems
- too fat
- too thin
- like we are failing
- that there's no hope
What do we do after watching the shows?
There is no doubt that for some people these shows start a change in lifestyle. Perhaps people join the gym or start a diet or make a commitment to change. But I think the very best that can be achieved is a short term desire and initial change, I doubt very many people manage to carry on for very long and keep the same enthusiasm.
I worry that many people, myself included, feel so bad after watching these shows that their confidence and hope decreases. When this happen they start becoming more obsessed with managing their food by either over or under eating - that's what eating disorders are all about. Or they become fanatical about exercise for as long as they can sustain it. I honestly think these shows can make matters much worse for the many many people who can not change their lives because they are suffering from addiction and depression.
What would I like to see?
I would like to see half the money that is invested into these programmes being instead used to develop community health programmes which support those who want to change their lives in a positive and supported way. These would be less about short term goals and more about long term changes both physically and emotionally.
Perhaps I live in cloud cuckoo land, but seriously, if we all stopped watching these programmes and went to a club and danced our hearts out we'd feel better from the endorphins and would have burned off enough calories to claim our exercise for the day.