Obesity is a condition that results due to accumulation of too much fat in a person’s body making him or her very massive. According to Robinson (1999), obesity is considered as a significant public health problem, and it’s more prevalent among children. A recent research shows that the number of overweight children is expected to continue rising worldwide.
Obesity as Portrayed by various Television Shows
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There have been various television shows that are aimed at addressing the issue of obesity. Taking for instance one of the famous television show by the name the biggest loser, it is claimed that it was aimed at motivating America to do something about their lives to become more physically active. The show highlights the efforts and struggles that the contestants indulge themselves throughout the journey to lose weight, so as to be physically fit. The show portrays obesity as a health risk and socially unacceptable. Through this, the show emphasizes the idea that if someone works hard, then he or she can overcome any obstacle.
According to Robinson, obesity has become a health obstacle in many societies especially the western ones. Therefore, the biggest loser show tries to encourage people to do exercises and practice healthy eating habits in order to overcome obesity as an obstacle. Through the same show, many aspects of culture’s beliefs about obesity have been revealed. The show captures people’s attention through contestants’ stories which are highly emotional. The stories are mainly based on the prejudice the contestants constantly faced in their societies due to their body weight.
According to Robinson, many cultures have associated obesity with laziness and lack of self discipline in eating habits. Because of this, many people have negative attitudes towards overweight or obese people as they view them as being lazy. The show uses exercise and good eating habits as the two major interventions for losing weight. Therefore through it, many viewers become obesity stereotypes. This is because the viewers get a notion that the show’s contestants are lazy and practice an unhealthy eating habit, and that is why they are overweight.
Through the shows, many overweight viewers encourage themselves that they don’t need to do anything to check their weight, as they keep on comparing their body size to that of the various contestants. For instance, in the biggest loser show, many of the contestants can be described as huge, enormous or giant. This is because the show uses these huge people so as the slightest loss in weight will be noticed by the viewers. After comparing their body size with that of the show’s contestants’ these viewers therefore accept their body size as fit and this gradually leads to obesity.
According to Fumento (1997), weight bias is very prevalent in our societies. These biases have been encouraged through watching television shows such as “Too fat for fifteen.” This is another show that researchers have claimed that it portrays overweight as a socially unaccepted aspect of a person, especially among children and teenagers. From the title of the show, too fat for fifteen, it criticizes teenagers who are fat even before getting to adult age. The overweight children who watch such a show are affected negatively and might even develop a low self esteem due to their body size and shape.
Weight biases affect overweight people especially children and teenagers who take “fat” as the last accepted prejudice. Research shows that overweight characters on television are portrayed in stereotypical roles where they are often teased and ridiculed. Robinson points out that the roles assigned to them portray them as rarely having positive social interactions and romantic relationships. This influences the other children to take their overweight friends as people who are not able to indulge in games and other physical exercises. As a result, the overweight children are rejected by their friends in the neighborhood and also in school. This makes them lonely and they therefore tend to withdraw from their teachers, schoolmates, games and other physical exercise as they fear to be made fun of.
Personally, after watching the show too fat for fifteen, I developed hatred for the characters as I viewed them being very lazy to do any exercise. I also assumed that they practiced unhealthy eating habits and that is why they were massive in body size. I also developed a hatred attitude towards the overweight children’s parents. This is because according to me, these parents don’t take their parenting responsibilities seriously especially on healthy eating habits and how to encourage their children to be physically active. However, whenever there is a medical problem that is explained as the cause for a child to be overweight, I usually find myself in tears. This shows that I sympathized with the children who are obese due to medical issues. This is because I consider that they don’t have any powers in themselves to address their physical state.
Robinson points out the attitude of many cultures to have a diet mentality, and the belief that body weight is simply an issue of working hard enough, also reinforces weight bias. He also argues that if a person believes that obese people are responsible for their weight gain as Jillian Michaels, the director of the ‘Biggest loser” does, then he or she always stigmatizes them for their condition without putting into consideration the biological and genetic factors.
Effectiveness of Prescribed Obesity Intervention Measures
According to Fumento, many cultures believe that the best method to address the issue of obesity is through practicing good eating habits and doing exercises. However the effectiveness of these methods relies so much on the consistence of how they are done. Fumento points out that many of the television shows addressing the issue of obesity fail to achieve their goal of losing weight. Taking for instance the “Biggest loser show” many contestants lose weight but after some time, they regain it and go back to their original body size. This is because they relax and get satisfied with their body size and hence forget to keep on eating healthy foods and doing exercises.
Fumento explains that the best opportunity to address problems of overweight and obesity especially in children is learning how to teach them healthy eating habits and the importance of physical exercises since their childhood. This is because changing eating habits becomes more difficult as the child reaches adolescence. Robinson explains that obesity intervention measures should not focus only on weight loss as criteria for success. Instead they should also emphasize healthier eating habits and improved physical activities to improve fitness. He points out that, families should be ready to change their diets and not for a short while but permanently to ensure that they achieve their goal in overcoming obesity as an obstacle.
To be able to overcome obesity, the television shows should apart from focusing weight loss give advises to their participants on the importance of constant physical exercise and practice healthy eating habits even after they have left the shows. This will ensure that participants are able to maintain or even improve their body weights and hence curb obesity.
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