Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Fat Kids Can't Hunt"

That's the very unfortunate name of a very unfortunate new show being planned in Australia.

According to the report, the premise is pretty straightforward: 10 overweight children spend one month living with Australian aboriginals and during that month, they are only allowed to eat foods that they procure and hunt themselves using traditional aboriginal techniques.

Apparently this is not the first such show as it's mirroring a British show entitled, "Fat Men Can't Hunt" which involved sending overweight men to Namibia with similar rules.

This is wrong on so many levels. From the potential of worsening body image issues in the children, to the show not teaching them anything about how to eat and "hunt" nutritiously in our urban jungles, to the exploitation of these children's obviously desperate vulnerability and lastly to the fact that the show is so outrageous that despite all of my concerns, the voyeur in me wants to watch it.

On a number of occasions I've been approached by television news or morning shows to have them follow a patient through my program. I've turned them down every time. Weight loss is a personal decision and a personal journey and involves changing a lifestyle. Lifestyle change is difficult and I would never want to add the additional burden and pressure of television exposure to any of my patients.

I do worry how this show is going to affect those children.

If this really were a reality television show I'd have them take the parents and not the kids.

[Hat tip to a blog I happened across yesterday - Rudd Sound Bites; an informative and biting blog written out of Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity]

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  1. Geordie9:05 am

    Hi Dr. Freedhof,

    I did a quick search of your blog and didn't find any references to the Canadian documentary 'Generation XXL'. I fully understand your point of view in this blog entry but it made me think of the doc and wonder what your opinion is of it. As a physical educator and one that used to work extensively with kids, I found the doc to be quite inspirational; so much so I watched it twice in a day!

  2. Thanks for the comments Geordie.

    I didn't see the Canadian documentary Generation XXL so I can't really comment on it.

    Generally my attitude towards children and weight management is that it should come from the example led by the parents with an emphasis on healthy living and not on weight.

    The only times I feel medical involvement with children and weight is warranted is if there are pre-existing weight related illnesses that need to be addressed (diabetes, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease etc.).

  3. William Hicks6:53 pm

    Hi Dr. Freedhof.

    I myself have entered into this1 tv. series.

    I am 17, and a self-admitted "overeater". I weigh between 18st4oz and 18st1oz.

    You say in the post above this one that, it is the parents that should set the example. What if the parents are the same way as I am.

    If I were in this series, I do not believe that the makers of the show would purposefully portray us in a negative way to the public. However, the psychological effects that may become from this series could do some damage. However, I at least am willing to try any way possible to lose my weight and help others at the same time.

    I also would like to say that I believe that With this Tv show, it might inspire some of the people who watch it to so something about their weight.

    -William Hicks

  4. Thanks for the comment William.

    You're absolutely right, many parents set terrible examples for their children, not just with regards to eating, but also exercise, responsible drinking, anger management, fidelity, work ethic etc., but that doesn't make this show any more palatable.

    As I mentioned in my post, even in a best case scenario, where the show doesn't actually exploit the psyche of the participants too much, the children involved will not be taught how to live in society and hunt in the urban jungle, and given that's where most kids live, I imagine the show won't have much in the way of a lasting effect.

    Best of luck with everything and if you'd like a starting off point, head over to the post in my Canada's Food Guide section entitled, "What Can you Do" and read about some first steps you might be able to take.