Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Village on a Diet Episode 2 recap: ELMM St. revisited

So has the Nightmare on ELMM street continued (Dr. Sharma's moniker - ELMM = eat less, more more)?


Notable this week?

  • Personal trainer Mike Veinot walks into a gym class of kids stating for the camera he wants to teach kids that exercise can be fun and then proceeds to work them out so hard that one asks if she can "die now" while other seems to be collapsing in piles of sweat. Super fun.

  • Dietitian Maria Thomas is almost given the opportunity to teach Canadians that when you serve yourself from large jars you'll serve yourself far more than if the jar were simply smaller, but instead that wound up on the cutting room floor (no doubt that's where she went with the actual family), only to return to the scene with this piece of sage advice from British voice-over guy, "the couple can start by eating less".

  • Maria then tells a couple and viewers that a "serving" of steak is 2.5 ounces (75grams). Really? While I realize our Food Guide states a "serving" of meat is 75grams there's not a person out there, let alone a person who is accustomed to steaks at least 4x that size, who's going to be satisfied eating such a small amount and to suggest that they should be just fits Dr. Sharma's Nightmare on ELMM street - "eat less, move more" weight loss is simple, stupid.

  • Psychologist Adele Fox, on air for all of a minute or so, has the thrust of whatever it is she actually told Taylor boiled down to her telling residents to put their forks down and take sips of water between bites.

  • British accented voice-over guy states, "everyone's in such bad shape they're going to have to ramp up their exercise if they're going to reach their weight loss goals in three months".

    There was also some good.

  • Mike Veinot gave a great workout to young Jonathan who's been bullied because of his weight (whether it helps his weight or not, I'm keeping my fingers crossed his work with Mike improves his confidence)

  • The townsfolk helped to motivate Jamie to complete a difficult physical challenge.

    Now I recognize that there's no doubt that small-stepped sustainable lifestyle change doesn't always make for good television. As commentators on both my and Arya's blogs have noted, yelling at people to exercise and deriding them for their weights and perpetuating the stereotype of obesity being a disease of willpower makes for far more entertaining television than talking about food, and this episode with a focus on further "butt kicking" and folks who are filmed being repulsed by vegetables doesn't do much to bust those stereotypes.

    But how much should ratings and "entertainment" matter to the CBC? Shouldn't the CBC be held up to a different standard than NBC (the home of The Biggest Loser)? After all, the CBC is funded by us, the taxpayers, and consequently entertainment value need not be their foremost consideration.

    There's also no doubt the CBC could make this program great. It's clear that the producers of Village on a Diet are quite talented and were they to set their minds to it, I'm certain they could make thoughtful lifestyle change and environmental overhaul great TV. By means of example, you don't even need to leave the network. Not sure who out there saw it, but Jay Wortman's and the CBC's My Big Fat Diet which followed Jay and his work with Alert Bay, BC where he put that community on a low-carb diet that saw them losing weight and improving their biochemistries, was wonderful and didn't rely on ridiculous and inconsequential in the long run physical challenges.

    Dr. Brian Goldman of White Coat, Black Art fame and a man whose public health advocacy efforts I greatly admire, suggests that I and others are missing an important point,
    "As a nation, we have let the obesity crisis creep up on us like those unwanted kilos. Sometimes, you need shock therapy to grab peoples' attention. Shows like Village on a Diet do just that."
    And while I don't disagree with the notion of shock being useful, suggesting that Village on a Diet thus far has been a wise and laudable shock treatment is more than a stretch. Shocking people by perpetuating disparaging stereotypes about obesity isn't a great plan for the nation. Nor do I think that the celebration and publication of one of the primary things that needs to change - the notion that weight is an individual problem that's caused by laziness and cured primarily through exercise - as the means to solve the problem is a good one either.

    I know that the CBC reads my blog, and I hope that the ongoing discussion, both here and in the comments, will help to shape the next season of Village on a Diet, because I don't think the CBC set out to perpetuate harmful stereotypes, I think they truly set out to do what they thought was best and were they able to turn this around, I think they'd be doing Canadians a tremendous service.

    Looking forward to next week's apparently food focused episode.