Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Village on a Diet Episode 5 Recap: My last recap?

This show sure doesn't seem to be changing.

5 hours in and ultimately we're faced with a show that's reinforcing many of the worst stereotypes of obesity and weight loss. That obesity's a disease of laziness. That the obese are ignorant. That treatment involves massive amounts of exercise. That healthy eating must include esoteric health food and always, always, always exclude dietary vices. That weight management is about suffering and that if someone's not successful with weight management, it's because they're weak willed.

One of the most telling parts of this week's episode? Trainer Garfield is waxing on about how every week there are less folks involved in his challenges and then concludes that the town is failing him. I guess it didn't occur to him that perhaps he's failing the town.

Another? They had psychologist Adele Fox talk hypnosis for smoking cessation. Never you mind that the Cochrane meta-analysis of randomized trials shows hypnotherapy for smoking cessation is no better than no treatment on 6 month quit rates - let's tell all of Canada it's a great plan.

You want more? How about the completely disrespectful, looking a mile down his nose chef who walked into the 30 year old single mom's restaurant shop and basically told her she was failing Taylor when really all she was doing was putting food on the table for her children? His condescension literally drove her out of town.

It's pretty clear by now, this show isn't about best evidence or best practice, it's about best TV.

It's too bad too.

Sure, the townsfolk are going to lose their ton, but losing a few pounds per person's not particularly difficult and no doubt some folks will have been so strict as to lose whole piles. As the show's taught both viewers and Taylorites, all you need to do to lose weight is suffer. Of course there aren't too many folks out there who are willing, regardless of how much weight they might lose, to suffer forever, which is why folks who lose weight through suffering invariably gain it back when the scale stops whispering sweet nothings in their ears. Ultimately folks who lose weight suffering tend to go back to the lives they lived before they lost, which while not conducive to weight loss, were at least lives they enjoyed.

How amazing would it have been to have a show that broke the classic reality TV weight loss mould? Where the obese were treated compassionately. Where weights were explored from individual environmental, medical and psychological perspectives. Where treatment consisted more of education and empowerment about nutrition, energy balance and exercise than punishment. Where realistic goals were set and bolstered. Where the means to satiety were taught and cultivated. Where it was about nurturing realistic but still less than perfect lifestyles because striving for perfection is a recipe for failure.

Such a show would truly have the potential to positively impact a nation and a genre, not just a small town.

So no more recaps from me. Maybe I'll do a series recap down the road, but unless there's major change to the format, I'm not sure there's much left for me to say.

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  1. Bravo. You have articulated how I feel about this perfectly. I disagree on one point however; this is not "good TV" it is sensationalistic trash - I thought Canada could do better. I hope you have a show one day Yonni - I would tune in!

  2. I also have appreciated your perspective...your knowledge on this topic gives me a different understanding, i.e. the info re: smoking. Unfortunately from those around me - I hear that the show is a hit. :(

  3. I think you should sum up all your comments and then them to CBC.

  4. Spot-on analysis of reality weight loss television, Yoni.

    What if we did a reality weight loss show based on the reality of weight loss. Choosing a water instead of a soda. Parking farther out to gain 25 steps. Practicing deep breathing to calm down in traffic. Standing in the grocery store reading labels. Doing a happy dance when jeans are one size too big.

    Everyone would die of boredom.

    But the real no-suffering 'this is real life' health lessons would be taught.

    Maybe we could throw in some singing teen idols to draw an audience.

    Best, Sara

  5. I was eagerly awaiting your review of this week's episode as I myself have given up on commenting about the show.

    I totally agree with your analysis. It is a travesty, a disgusting American wannabe weight-loss show. Yes, I'm showing my Canadian chauvinism, but I really thought the CBC could do so much better.

    I'm still watching the show, but I suspect it is not a healthy choice when it comes to my blood pressure and stress levels.

    Shows like this make me lose all faith in people's intelligence.

  6. Hilary MacKenzie7:54 pm

    I've been following your recaps because I had already given up on watching the show after the 2nd episode. It is horrible .... and it both saddens and sickens me that people watching it are enjoying it!!

    Yoni, you have the right idea of what a weight loss show should be like, why don't you create your own? I disagree with Sara that it would be boring .... it could be made interesting & fun. It might not have such a huge following, but I think it would be successful. I'd be more than happy to participate, if you ever do it.


  7. Anonymous7:47 pm

    I was wondering if you've watched the show "I Used to be Fat"? It's a new reality show on MTV that also showcases a person's struggle with weight loss. But it's targeted at a teenage audience (or so I think). If you do happen to watch it, I'd be interested to hear your take on the show. =)

  8. Anonymous2:12 pm

    And you expected it to be different? I find the popular media messages about obesity and weight loss to be so distressing that I no longer watch TV. Like your blog. JP

  9. Anonymous8:32 pm

    I truly enjoyed your re-caps & will miss them! I work in health promotion & seeing you express what's wrong with current approach to obesity, doing it eloquently & with such passion helps me find my own words. I would loved to have seen your take on episode #7, where the teacher asks her kids in the classroom "What does it mean to be obese?" responses that come: fat, unhealthy.. I can only image the hallway bullying and teasing that followed. Very sad!

  10. Anonymous12:20 pm

    I so heartily agree. I have heard many pieces showing that the producers wanted to sensationalize! 1. They asked one man to eat some pizza. But he ate it ordinarily... so they corrected him. "No, stuff it in. Eat it as fast as you can..." Obviously that will state the point way better. 2. Can't imagine what was said to make the woman give Cola to a 3 yr old. And who wouldn't do this in ordinary life? It's not the action, but the context and sensationalism that bugs me. 3. The whole bit about the Chef Jonathon giving his credentials to food variety makes me sick. He is paid to do so... but who takes care of the precious woman who leaves town and what happened to her pizza business! 4. "No, don't take pictures of this resident. He isn't obese." 5. "Yes, take clips of this resident... and it doesn't matter that he is from Fort St John because he fits the profile for our story."

    CBC is supposed to be factual. I have lost faith in you CBC...