A critical review: ‘Around the world in 80 weighs’, Channel 4

In today’s society, discussions surrounding obesity and weight management often revolve around calorie counts, diets, and exercise regimens. Obesity is a complex issue, and it goes far beyond the numbers on a scale.

Have you watched the Channel 4 programme, ‘Around the world in 80 weighs’? In episode one, we witnessed British adults travelling across the world in a quest to shed pounds by exploring different cultures’ approaches to weight management. However, the show’s approach raises many questions about sensitivity and effectiveness in addressing this complex issue.

The program kicked off with phrases like “Can they just learn to say no?” and “When people look at you, they won’t think you’re healthy.” These initial remarks set a tone of judgement and shame, which can be incredibly damaging to individuals struggling with obesity. It’s crucial to understand that obesity is not merely a matter of self-control or discipline; it often involves emotional, psychological, and even traumatic factors that play a significant role in one’s relationship with food and body image.

Throughout the episodes, participants faced humiliation in various forms; including being pointed at, laughed at, and openly ridiculed in the streets of Japan. They were also placed under the care of YouTube influencers who exhibited condescending attitudes towards them and no understanding of the challenges they face. The discomfort reached its peak when the participants were taken to a spa, where the only changing room was an open-plan public one. These experiences only served to reinforce feelings of shame and inadequacy, rather than fostering a healthy environment for transformation.

While the show did introduce participants to Japanese delicacies and encouraged them to use chopsticks, which can promote slower eating, it failed to address the root causes of their struggles with food back in the UK. Weight loss achieved through strict calorie restriction is often not a sustainable long-term solution. We need to recognise that sustainable change requires addressing the emotional, psychological, and environmental factors that contribute to overeating or obesity.

One crucial aspect that the program did manage to mention was the participants’ stories, which offered valuable insights into why they might be struggling with food. These stories included experiences of grief, trauma, emotional eating, a history of failed diets, and self-blame. These factors are essential to understand, as they can be predisposing elements in the battle against obesity. It’s a reminder that obesity is not solely about the calories consumed; it’s a complex condition intertwined with various life experiences and emotions.

Let’s approach discussions about obesity and weight-related issues with empathy and sensitivity. Obesity is not a one-size-fits-all problem with a simple solution; it is a multifaceted issue that requires a comprehensive program of support and education. Rather than focusing on quick fixes and shaming tactics, we should promote understanding, awareness, and kindness. By promoting these values, we can contribute to a more compassionate and effective approach to addressing obesity in our society.

If this blog has resonated with you and you would like to talk to someone about your own battles with food, please get in touch.

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