“Insatiable” Revisited, Revisited

Following on from the previous post, we look at more of the objections against the series “Insatiable.” As described by NPR’s Linda Holmes, the show goes far beyond the baseline of crazy and obnoxious. It is an equal-opportunity offender, not limited to the stereotyping and insulting of obese people. No, it branches out into multiple areas of incorrectness, portraying…

[…] an awkward and unsexy Asian-American boy, a magical sassy godmother who is fat and black and a lesbian who exists only to educate thin white girls on how to live their best lives…

Don’t hold back, Ms. Holmes. Tell us how you really feel! And she does. It is not only the sloppy story management, a shortcoming that can be attributed to a lot of entertainment programming, that disturbs the critic. Certainly, a hip audience does not want every detail of a plot spelled out for them, but when the supporting players change without explanation or motivation, viewers sometimes feel abandoned or cheated. As for the series star, when it comes to maintaining character consistency, apparently she could learn from the most junior member of an improv troupe.

Another county heard from

Not surprisingly, reviewer Ben Travers struck the same chords. His piece in its very title refers to “12 irreparable problems” attributed to the series, mainly related to incompetent and insensitive scripting. It seems to him that everything — sexual harassment, pedophilia, same-sex attraction, murder — is treated as a joke, but with none of the intelligent points that genuine satire is expected and obligated to make.

There is no real exploration of the struggle that obese teens face, or a clear communication of the pain anyone perceived as overweight deals with. No one watching “Insatiable” will come away with more compassion for the people coping with these issues, or a better understanding of what it really means to be healthy. Travers says this “disastrous hodgepodge of mistakes is an absolute mess, and it marks the worst Netflix original series yet to be released.”

A-what-ness?

So, to return to the theme of awareness. In terms of educating the public about obesity, in children, teens, or adults, what does “Insatiable” bring to the table? Not a heck of a lot. By its haters, the show is hated sincerely, and Linda Holmes zeroes in on one scene that seems to distill the essence of why. The lead character temporarily feels bad about her beauty-queen body. A friend cheers her up, not by saying any of the things that a therapist or a truly empathetic person would say. Holmes voices the objection:

Nothing here is challenging what categories of people deserve love; only whether Patty can learn to accept that she’s been in the good category ever since they wired her jaw shut.

Series creator Lauren Gussis and some of the members of the cast have claimed that the show is about revealing the negative effects of bullying and fat-shaming, which may well have been the good-faith intent at one time, but which is nowhere in the final product.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “‘Insatiable’ Is Lazy And Dull, But At Least It’s Insulting,” NPR.org, 08/09/18
Source: “‘Insatiable’ Review: 12 Irreparable Problems,” IndieWire.com, 08/10/18
Image by Lee Coursey/CC BY 2.0

“Insatiable” Revisited

In this month of childhood obesity awareness, it becomes crystal clear that the number one source of awareness is media, and also that the information channels are increasingly monolithic and interchangeable, as material that starts out online shows up on television and vice versa. Additionally, audiences are left to increasingly wonder: Of what, exactly, are they meant to experience increased awareness?

“Insatiable” is a Netflix series billed as a dark comedy-drama or even, according to its creators, a satire, that ran for two seasons, or 22 episodes. Basically, a high-school girl has her jaws wired shut for a few weeks, loses 70 pounds, and dedicates her subsequent life to enacting revenge against those who slighted her when she was obese. The picture on this page is star Debby Ryan.

In a previous mention of the show, we noted that some critics disliked the use of a “fat suit” for scenes that took place in the lead character’s past. Others hated the underlying theme that losing weight is the sole and only road to a happy life. Before the show even hit the airwaves, well over 200,000 people had already signed a Change.org protest petition.

An embarrassing question

The search engine’s “People also ask” feature begins with the query, “Why is Insatiable so bad?” Let’s figure it out!

Writer Joe Berkowitz titled a piece, “Netflix’s ‘Insatiable’ Isn’t a Fat-Shaming Show: It’s Much Worse,” saying…

The world of Insatiable diverges with reality from the start. It takes place in an alternative universe where everybody is openly contemptuous of the obese all the time.

But hey, it’s TV; it’s fiction. A totally hostile universe might be just what a dark comedy-drama needs — if only it had been handled with some intelligence and finesse. In the definite minus column, the slimming process is made to look all too easy, just a matter of three months on a liquid diet. And “with all of the pounds coming from exactly where she’d want them to, as if cut by a topiary artist, and with nary a stretch mark left behind.”

In real life, every person who has achieved significant weight loss warns maintaining it is the hardest part. But this character’s weight “magically stays evaporated, for reasons we never quite find out.” Those are not, however, Berkowitz’s only objections. He perceives, especially when a lawyer joins the cast, not only a plethora of mixed messages, but some that are downright unethical and ugly. He writes,

[I]t seems like the show’s conception of “revenge” is restricted mostly to “becoming a beauty queen.” Even if Patty wanted something other than to prove the extent of her hotness in a competitive setting, the show offers an irresponsible, dangerous depiction of her too-easy physical transformation, the seamless results of it, and their miraculous sustainability.

NPR’s Linda Holmes elaborated on this theme:

[O]ther than at a couple of highly emotional moments when she binge-eats in scenes portrayed as grotesque, her weight and her eating habits are never an issue again. This, it should go without saying, is generally not how it goes.

Holmes called the series “lazy and dull,” and goes on to work up a head of steam citing such incidental offenses as “tone-deaf deployment of sexual assault and abuse as comedy […] racist tropes […] portrayals of people with Southern accents as dumb hicks…” The trouble for the lead character all started when she punched a homeless man who tried to steal her candy bar, a plot device that causes Holmes to comment:

[N]o matter how bad you have heard that Insatiable is, no matter how bad the petitions have concluded that it is, it is worse.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Netflix’s ‘Insatiable’ Isn’t a Fat-Shaming Show: It’s Much Worse,” Medium.com, 08/08/18
Source: “‘Insatiable’ Is Lazy And Dull, But At Least It’s Insulting,” NPR.org, 08/09/18
Image by Red Carpet Report/CC BY-SA 2.0

Awareness Equals Media

Regarding the discussion of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and the edutainment-fatsploitation spectrum, it must be acknowledged that Daniel Lambert was not a very good example of fatsploitation. On the contrary, he managed his career with as much dedication as any rapacious agent could have done.

Combining a likable personality, knowledge of topics appreciated by the wealthy elite class, media savvy, self-taught psychological insight, and business experience, Lambert was captain of his own ship and an influencer. But others have not been so resilient. Media awareness does not bless everyone equally. Sometimes it leads to ruthless exploitation by second, third, and fourth parties with bad intentions.

More typical was Barry Austin, a young man who was, intentionally or unwittingly, misused and exploited by other members of his society. Journalist Nick Harding brought up that case 10 years ago, and also discussed the issue of a British minor child, Connor McCreaddie.

When Connor was eight years old, he weighed over 200 pounds, a circumstance which the local authorities believed must result from neglect. They wanted to remove him from his mother’s custody and place him in foster care. There was a TV show about it, and Connor ended up staying with his mother, who agreed to keep him on a strict diet.

The child himself seems, as Harding phrased it, to have “faded back into obscurity,” but the publicity that temporarily surrounded his family kicked off a whole new genre of edutainment that soon morphed into fatsploitation. Britain’s National Obesity Forum spokesperson Tam Fry told the press,

What his story did was to start the debate on whether obesity is a safeguarding issue. The legacy of Connor’s story is that just as we worry greatly about very thin children and place them in care and residential clinics to build them up, people are now debating whether there is a difference between the dangerously thin and the other side of the coin, where a child is overtly neglected by his or her family in being allowed to eat whatever comes to hand. To that degree, the publicity surrounding him was of value.

The producers of the TV show about Connor may have only been trying to help, and they did. But the knock-on effect was detrimental. An executive at a sensationalistic publication, what Americans call a tabloid paper, bluntly said, “It was a feeding frenzy, everyone was hunting for a fatter kid.” Awareness, it appears, comes with a price. Harding also quoted eating disorders specialist Dr. Peter Rowan:

Obese people live with a feeling that they are seen as being highly undesirable and as being abnormal. The media isn’t responsible for that but it does support it, prolong it and accentuate it.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Unhealthy appetite: Is ‘Fatsploitation’ fuelling the obesity crisis?,” Independent.co.uk, 10/23/11
Image by Mike Licht/CC BY 2.0

The Edutainment — Fatsploitation Spectrum

Why, during Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, has there been so much talk of adults? Because it has been clearly shown that children who are overweight or obese will probably battle with size issues all their lives or, even worse, just give up and embrace the “there’s more of me to love” philosophy. Many obese adults are former obese children themselves. And they are likely to become the parents of obese children, modeling and enabling harmful eating patterns and food relationships for the next generation of kids.

So, child obesity and adult obesity are pretty much the same issue, a distinction without a difference. Or maybe more like a case of, “Which came first? The chicken or the egg?”

Another question that has been asked before is, at what point does edutainment ooze across the line into fatsploitation?

In 2011, The Independent reporter Nick Harding wrote:

Open a TV guide or flick through a magazine, and you will find a measure of our culture and an indication of where we are as a society. With shows like Half Ton Mom, Fix My Fat Head, Supersize Teens: Can’t Stop Eating and Fat Teens in Love…

He also mentioned the small but devoted fetishistic subculture that has grown up around very large women. Increasingly common is what some call societal fat phobia, which is said to be more readily tolerated and encouraged than other brands of prejudice. Harding says,

Fat phobia is fuelled by the way the overweight are characterised on screen.

So again, the interaction between awareness and media might reasonably be blamed for mischief. Still, entertainment can be educational, and educational materials can be entertaining, and what’s the harm? Or at least, that is one school of thought.

Temporal contrast

An interesting thing about a piece written a decade ago is that the reader can see how any predictions played out, and enjoy other timeline-related thoughts. Harding wrote of a popular TV show,

Drop Dead Diva took the controversial step of casting a US size 16 (UK size 18) actress in the lead role… Although Drop Dead Diva goes some way to redressing the fat phobia balance, it still employs stereotypes to explain Jane’s obesity.

However, it did last for six seasons (78 episodes). At the time, Childhood Obesity News said this:

Although Jane is the main character, very few of the episodes touch on her weight issue at all, and she is certainly not shown to be agonizing over it. And although plenty of other factors conspire to keep the lovers from reconciling, Grayson apparently has no problem, conceptually, with squiring a hefty lady.

The show’s creators did their public service duty of spreading awareness. For instance, a character revealed the number of women’s clothing labels that made items larger than size 14, that total being only 20 out of 900. Thanks to some forward-looking attitudes, the well-regarded series collected a goodly amount of thoughtful commentary and respect.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Unhealthy appetite: Is ‘Fatsploitation’ fuelling the obesity crisis?,” Independent.co.uk, 10/23/11
Image by sammydavis53/CC BY 2.0

Edutainment and Jim Gaffigan’s Books

Two questions: What is more entertaining than comedy? Other than humor, what could more effectively be matched up with education, to produce the hybrid genre known as edutainment?

Although standup comedian Jim Gaffigan came from a large family, he did not really envision himself as a potential father. He married relatively late, at 37, and currently has five children. His New York Times bestseller, Dad is Fat, is said to be parent-oriented, and more about kids than fat.

Still, if it provides even one helpful insight related to childhood obesity, that would be more than most books do. Any time the subject of excess weight creeps into an American home, the atmosphere becomes fraught. Many parents find obesity more difficult to talk about than sex.

Gaffigan reminisces about the Yuletide season in his childhood when his own mother gave him McDonald’s gift certificates, also known as “coupons for poison.” He goes on to say,

McDonald’s introduced the gift certificate prior to the obesity epidemic. I’m not saying that McDonald’s gift certificates caused the obesity epidemic, but in retrospect, the timing is kind of suspicious.

Another Gaffigan publication is Food: A Love Story, which encompasses a different kind of awareness, to the point where a fan calls it “A book on totally embracing all your food sins.”

In person, the comedian/actor/author is not svelte, and invites his audiences to join him in laughing at his circumference. This makes him the perfect candidate for the job of obesity conversationalist because, as he points out,

If a thin guy were to write about a love of food and eating I’d highly recommend that you do not read his book.

He describes himself as not a “foodie” but an “eatie,” and defends himself by asserting that he tries to stick to three meals per day… “and three more at night,” a peculiarity that actually is widely shared in not only this country but many others. Gaffigan loves cheese, and he does not care who knows it. The exception is American cheese, which he says tastes worse than the plastic sheets that separate the slices. His attitude seems to be regretful self-acceptance, combined with empathy for others who are equally stuck in their ways.

Other roads

Other comedians take different paths, like Lisa Lampanelli. Formerly known as a roast comic and the Queen of Mean, she created a 90-minute live show called “Losin’ It” to provide encouragement for people and help them find humor in their struggles with weight and body image issues.

Actor and comedian Ron Funches lost around 150 pounds, and has maintained for years. His podcast “Gettin’ Better” provides a marvelously supportive and positive atmosphere for listeners who share the same health and fitness aspirations that brought him out of his slump.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Dad Is Fat,” Goodreads.com, undated
Source: “Jim Gaffigan, Food: A Love Story,” Goodreads.com, undated
Image by JPAvocat/CC BY 2.0

Obese Adult Voices and Awareness

A writer publishing under the pseudonym Your Fat Friend once discussed the TV show, The Biggest Loser, which Childhood Obesity News has also reflected on before. Apparently, the contestants were verbally abused a lot, but such people as Army drill sergeants swear that it is very motivational, and they should know. Also in the name of motivation, but with much more potential to cause serious injury, one trainer was criticized for removing the seats of stationary bikes used by the contestants.

Other serious assertions were made, for instance, that contestants were fed caffeine pills without medical oversight. One had to be airlifted to a hospital, while another was allegedly forced to run with fractured feet, and another “stopped eating altogether and urinated blood.” A woman lost 118 pounds in three months, which is not recommended, and developed a serious eating disorder. According to one weight expert, it was miraculous that no one had died.

Your Fat Friend wrote,

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health conducted a longitudinal study that analyzed 14 former contestants for six years following their appearances on the show. Of those 14 participants, 13 regained significant amounts of weight. Not only had their weight increased, but their metabolism also appeared to be permanently slowed.

This of course means that the body will not burn calories with anywhere near the efficiency it needs to, so the person goes back to piling on the pounds.

And what is the point? This type of show is for entertainment, so viewers can gloat over their own relative slenderness and engage in an orgy of fat-shaming that their victims probably will never hear — although at the same time they are very aware, in a general way, of the public scorn they attract. This type of programming is about exposure, so advertisers can sell products.

Every media production can don the protective cloak of Raising Awareness, because the makers of television believe they have a sacred duty to show the public where overeating can lead, or so we are told. In that version of reality, it is the task of television to shake its head ruefully and wag its scolding finger, admonishing the ignorant to change their ways. To justify exhibiting the obese grownups and exposing them to ridicule, media giants can sanctimoniously claim that they are only fulfilling their responsibility to prevent childhood obesity.

Is the trauma worthwhile?

Of what does a TV show like this really make us aware? What it should do, in the opinion of another expert, is make us aware that if even these winners, these best-of-show dieters, these champion weight-losers, get messed-up metabolisms, then how can we ordinary slobs ever find redemption?

Are such programs educational and inspirational, or detrimental? What type of awareness is actually raised? Where does awareness end, and something else begin — something that seems, in the eyes of many viewers, akin to obesity porn?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “‘The Biggest Loser’ Is One of the Most Harmful Reality Shows on Television,” Medium.com, 01/12/20
Image by Camilo Salazar Patiño/Public Domain

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and Edutainment

Edutainment can be found in both schools and homes. It has long existed in one form or another, like chess, Scrabble, singing the ABCs, and a card game called Authors. On the fancy end of the spectrum, there are lavish interactive museums where visitors of any age can commune with science and discover wondrous revelations.

Even physical education is considered a classic example of the genre, and this has always been seen as an important factor in the general field of obesity prevention. The earliest sports involved no props, or only some object that could easily be found in nature — a branch, a log, a boulder. Today, games, toys, and media all play their parts in motivating kids to improve their bodies and minds.

Screens

For many decades now, movies and television have been purveyors of edutainment. “Sesame Street” is a primal example. In an area like childhood obesity, there are instructional shows, like how to perform a series of exercises, with music as their entertainment element. In the narrative, there is the vast area of documentary non-fiction, and then another spacious realm of fiction. Like it or not, movies and other audio-visual media have quite a lot of influence over what people grow up knowing and/or believing about obesity.

The whole idea of edutainment is to make learning fun, or at least passably enjoyable. Rewards, like points and levels, are considered very important to keep kids motivated. Amazingly, there used to be students who found Latin, algebra, and even calculus sufficiently entertaining and rewarding, in and of themselves. Some experts see the entire edutainment trend as problematic, but it is definitely here to stay, at least in certain cultures.

Examining young consumers

The authors of a serious academic paper about kids as consumers recommend looking up an episode of the Nutri Ventures series as an example of edutainment, and because this is what they showed to some of the 189 children who participated in their study. The kids, from two public schools, were divided into an experimental group and a control group. The researchers concluded that “isolated edutainment may not be enough to change preferences and food choices; instead it might even have an opposite effect.” Authors Diana Sintra and Luísa Agante wrote:

The purpose of this paper is to see if edutainment containing only healthy food can change children’s preferences and food choices toward healthy eating, especially in overweight or obese children…

This study aimed to identify if edutainment containing only healthy food could be more effective in childhood obesity prevention but instead it showed how complex the whole topic can be.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “What Is Edutainment? Tips for Mixing Education and Entertainment in the Classroom,” American.edu, 09/17/21
Source: “Edutainment in childhood obesity prevention: a complex topic,” Emerald.com, 05/07/21
Image by Korean Resource Center/CC BY 2.0

The Last of Daniel Lambert

This post wraps up the story of Daniel Lambert, who, during his lifetime, was the largest human being known to have ever lived. At the top of this page on the left, he is shown in a magazine article along with the second fattest Englishman of the time, Edward Bright.

Of course neither the cinema nor television existed, or even photography, so we only know Lambert’s appearance thanks to artists whose depictions of him would turn up two centuries later in the “Human Curiosities” collection of an archive. Back in the day, however, he was a widely respected folk hero and a legit celebrity. Acting as his own manager and promoter, he controlled his career, so it was nothing like the “fatsploitation” that has proven so detrimental in the current era. There were even copycats. This describes one:

Lambert’s popularity inspired an imitator in “Master Wybrants, Mr. Lambert in miniature…” A handbill described […] “Master Wybrants the Modern Hercules, who at the age of 4 Months weighed 39 pounds, measured 2 feet round the Body 15 Inches round the thigh and 8 Inches round the Arm…

Next to the exaggerated portrayal of mother and giant baby is another comedic drawing, obviously inspired by it, where the artist imagined Daniel Lambert in the company of a very thin lady.

Despite his protestations to the contrary, some contemporary doctors were certain that Daniel Lambert’s weight continued to increase through a combination of too much food and not enough exercise. The Medical and Physical Journal published an article about him, confirming that his height was only one inch short of six feet, and that he weighed 700 pounds:

A thorough medical examination found that his bodily functions worked correctly, and that he breathed freely. Lambert was described as active and mentally alert, well-read, and with an excellent memory. He was fond of singing, and had a normal speaking voice which showed no signs of pressure on the lungs. He slept regularly for no more than eight hours per night, always with his window open, and was never heard to snore…

Eventually he returned, a wealthy man, to live in the countryside, occasionally touring to restock the bank account. One day in 1809, at the young age of 39, and weighing 739 pounds, he died suddenly. According to TheReaderWiki.com,

While many sources say that he died of a fatty degeneration of the heart or of stress on his heart caused by his bulk, his behaviour in the period leading to his death does not match that of someone suffering from cardiac insufficiency; witnesses agree that on the morning of his death he appeared well, before he became short of breath and collapsed.

Friends who paid for Daniel Lambert’s burial had the measurements of his waist and leg circumferences carved on the tombstone, along with testimonials to his character, intelligence, and personality. The coffin had to be constructed around him. As sometimes happens, it was necessary to demolish a wall to remove his remains from the building where he died. At St. Martin’s Church, a sloping ramp was dug so that the coffin could be slid, rather than lowered, into the grave. Still, it took nearly half an hour for 20 men to maneuver the box into its final resting place.

There was of course no autopsy, but modern experts guess that a sudden pulmonary embolism caused Daniel Lambert’s demise.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Daniel Lambert,” TheReaderWiki.com, undated
Images by Wikimedia.org (1, 2, 3)

Media Awareness and Daniel Lambert

Born in England in 1770, in his youth Daniel Lambert taught swimming, and apprenticed as an engraver, but then took over his father’s post as jailer on a nobleman’s estate. Apparently, he treated the prisoners decently, and would even testify on their behalf. Lambert’s real aptitude and expertise were with the animals, mainly dogs and horses, employed in the sports pursued by the monied gentry.

He said he didn’t drink, but it is possible that in those days, they thought of beer as something akin to water, and only considered the consumption of hard liquor as “drinking.” He also claimed to eat sparingly, but somehow just got fatter and fatter until he was the largest human in recorded history.

Working out constantly, he fought the weight. He could lift and carry 560 pounds. He once went on a seven-mile hike with several normal-weight gentlemen who tired long before he did. Even when gigantic, he continued to teach swimming, but had to give up hunting because no horse could hold him.

A change of scene

Broke and unemployable, Lambert moved to London and morphed into a tourist attraction. Each day as many as 400 people, some of whom traveled remarkable distances for the privilege, paid an admission fee to lay eyes on him. But his fans were not just the common people.

Anyone who wanted to matter in the social scene rushed to befriend Daniel Lambert. Appreciating his knowledge of sports and animal husbandry, the “in crowd” of wealthy people who owned country houses flocked to him. Of course, he had to dress the part of a gentleman, despite the fact that six average gentlemen could have fit into one pair of his pants. The tailoring was expensive, and a full outfit would cost him well over $2,000 in today’s money.

Other days, other ways

It was, as they say, a different time. Obesity did not carry stigma or shame; it was just another way to be noteworthy and stand out from the crowd. Somewhat like the Michelin Man in more recent days, his name became a byword, a synonym for “huge.” Numerous eating and drinking establishments were christened in his honor. Almost 100 years later, the prodigious Château de Chambord was called by a writer “the Daniel Lambert among châteaux.”

In those days, Madame Tussaud’s wax museum was a popular London attraction, and to be depicted there meant that a person was really Somebody — which he was. England has a mythological character called John Bull, roughly equivalent to America’s Uncle Sam. Some people, including cartoonists, envisioned John Bull as looking a lot like Lambert. In two of the vintage political cartoons shown on this page, he appears as the embodiment of the spirit of Britain, as opposed to Napoleon Bonaparte, the military and political leader of France. The middle picture is an oil painting.

(To be continued…)

Source: “Daniel Lambert,” TheReaderWiki.com, undated
Images by Wikimedia.org/Public Domain (1, 2, 3)

Like Giving a Heroin Addict Drugs

During the current Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, we have been examining the role of the media in creating awareness, and the reasons why that can be a double-edged sword.

Back when Barry Austin was still alive, Britain’s former heaviest man (770 pounds) talked with a journalist about his life as a media darling, and the perks that came with it. He loved not only the room service in hotels but the praise and attention. Comparing the combination of endless free food and star-worship to heroin, he characterized himself as an addict.

Later, Dr. Ellie Connon described Austin as super-obese, not meaning “super” in a good way. She had been urging him to get medical help, and he had responded by dragging his feet. Connon wrote,

Barry lives within 15 miles of Heartlands Hospital, which has a £10 million new weight-management clinic, pulling in the best dietary, psychological, medical and surgical treatment — but Barry seems almost amazed that such services exist. While complaining that he has been abandoned by doctors, Barry admits he hasn’t sought help. Instead of medical support, he has a film crew. There are TV commissions in the pipeline, but no GP appointments.

A short life but a merry one

Who knows why any individual chooses to live in a self-destructive way? But as Dr. Connon mentions, the career of a professional morbidly obese person affects others, too, like family members, friends, and sweethearts. In the widening circle, there are other societal impacts, like the expense incurred by agencies obligated to buy oversized, heavily reinforced gurneys, hospital beds, and ambulances for hefty patients.

Journalist Nick Harding wrote a piece called, “Unhealthy appetite: Is ‘Fatsploitation’ fuelling the obesity crisis?,” and Austin was certainly one of the people he had in mind.

Another was Daniel Lambert, and speaking of heavy-duty vehicles, that fellow used to travel around England in a specially reinforced carriage. His weight was said to be 52 stone (a.k.a. 728 pounds) and according to portraits by contemporary artists, he was round as a bowling ball. A one-man freak show, he charged the locals a fee to look at him — and probably the painters, too.

The human body, says Harding, was specifically designed to seek out and consume food with high caloric value and ease of access, and to store it internally, in anticipation of hard times. Speaking of the present day, he says, “There has never been a more opportune time to store fat.” Similarly, there has never been a more opportune time to exploit obesity. He quotes an anonymous entertainment executive who cites the public’s demand for “the bizarre and the extreme.”

One theory is that readers and viewers like to wallow in the lives of more messed-up people because it makes them feel fortunate in comparison. In other words, it’s all about good old-fashioned schadenfreude, delight in others’ misfortune. This informant also told the reporter, “If you put a web cam in the world’s fattest man’s bedroom, people would watch.” To return to the theme of awareness, Harding says:

[F]rom the TV companies to magazine publishers and, ultimately, the consumers queuing up to take a guilty peek at the latest sideshow curiosity, we are all culpable to some extent for the way obesity is represented.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Bitter remorse of Britain’s fattest man,” DailyMail.co.uk, 12/07/13
Source: “Unhealthy appetite: Is ‘Fatsploitation’ fuelling the obesity crisis?,” Independent.co.uk, 10/23/11
Image by Phillip Roberts/CC BY 2.0

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:

Presentations

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources