chapter  37
17 Pages

The Political Economy of Obesity: The Fat Pay All

ByAlice Julier

Recently, the Learning Channel (TLC) has entered the realm of Reality TV with a new program called “Honey, We’re Killing the Kids.” In each episode, a heterosexual family with children is chosen and visited by a nutritionist who does an “assessment” of the BMI and eating patterns of the kids. Using computer imaging, the ultra-thin blonde expert shocks the parents with a picture of their children as fat adults: the premise is, of course, that their current food habits and lifestyle put them on a collision course with obesity. TLC calls the program “a wake up call to parents” who will have a “dramatic reality check” when they see the future face of their children. The promotional ads show a mother in a supermarket checkout line, busy but absentmindedly acquiescing to her 8-year-old son’s requests for candy-she looks up as she empties her cart to see him aged into a corpulent balding man. Along the way, the nutritional expert berates the parents for their bad behavior, gives them a prescription for changing their habits, and then checks back in three weeks on how they’re managing. The family’s reward is to see new computer images of how their children will turn out if they stick with the regime forever. As with many reality shows, there is spectacle, public chastisement, and repentance, but no absolution. The viewer wonders how soon after the surveillance ends that the family will fall off the anti-fat bandwagon. Given the prevailing belief in Westerners as undisciplined and self-indulgent, we suspect that a relapse is inevitable.