I’m a regular viewer of Channel four’s super size vs. super skinny, and although I’m not entirely convinced by the method of diet swapping of two extremely unhealthy diets in order to make the participants overcome their food issues, I still end up watching it as it is still a program about food and health, and therefore I’m automatically hooked!
Last night’s episode shocked me, not in the usual way though. I was shocked by the super skinny participant’s diet, and the fact that because her food intake was so low, her energy levels were non-existent and as a result, she spent most of her time sleeping!
I say it shocked me in a new way, because usually I’m more shocked about the diet of the supersizer as I think “how can they eat all that food and not stop as the weight piles on?” Although I KNOW that the super skinny diet is just as bad, and just as damaging to their health I’m just not as shocked by it.
I've come to the conclusion that the reason that I’m not shocked so much by the super skinny diet is that it has become the norm. Although we’ve been conditioned to see overweight people as repulsive and as a joke, we are surrounded by skinny celebrities and encouraged to aspire to their image. We’re bombarded by the latest diet craze and celebrities who put on the tiniest bit of weight are attacked the media, those who lose weight are paraded in the glossy mags like role models. Even though the way they lose weight is unattainable (and sometimes damaging to their health- remember the Atkins craze?) to the normal person, I know I haven't got the money to spend on expensive diets and a personal trainer, or the time!
Although the super skinny participants in the program fussy eaters or have poor appetites, our obsession with being skinny means that some develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. A friend became anorexic during High School and they once told me that they received compliments on how good they looked. They have now made a full recovery, but scarily the more I hear about sufferers of eating disorders, the more aware I am that its quite normal for sufferers to receive compliments about weight loss, which can only encourage them to carry on. It is only when the weight loss becomes severe, that people start to take note, by this point it's often too late and the eating disorder has taken over the completely.
The fact is that both are equally damaging to our health; obesity causes diabetes, heart disease and other health complaints. But under eating is just as deadly, lack of food causes the body to ‘eat itself’ in order to survive therefore the sufferer literally wastes away, malnutrition is another issue, in the episode last night, the lack of iron in the super skinny participant’s diet caused her periods to stop and therefore making her infertile. Karen Carpenter lost her life to heart failure as a result of anorexia, although she was in recovery at the time, the damage to her heart had already been done.
Obesity may be on the rise, but cases of anorexia and bulimia are also on the rise, no doubt both are due to our unhealthy attitude towards food and our tendency to either eat too much, or too little. In the program, Dr Christian Jessen constantly warns viewers "How will the NHS cope with the rise in obesity", but equally, how will it cope with the rise in other eating disorders and their health complications?