Weight of world

the obesity myth
Review by Ros Marsden

TV | The Obesity Myth | SBS

Sometimes in a week of television channel-hopping you discover a gem among the myriad of reality programs posing as passable viewing. The three-episode SBS documentary aired in September The Obesity Myth was one of those offerings.

The series followed patients and their families participating in a weight-loss program at Melbourne’s Austin Health. The patients ranged in ages but shared a common challenge of battling their biology to reclaim their lives.

What made this program unique was the courage of the participants to share their often painful stories of not only struggles with weight, but the related loss of confidence and of hope.

Austin Health doctors are adamant obesity is a serious chronic genetic disease and for the participants this was a significant realisation. Many patients have been debilitated psychologically by society’s commentary that obesity is a lifestyle choice caused by laziness and overeating. For some, the first step in the health plan was the affirmation that obesity should be treated with the same care and consideration given to others suffering major disease.

The consequences of obesity can be grim, including limb amputation, reliance on wheelchairs and a shortened life expectancy.  Some of the treatment footage was confrontational and presented a startling visual reality of the trials of living with this disease.

Even something as simple as getting up from a chair and standing on a step of scales was a major effort for these patients.

Most of all The Obesity Myth is a lesson on empathy. The participants allowed the viewers to enter their lives and share their daily challenges. It was clear there is no easy fix for obesity, and that the fight to beat this disease was a lifelong commitment.

The program’s final images, when 27-year-old Felicity carried out a ceremonial burning of her largest shirt following her weight loss, brought joy and tears. It reminded us that every step of this journey is tough and that hope is tenuous in such a fierce life-and-death battle. We should applaud these brave people.

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