Supersize VS Superskinny is a programme which has been running for some time on Channel 4. For those who haven’t seen it, it works on the premise of having two individuals, one overweight and one underweight, bringing them together for a week of meal swaps, in the hope that seeing their usual meals from a different perspective will shock them into wanting to change. And for the most part, it appears to work; the supersize will, usually, lose a substantial amount of weight. The superskinny usually gain a minimal amount.
Whilst I think the shock factor is good, I feel that the supersize always appear to be given more support than the superskinny. The supersizers, meanwhile, are sent to America to meet someone who is extremely overweight, with the aim of showing them someone who represents a possible future, should you continue with current eating habits. This appears to be quite hard hitting, and the majority of people I watch crying by the end of it. They then enter this food swap with strong motives; of course helped by Dr Christian with the motivation factor, reminding them the importance of what they are doing. The damage that they are causing to themselves and their family are also discussed.
So what support are the superskinny individuals receiving? Well, they get to take part in the food swap. Occasionally, they will be told some of the issues they may face by not eating enough. And that’s pretty much the extent of it. No trip to visit someone who is living with the effects of severe under-eating. No hard-hitting home truths about the damage you are truly causing to yourself. Whilst I understand that obesity is a massive issue here in the UK, with rates currently quoted as 1 in three individuals being obese (apparently soon to increase to 1 in 2), this doesn’t take away the dangers of under-eating. I appreciate the insight into eating disorders each episode, but I can’t help remembering that the superskinny isn’t involved in that part, and that it is just for the benefit of those at home. They do not see first-hand the difficulties of being so underweight. Here are just a few.
Your immune system doesn’t work as well as it should if you are underweight. On the one hand, this could just mean you get colds etc more often. However, it also means that you are more at risk of developing infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
This is also known as brittle bones, where there is a loss of bone density. This makes your bones more prone to breaking, and being underweight can increase your risk of this.
In men, both sperm quality and count can be seriously damaged through low weight. In women, it increases your risk of pregnancy issues, and can even prevent you getting pregnant in the first place, by disrupting your hormone levels and menstruation.
Whilst there is significantly more issues than mentioned here, very rarely are they discussed frankly and openly with the superskinny. Shock factor can work both ways. I’m sure telling girls that they are risking their fertility would encourage them to try and gain weight. Yet there is little of this used to help the superskinny in the programme.
Finally, I’m a big believer that the results reflect the intervention. The fact that the supersize always manage to lose drastic amounts of weight (which I am not always sure are healthy amounts given the time frame) and the superskinny lose minimal amounts of weight, are a clear indicator of the different intensities of intervention that they receive. If the programme is wanting to help both individuals achieve a healthier lifestyle, then they should both receive similar amounts of support. Results speak for themselves; the most recent supersize lost a whopping 1 stone 7 pounds. The superskinny? Well, he managed to gain two pounds. A new menu is not enough. They need the support to help build the willpower to implement it fully.