Morning Television: Part One

I started out with the idea of blogging about one particular thing, but when I went looking for clips of that one thing, I found something else that I hadn’t seen.  So this will be a two-part post.

Part One: Georgia Davis

From the video description: Georgia Davis weighs 33 stone [462 lbs] and is only 15.  She talks to Kate about her weight battle.  (Disclaimer: I’m not sure if everyone will be able to access the video.  I know some television websites will only allow IPs from the same country access the videos on their site, and I just don’t know whether GMTV is one of them.  So my apologies if that ends up being the case here.)

GMTV is on ITV from around 6 or so until just before 9 a.m. out here in the UK.  It’s the British equivalent of a Good Morning America, basically.  I don’t normally watch it.  For one thing, I’m too busy in the mornings to watch tv at all, but if it’s on, the kids have their cartoons and whatnot on.  So I didn’t actually see this until I went to the website looking for something else.  As soon as I saw the title, though, I knew I had to watch it.

What I saw filled me with so many mixed emotions I can’t even count them all.

First of all, it opens up with the female presenter talking about a “normal” person’s breakfast.  And then it pans to a spread of food.  6 sandwiches, 4 donuts, at least a dozen chocolate digestives, a slice of chocolate cake, a bowl of what looks like tortilla chips, and finally, a bowl of what looks like bran flakes.  The female presenter then goes on to inform you that all of this is what Miss Davis has for breakfast.

Setting the issue of Binge Eating Disorder aside for just a moment, what is the point of showing it all spread out like that?  Asking Miss Davis on camera what she normally has for breakfast would have sufficed.  The only reason I can think of that they would do it this way is to humiliate Miss Davis.  Not only is she coming on camera to talk about what is probably the foremost issue in her life at the moment, but hey, let’s humiliate her a little bit more, right?  She’s a fatty fatty two by four – she couldn’t possibly have any feelings, now could she?

Once the camera finally pans away from the food spread, the presenter continues introducing Miss Davis, saying “she admits that she uses food like a drug.”

Okay, that line bothers me.  I forget where I read this, but I admit it doesn’t come from me, originally: FOOD IS NOT A DRUG.  Equating food with drugs is like saying that food is something you need to completely cut out of your life because it’s doing you nothing but harm.

Take a closer look at those words.  Completely cut out, and it’s doing you nothing but harm.  What happens when you actually believe that food has no positive value whatsoever and you have to completely cut it out of your life?

Anyone?

Anyone?

Bueller?

You DIE, that’s what happens.

Now I’m not trying to say that nobody, nowhere, has an unhealthy relationship with food.  I’m not making a judgement on eating disorders or disordered eating at all.  It’s the language that bothers me.  To quote George Carlin: the quality of our thoughts are only as good as the quality of our language.  That’s why that line bothers me.  Not because of someone who already has an eating disorder, but for those who might be easily swayed by someone else’s language.  Like teenagers, for instance.  How many teenagers do you think would watch a video clip like this and automatically think to themselves “Must. Stop Eating. NOW.??  I honestly think the numbers would be frightening.

Then it goes on to show some photos with Miss Davis explaining what they are and how she got to this point.  She says that her father died when she was 5, and ever since then, she used food to fill the void that left her with.

I’m not going to knock the “using food” part.  Comfort eating exists, and for some people it is a problem.  That is a fact, for some people, regardless of their weight.  But what struck me was the photo of herself with her father.

She was already fat!!!!

This girl didn’t just eat herself into oblivion, she was already well on her way to being fat.  And from what I saw in that photo?  Unless they were force-feeding her pounds of lard, there’s something seriously medically wrong.  Thyroid tests, anyone?  ANY-FUCKING-ONE???

But oh no, this is all HER fault, right?  Her life went down the shithole at five years old, and it’s all her own fault that she’s fat now.  It couldn’t possibly be something that is totally beyond her control, simply exacerbated by an eating disorder?  Could it?

But they never even talk about that part.  The way they talk about this, it’s as if she was thin as a rail until she started doing this to herself.  To be fair, they never used the words “doing this to herself,” but that’s the meaning behind the language they DO use.  But they never even bring up the fact that in some of these photos, she’s obviously younger than 5 years old, and yet she’s already fat.  They never talk about her medical history whatsoever, other than the fact that her doctor told her she had to lose at least 20 stone (140 lbs.).

Oh, and another thing: her father?  Fat.

She goes on to talk in a pre-recorded segment about her eating patterns, and another woman appears on camera – they never explicitly say who she is, but I would guess that it’s her grandmother.  She talks about how they used to go on walks together but they can’t anymore, as Miss Davis can only walk a few feet before she’s out of breath.  But guess what: Grandma?  Is fat, too!

Then they show Miss Davis in front of her school, and she tells the camera that she was BANNED from the canteen at school because she was “eating the wrong things.”  I can just see the conversation now.

Head Teacher: Mrs. Davis, your daughter is too fat for our liking, and we’ve noticed she eats the “wrong” things, so we’ve decided she’s not allowed to eat at school at all.

Now, assuming that this is all 100% accurate and not this young girl’s self-hate blowing her eating habits all out of proportion (because that does happen), is going all the way to the other extreme really the way to go here?  Is this really the solution?  To completely deprive her of ALL food at school?

Then they finally go back to the studio, and they give you your first good glimpse of the girl and her mother.  And hey – wouldn’t you know it?  Mom’s fat, too!

So, let’s see…. Dad was fat… Grandma is fat… Mom’s fat… and yet we are still told that Miss Davis has done this all to herself?  We’re still meant to believe that her “misuse” of food is the ONLY reason she’s gotten to this point?  Seriously?

Am I the only person with eyes?  Are my glasses REALLY that good?

Oh but then it gets really good.  Now it’s the mother’s fault!  “Why didn’t you do anything to stop it?” the presenter asks her.

The mother goes on to explain that after her husband died, they were on a limited income, so their food choices were limited to bread and potatoes and the like.

So EVERY PERSON who eats bread and potatoes gets to be 460+ pounds?  Really?  Wow.  I guess the whole world is hallucinating my underweight husband whose favorite foods happen to be bread and potatoes.

“Was there a point where you said ‘okay, she’s TOO overweight now,’ and tried to make some changes in her diet?”

Like any mother who watches her child gain THIS much weight would just sit back and do nothing.  I mean seriously, folks, regardless of the outcome of the situation, it’s safe to assume that the mother did try.  But, contrary to popular brainwashing, weight is NOT a simple calories in/calories out equation.  If I were the one asking the questions?  It would be something along the lines of:

What did you do when you realized how far this was going?  And what was the outcome of that?

Apparently the girl is traveling to the U.S. to enroll in some sort of fat camp-cum-boarding school.  In theory, this sounds great.  She’ll be able to keep up with her schoolwork, she’ll get counseling (and if the death of her father seriously brought on B.E.D?  Counseling can’t be anything BUT a good thing), and she’ll learn about “healthy” eating and exercise.

I just wonder what it’s going to be like in reality.  I’ve seen some American “fat camps” on television, and they’re far from ideal.  The kids end up coming out of there worse off psychologically than they were when they went in.  They are beaten down in an effort to “help” them.  You know the kind of thing I’m talking about – telling these kids that their entire lives are already ruined simply because they happen to be fat.  That excess adipose tissue is the worst thing that could ever happen to them.  That they are worthless, unworthy of anything or anyone simply because of the number on the scale.

I really hope that doesn’t happen to her.

Here is a girl who needs medical attention – because she couldn’t have gotten that fat at 3, 4, and 5 years of age without there being something medically wrong as well.  But all anybody has said is that it is her own fault for “using food as a drug” and her mother’s fault for “not stopping it.”  Nobody nowhere has even brought up the possibility of there being a medical issue ON TOP OF her probable Binge Eating Disorder.

Oh yeah, but shaming fatties into thinness has had SUCH a positive effect so far, hasn’t it?

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8 Responses

  1. Just reading this is absolutely horrifying to me, I don’t know if I could stand to watch the actual video clip (so as of yet, no clicking for me). Fat-shaming is, of course, nothing new to neither the UK nor the US, but this, this sounds Dr. Phil-worthy (and sorry to those of you who like that man, but it’s not a compliment).

    To do this to a young girl, who already probably feels bad about herself is disgusting. Even worse, she’s pretty much being used as a figure to scare other UK children, telling them that they will end up like her if they don’t “fix” their eating habits.

  2. FYI, the videos are not regionally locked (I’m in Canada and can access them, which is more than I can say about the BBC and several American channels’ online videos).

  3. Until society can get it through their thick skulls that calories in/calories out has absolutely no meaning at all when it comes to how much someone weighs, shaming of fat people will continue. Because obviously, that thin person that devours the world on a daily basis and stays thin is virtuous beyond all belief and that fat person who restricts and restricts and stays fat is a lying sack of crap. It’s been scienterifically proved, dontchaknow.

  4. And I agree with you, re. the triple play of genetics + binge eating + medical issue. She probably never will be thin no matter what (that’s the genetics part — like you said, both her parents and her grandmother are fat)… But you’re right that it’s mindboggling (or maybe not so much, considering anti-weight paranoia) that the focus is put on her weight instead of her eating disorder and (like you said) the fact that even at 4 or 5 she was a fat kid.

    I wish I could give this girl a hug…

  5. Remember, television shows about complex human issues are always oversimplified for the gelatinous brain portion of the audience who uses sponsor products. Of course that there’s a variety of reasons that work together to cause someone have an issue with food, or an adiction, or any other issue for that matter. If they really wanted a complete, truthful, and revealing show, they’d have to extend the show to several hours and call a therapist, an internist, and a lab technician for the bloodwork. They’d rather go for door #2, the easy and dumbed down way that gets resolved in 1/2 hour or thereabouts (plus commercials).

  6. Oh wow, that was horrifying. O_O I want to give the poor girl a hug. And some information.

  7. Someday, maybe there’ll be a segment like this that really wants to help a person with a medical problem get the treatment they deserve, rather than just exploiting the “OMG! TEH FATZ!!!1!11” angle.

  8. My theory is that like numerous 400lb+ people before her, Miss Davies is being shamelessly exploited as part of the collective media effort to exaggerate the degree of this so-called ‘obesity epidemic’. Producers and presenters seem to put these highly visible – yet statistically unrepresentative – folk before the cameras in an attempt to convince the public that 33st (rather than the 15 or 16 that qualify most folk as ‘obese’) is the true face of this supposedly ticking timebomb. And the emphasis being placed on her youth will inevitably provoke a flurry of moral indignation on the Daily Mail’s comments forums too (‘won’t someone please think of the children!’) as well as unleashing condemnation against her ‘irresponsible’ mom.

    I sincerely hope this girl gets the help she needs to come to terms with her loss and other unresolved issues, though something tells me she won’t find that in the competitive, regimented, weight-focused environment of a fat camp. The increasing prevalence of segments such as this, and (more pertinently) their frustrating refusal to cover the issues in any sort of breadth or depth, are one of the main reasons I watch very little TV and haven’t bothered with GMTV in more years than I can remember.

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