I have been dreading tonight because it was the first episode in the new series of Supersize v Superskinny on Channel 4 (UK). This is a documentary presented by Dr Christian Jessen in which two people battling different eating disorders swap diets for 5 days in an attempt to change the way in which they view food and eating.
I have a LOT of issues with this whole programme. Firstly, Dr Christian calls the place where the two participants in the episode stay for the duration of filming "The Feeding Clinic" - this is actually just a television studio.
I also know for a fact that a lot of people find the footage to be triggering and a painful reminder about the past. I had a disagreement with Dr Christian about this over Twitter. He said "You choose to watch it dont you...?" and I said "Yes of course we do because we hope you will bring encouragement and hope and offer helpful advice to other sufferers...but none of these boxes are ticked"
Both the participants (one is a chronic under eater displaying traits of Anorexia, the other is a chronic over eater with a diagnosis of morbid obesity) have to swap diets for five days. This is simply unbearable to watch. Giving an anorexic sufferer an enormous plate of food swamps them with fear and anxiety on a level that most people can't comprehend. A friend of mine told me that for her it would be like being told to eat a plate of snakes. I feel the diet swap is an aggressive and overwhelming kind of therapy, which is damaging and destructive to the viewers and participants.
What infuriates me more than anything is that it seems that Dr Christian portrays Eating Disorders as Lifestyle Choices... these people have not chosen to become like this. Eating disorders are biologically-based, brain disorders with severe neurological and psychological consequences - it is a case of brain wiring gone wrong and an individual will have had a pre-disposition to the development of an eating disorder in order to lapse into an eating disorder. The sufferer, boys and girls, do not make a choice to become anorexic or bulimic; the path of 'disordered eating' often if not always, if left unrecognized or treated, leads to a full-blown eating disorder.
I feel this programme exploits very vulnerable people. It is unnecessary and unfair to ask the subjects of this programme to parade in underwear for the whole nation to see. It is simply 'entertainment' in the guise of education. It is unethical to gawp at people with eating disorders.
They are NOT choices - would you choose to have cancer? Would you choose to have schizophrenia? NO! In the same way that you dont choose an eating disorder.
YES - it is brilliant that people are becoming more "aware" of eating disorders and more people are seeking help - but if the information out there is actually WRONG, unhelpful and triggering, what part of the awareness is actually beneficial? This horrendous article was published last week in Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
There is too much destructive, triggering information presented in this documentary. Too much focus on calories, weight and not enough helpful advice for the viewers - many of whom may also be suffering. The real advice, the real help and the facts can be found here: F.E.A.S.T