Reality Makeover Shows Make People Feel Bad About Weight Loss, Says Lecturer

Secret Eaters, The Biggest Loser - millions of us tune in to watch these addictive reality TV makeover shows.

But a university lecturer is asking people to switch off shows which over-emphasise the issue of weight and promote the idea that obesity is a lifestyle crime.

Makeover programmes also pile stress on to people who do not fit the supermodel shape, according to Dr Jayne Raisborough, principal lecturer in the School of Applied Social Science at the University of Brighton.

Describing the programmes as "sinister", Ms Raisborough echoed complaints that the media's obsession with appearance was promoting "fatism" and was increasing pressure on people who are not seen as skinny.

Contestants from the Channel 4 show Secret Eaters

Speaking at the second Annual International Weight Conference at the University of Kent in Canterbury, she also said it was vital people ask critical questions about the role this type of television plays in circulating prejudicial ideas about weight and health.

She went on: "When it comes to the analysis of weight, reality TV, including the makeover, is very important because of its sheer ubiquity.

"This means that the makeover shows are where obesity and issues of weight and health are being over-represented and are hyper-visible.This is trash TV; it is the television that nobody admits to watching but clearly people do."

Ms Raisborough claimed makeover shows slot people into pigeonholes of how they should look.

She said: "This orientation is most clear in the before and after, where you see very explicit visualisations of the abject; in other words, from obesity to thinness.

"It's not just before and after, it is about the journey of transformation. This is where the instruction lies.

"It offers more than just a story of fat becoming thin, it shows how cultural attitudes towards weight are being formed and sustained."

The lecturer also suggested the manner in which negative "before" images are shown only served to reinforce stigmas about weight gain and obesity compared with the "after" images of sporty and slender people.