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My review of "Around the World in 80 Weighs" - I believed this type of disheartening and misguided television was no longer prevalent.
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My review of “Around the World in 80 Weighs” – I believed this type of disheartening and misguided television was no longer prevalent.


In theory, throughout the numerous meetings that result in the creation of television concepts, a show centered around how different cultures consume and perceive food would have substantial material to work with. However, the title “Around the World in 80 Weighs” suggests that this documentary is not that kind of program. It’s a disappointment, considering that the era of weight-loss television seemed to be in the past. After years of shows about dietary restrictions, bodily functions, and cosmetic procedures, it appeared that this type of programming was no longer prevalent.

However, it has returned once more, altered but not entirely hidden. Six individuals, described as “larger than life” by the show, embark on a 30,000-mile journey across four continents to complete a “fact-finding mission”. The objective is for them to discover the role of food in the daily routines of individuals raised in countries with varying perceptions of body image and hunger, in comparison to the norms of UK culture.

In the first episode, the six tourists travel to Japan, a country with a 4% obesity rate, in contrast to Britain’s 25%. (In the following week, they visit Tonga, where it is revealed that 93% of adults are considered overweight.) In Japan, they are joined by food enthusiast YouTubers, Mr and Mrs Eats, as they experience a more traditional Japanese eating style: smaller portions, using chopsticks to eat at a slower pace, and consuming 400 fewer calories per day compared to the average British person. The show also delves into cultural differences such as mandatory exercise and waist measurements in the workplace, which surprisingly receives positive reactions from the British tourists. However, it is likely that this would not be as well-received if it was a legal requirement rather than a unique cultural practice.

It should be pointed out that the six people taking part in this round-the-world trip seem lovely and open and eager, if not desperate, for something in their lives to change. They share their deepest vulnerabilities, to the camera and to each other. The tales they tell about why they are so unhappy with their bodies are tough and should illustrate the complexities of the problems they face in their lives. Some, though not all, of the stories here come from grief and trauma, and anyone with an ounce of compassion should recognise that the idea of a simple solution or a quick fix for something so complicated is a myth.

The issue with the show “Around the World in 80 Weighs” is that it promotes the belief that a quick and easy solution to weight loss is just within reach, as long as it is made entertaining enough. The show poses the question, “Can the larger travelers be motivated to shed pounds?” but also perpetuates a sense of shame and self-blame. In Japan, the travelers feel self-conscious and ridiculed. They blame themselves for indulging in takeout or gaining weight in the first place, citing a lack of discipline. However, one participant, Tiffany, who is 24 years old, seems to have a different mindset. She aims to inspire others and values physical fitness, disagreeing with the notion that being overweight automatically equates to being unhealthy. It is unclear why she is part of a weight loss program, but her perspective adds a refreshing balance to the show.

I am not an expert in psychology, but I recognize that feeling ashamed is detrimental to maintaining a positive relationship with our bodies. A tourist shared her experience of being made to feel inferior because of her weight, which often leads her to seek comfort in food. Each episode concludes with a group weigh-in to track any progress from implementing new habits. This shift in focus from the individual to the group allows for a moment of shared responsibility. The narrator then asks, with enthusiasm, if the group’s efforts towards a low-calorie lifestyle have paid off.

The study of how food and nutrition affect psychology, the financial aspects of the food industry, and the societal factors contributing to obesity are all intricate matters. Similarly, the societal standards of beauty promoted to us daily also pose complex challenges. The production and distribution of unhealthy food is a highly lucrative business, and predictably, the government shows little effort in regulating it. The show “Around the World in 80 Weighs” attempts to tackle this subject with a lighthearted approach, but it is a difficult topic to address on television.

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Source: theguardian.com