Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Does it pay to be greedy?

I love travelling and for me the perfect job would be writing about far flung destinations in all corners of the globe from Antarctica to Africa. Getting paid to do such things may be a few years off and so I would settle for just going to these places. I’m not alone in these desires either as the TV schedule will testify, there are literally hundreds of travel programs on the multitude of satellite channels.

One of the easiest ways to get to visit these amazing places nowadays seems to be to volunteer yourself for a reality TV show. Of those programs the ‘eat yourself to the brink of death’ type seems to be increasingly popular. We, as a nation are dangerously overweight and are fascinated by the weight loss process or possibly just the sight of greedy/lazy (delete as appropriate) people flopping around the Australian outback or the African bush in the deluded hope of losing weight but also changing their life for good by seeing how others live.

These people range from the common and garden variety obese right through morbidly obese and up to Mr. Creosote obese. Two such programs I have watched lately are ‘Can fat teens hunt?’ and ‘Fat men can’t hunt’, both BBC programs where these walking lard balls go to Borneo and Namibia respectively. They live with the indigenous peoples of these places and live their lives and hopefully lose some weight in the process. I watched with envy at the extraordinary things these people got to do, the very private lives of the natives they got to interact with and I thought all because the ladies (and men) loved milk tray (and a whole host of other artery clogging foods). I really do have a dilemma. Do I want to be in their rather large shoes? In these incredible places with a severely strained heart or at home with a healthy heart complaining about it?

I really do feel a sense of injustice in all this, I mean it’s not as if these people have had their medical conditions thrust upon them, they have actively gone about getting into their current state. I don’t put an unnecessary strain on the NHS, I don’t eat myself into a bed ridden state and what do you get for it, a pat on the back? I am not suggesting for a minute that people should be rewarded for being healthy but I am saying that we shouldn’t reward people for becoming overweight and then trying to get back to a healthy size, losing weight should be its own reward.

What we should give them are congratulations, education and encouragement but why do they get to experience once in a lifetime things?

But the question is are they losing weight for themselves or is it just to get at these opportunities? If the latter is true then what motivation will they have when they return to their normal lives?

I would sacrifice many things to be able to have similar opportunities but endangering my life isn’t one of them. In some respects these people are lucky, however they don't seem to realise they are making thousands of us viewers envious, they moan and complain about everything they can, from insects and sleeping arrangements to the most obvious target, the food.

A recent program on channel 4 highlighted a case in America. A country which seems to still be the world’s fat capital although I’m sure we are catching up. '40 ton Mum' followed the story of Rene Williams, a 29 year old who weighed 64 stone. She was from Austin, Texas and had 2 children and from what I can gather she has always been over weight. She was turned away from 12 hospitals for a stomach stapling operation because she was too overweight! When she was 18 she was diagnosed as being super-morbidly obese and at one point claimed that she wanted her life back, as if it had been wrongly taken away from her. I may seem harsh on her but her arrogance is unbelievable, it really sounds as if she blames everyone but herself. Rene did find a surgeon willing to operate but the risks were great and she died during recovery. It may be wrong to speak ill of the dead but the facts remain, she complained that she had to watch all her kids school events second hand on TV but I have to point out that it was her own fault she was bed ridden for 4 years.

Family members and friends really knew who was to blame even if Rene was in denial as they told the documentary team "There was nothing she wouldn’t eat" and "She liked the snack foods".

At the time there were 2 million people in the USA waiting for operations of the same kind, according to the program.

Rene Williams died 3 days after her daughters 13th birthday and her coffin had to be winched into the ground. The news of Rene’s death led to many other super-hyper-critically-obese people asking to be cut out of their houses in the hope of having life saving surgery, which is a positive thing.

One final question I would ask is that how can a woman who has been bed ridden for 4 years continue eating, she must have co-conspirators supplying a steady chain of food. I would imagine it must not take much food to maintain this weight as she obviously did little if no exercise but surely her ‘caring’ friends and family could have done more.

I know that these super sized reality stars are a small minority of over weight people but there are enough to make programs to fill schedules.

And It isn’t only overweight people who get ‘rewarded’ with these fantastic trips; asbo kids get similar treatment but that is a different story.

So does it pay to be ‘normal’, to not eat yourself into a position where you can’t get a job, to not terrify members of the public, happy slapping people or playing loud music as and when you feel with no regard for anybody else? Apparently it doesn’t. Where is the reward for obeying the rules or for being a good citizen, for looking after your body?

There is no reward apart from having a healthy heart and a clear conscience.

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