A reality show BBC-style, "Fat & Fatter" has been airing on CNBC in the U.S. since March, 2012. I saw the show this evening. It covers the visit of two seriously overweight British teens to the home of a super-obese family in America's fattest state, Mississippi.
As with many shows airing in the U.S. produced abroad, it's hard to find reliable information about who really produced the show. I was able to find out it was a BBC show, and it's been airing around the world for some time, as this 2011 article from Australia shows.
"Fat & Fatter" tells the story of two young British women, Bex and Anne, who are already suffering health problems from their weight, despite both still being teens. The "shocker" is their visit to Mississippi, where they are welcomed with love and enthusiasm by 500+ pound Deloris and her sister, 350+ pound Diane. Deloris and Diane love soul food, all-you-can-eat buffets (of course), barbecue, and basically any unhealthy food they can stuff in their mouths - as long as it isn't a fresh fruit or vegetable.
Much of the commentary on this show comes from health-related weight and fitness coaches. Deloris, the larger of the two sisters, is not only life-threateningly obese with a terrible diet and obvious food addiction, she is so inactive that she has not walked to the mailbox for over 10 years, and drives the 160-yard distance to her younger sister's home.The last scene in the show is the two teens encouraging Deloris to walk the shorter distance to the mailbox.
The second-to-last scene is the one where the interaction between food sensitivities and food addiction is most obvious. Many traditional medical practitioners don't believe in food sensitivities, despite European research that shows a connection between food sensitivities, excess weight gain, tissue inflammation and insulin resistance (known to be a precurser of diabetes - which Deloris and all of her deceased relatives had). The girls had already gone to speak with another super-obese Mississippi resident whose diabetes had led to kidney failure and dialysis. The woman warned the girls to lose weight, telling them that if they did not, they would end up on dialysis, like her, or worse.
By the poor eating habits, food addiction and diabetes, it was easy for me to predict that Deloris and Diane weren't just super-size overeaters, they were in the grip of food allergies and sensitivities, and their terrible effects. "False appetite" in addition to inflammation (water retention - i.e. "puffy face," and at larger weights, puffy everything, including internal organs) was obvious in every scene. Family pictures showed that the two women weren't always so large. The British teens, Bex and Anne, were increasingly appalled by the overwhelming nature of the eating habits and health problems of their Mississippi host family.
But the food addiction/food sensitivity connection was slammed home in the episode, when Bex & Anne went shopping and prepared a healthy meal for Deloris and Diane. Deloris' facial expressions and obvious distaste at the normal, healthy food, which included lemon chicken breast, sliced tomatoes and other fresh vegetables, without fried coating, cheese sauce, etc. showed that it had been year upon year since a non-sensitivity food had passed through her lips. "It's like I'm in the hospital eating a diabetic meal," she said.
What I have to say probably won't be any help to someone weighing over 500 pounds, in such an extreme grip of the vicious cycle of food sensitivity and addiction as Deloris. It might help her sister Diane, and other friends and relatives.
One of the most common food sensitivities and allergies is dairy. It's a certainty that nearly all African-American adults are allergic/sensitive to dairy. This is different from "lactose intolerance." It is a longer-term, longer-acting allergic reaction to one, or both, of the proteins found in cow's milk (and other milks - goat milk too). Gluten is also a common sensitivity, with many different associated health problems.
One of the main ways these sensitivities, which get worse as we grow older (this is why kids can drink lots of milk with no ill effects, and few people over age 40 can), lead to weight gain, is the "false hunger" and cravings the foods cause. The only way to stop the hunger and cravings, and stop the taste for unhealthy food that is actually poisoning our bodies, up to long-term damage like diabetes and liver disease, is to cut it out: completely.
After only a few days off dairy, chances are that the healthy meal that Bex and Anne prepared would taste 100 times better to Deloris than it did. Once off the allergic/problem-causing food (and dumping dairy is hard - wheat and gluten, even harder), other foods taste much, much better. The false taste appeal of high-fat, high-sugar fried food is replaced by a more normal appetite for normal portions of proteins, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains (I'm not gluten free).
You know. The diet they say is good for us to eat.
A wise Yogi once said "Food is the most powerful drug you will ever put in your mouth." I hope that if Deloris is still around to read this, she will know that this is not her fault. There is very little education on this cause of overeating, weight gain and health devastation. Foods that many people are sensitive to, or outright allergic to, perversely are the most-appealing, causing extreme cravings, false appetite that leads to tremendous overeating, and a masking of real, healthy appetite for healthy foods and normal portions. Dairy is the most common and among the least recognized as a problem among the general population, followed closely by wheat/gluten sensitivity. These two together are probably the source of 90% of the weight gain and uncontrollable overeating of unhealthy foods out there today.
And Bex and Anne? No more Crumble Puds, Cadbury, Cream Biscuits or clotted cream.