Generation XXL

This was on SBS last night.

The second film in Channel 4’s landmark documentary series focuses on the younger children in the group of seven overweight youngsters on their journey towards adulthood, to find out what it really feels like to be growing up fat.

Generation XXL is a chance for the nation’s obese children, some of them as young as six years old, to reveal what life looks like through their eyes as they begin to realise that the food they eat can affect the size of their bodies.

London-based seven-year-old Libby is a notoriously fussy eater: she won’t eat anything but calorie-laden carbs and constantly battles with her single working mum over the issue of food.

Seven-year-old Lucas scavenges food from his extended family, who all live on the same street in Bradford, and Kelsie, who’s also seven, comes from a family of big girls.

The youngest child in the series is six-year-old Bethany, whose mum believes that healthy eating in schools has gone too far.

Filming over the coming years and documenting their often candid, inspiring and amusing observations, and daily routines and worries, Generation XXL aims to discover how obesity will affect these children as they grow up. Will their weight drop off with puberty, as some of their parents hope, or will they always struggle with their size?

I missed the first one. Did anyone see it?

I spent a lot of time eye-rolling. The male voice over seemed determined to say that these children being overweight was only due to food. However, it did get better. The kids went to a University where they were weighed and measured and their BMI worked out (eyeroll) but they were also scanned and their amount of body fat relative to their lean muscle mass calculated. That was interesting and certainly an eye opener for the parents. I’m pretty sure the kids weren’t in the room when the fat percentages were discussed so there wasn’t fat shaming there. Lucas’ fat to muscle ratio showed that he was quite active. (edited M)  They also got the kids to run on a treadmill, which seemed to me to be more about showing the parents what the kids were actually capable of rather than anything else. They said many parents were surprised at how much exercise their children could actually undertake.

At the end they revisited the children a couple of months later. Lucas had lost some weight, about one size in clothing, and was doing more organised activity outside school and taking a packed lunch to school so that his Mum had more portion control. He had been filmed eating seconds and considering thirds of custard and dumplings at school for lunch and although not said aloud, there was the very strong implication of “this is why he’s fat”.  Libby had started classes with her Mum learning about cooking eating different food and now eats a much more varied diet. The other good thing was that she had reconnected with her Dad who was teaching her to swim so not only did she get to spend time with him, she was also more active.  Kelsie was also undertaking a lot more organised activity. So for these kids it became more about being active and healthy at any weight, while also eating a varied diet which I thought was good.

Bethany, the six year old was a little bit different. Her Mum didn’t see her being overweight as a problem at all, and seemed to think that the school’s push for healthy lunches was a bad move. I couldn’t work out her motivation. She said as a child she and her siblings ate lots of chips etc and never got fat so she couldn’t see why it was a problem for her children. She also said she preferred her daughter to be overweight because it made her cuddly and she thought it looked healthy. Her parents also expected her to lose a lot of her weight as she got older, which she may well do. Her Mum said she did try cooking different foods, but Bethany wanted to eat her old diet so it was easier to just give in. Although she didn’t put it in words, I think Bethany’s Mum thought that Bethany should be able to eat intuitively. I can’t recall but I don’t think Bethany’s activity levels increased. The one of the doctors on the program did state clearly that lack of activity was a bigger problem than simply being overweight.


Categories: Culture, education, health, Life, media, parenting, Science, work and family

5 replies

  1. I didn’t see this, but I’d be interested in seeking it out.
    It always amazes me that the human system is seen as a black box – that calories in and calories out are the only thing that matter, as if there were no active systems in the middle. Do these people really think that every person extracts exactly the same amount of calories (and everything else) from the same food stuffs?
    I can somewhat understand the 6yr old’s mother – certainly the obsession with healthy food at our school bugs me. We provide one hot lunch a term (no canteen) and parents complain if there is any “unhealthy” component. 4 times a year. I can see how a parent might start to have a knee-jerk reaction in the other direction.

  2. It was interesting to see Lucas who has a cousin who is part of the extended family that Lucas allegedly scavenges from. His cousin is slightly younger I think and slender. He and Lucas run around a lot together and pretty much eat the same meals. They showed Grandpa making dinner for the kids one night, and it was a potato and sausage based dish with white sauce and most of a packet of sliced cheese melted on top so probably fairly high fat level. Lucas and the cousin both had large serves. Lucas is overweight, cousin is slender. So there has to be something more.
    The Mum upset about the healthy food at the school canteen was really angry about it. They never quite explored why, beyond that she thought kids should be able to eat what they want. I wanted to know why she felt that way, but it’s probably not really relevant to the program. Maybe she felt that it was the school stepping on parental rights or something.

  3. When you say Lucas had a “good” fat to muscle ratio, I assume you mean a relatively high ratio. Is this a slip? Because I’ll agree that muscle is good (not in the moral obligation way) but I am not so wild about the idea that fat is bad.

  4. Thanks for picking that up meerkat, post edited.

  5. I thought Bethany’s mum was particularly tragic. She obviously has no understanding at all of the harm she is doing her child, some of her comments indicated she had no idea about parenting generally, preferring to give her what she wants rather than be the grown up and make positive decisions.
    The other show that fascinates me is the one where adults who, in one case, eat nothing but chips and are phobic about fruit and veg try to change.
    Again, parents have allowed these people to develop unhealthy eating to give themselves an easy life. Kids will use whatever power they have and food is one way to control parents. We need to address the problem of poor parenting, its not just a dietary thing.

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