Auchinleck in Ayrshire where ‘Shedding the Fat’ was filmed
In their recent ‘documentary’, ‘Shedding the fat’, BBC Scotland concealed recent encouraging trends in obesity and created a scare story based on the conflation of statistics about overall obesity (BMI >30) with images of people with morbid or super obesity (BMI >40). All of those featured were morbidly or super obese.
Against the background filming of these people, struggling physically and often sobbing, we heard that ‘12 million in the UK are now obese’ and that ‘29% of people have so much fat it’s a danger to their lives.’ Given that these facts were spoken against the filmed background of only those with morbid or super obesity, there was a clear danger of equating those statistics with the images of morbid and super obesity, but morbid obesity is actually far less common than the 29% referred to.
According to recent research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: ‘It is predicted that 11 per cent of the population in Wales will be morbidly obese in 2035, roughly 340,000 adults, while Scotland is likely to plateau at about 5 per cent and England will rise to about 8 per cent.’
5% is a very much smaller figure than 29%. It was clearly important to inform the viewer that they were watching people suffering from morbid and super obesity and to inform them what the figure is for that group.
Presumably, super obesity is even less common than morbid obesity, yet we heard the 29% figure as a clearly morbid or even super obese woman appeared in the local hospital. This is a major distortion of the facts which can only have confused and concerned the viewers.
Not only did the programme distort reality but, also unforgivably, it lingered morbidly, titillating the viewer, with close-up images of extremely vulnerable people as they struggled to walk or as they sobbed desperately, feeling trapped in their awful circumstances – ‘we want to live!’. These people are seriously unwell, not circus acts. One has to wonder why they agreed to such invasive filming. Did they receive financial inducements? Were they persuaded that the programme would improve services by drawing attention to the limited resources available?
Finally, this production is only the latest in a series of inaccurate reports on obesity in Scotland. See: