Fat Teens

It’s pretty much limited to reruns on the Style Network now, but when it was on ABC, one of my favorite shows to watch was Extreme Makeover. The show was hardcore; when they said “extreme” they meant it. From nose jobs to liposuction and body “resculpting” to butt implants, boob implants, tooth veneers and LASIK, they will turn your “ugly” into an artificially constructed version of what society deems attractive. For the fat participants on the show, an extreme weight loss plan was constructed that the participants had to complete to qualify for the plastic surgery procedures they so desperately needed. Besides the whole “carrot and stick” factor to the weight loss programs, they didn’t particularly revolutionize the participant’s eating and exercise habits for the long term, and if they didn’t lose all the fat they were required to, they’d pretty much just liposuck that away.

They never followed up with the formerly fat participants to see if they’d been able to maintain the weight lost both through diet and through surgery. Of course you would hope that after an ordeal like that, they would be able to sustain the results. Sadly, the odds are stacked against them. On another makeover show the Style Network plays over and over (I think it’s Dr. 90210, but I can’t find a link), I saw a story about a 16-year-old girl who lost 80 lbs. solely through a tummy tuck and liposuction, then mentored a much larger 13-year-old girl through the same procedure by the same doctor (however, she was unable to get the surgery due to “noncompliance” with losing 10 lbs beforehand). Flash forward a year or so later, and the 16 year old girl had gained the weight back. Clearly, plastic surgery doesn’t circumvent the fact that diets don’t work—apparently having the fat “magically” removed from your body doesn’t work either.

Let’s think about what it means to live in a society where teenage girls are given the OK by both parents and surgeons to have drastic, expensive procedures done to live up to an impossible beauty standard. If we’re going to talk about an obesity epidemic among young people, we have to discuss the epidemic of media bombardment with images of celebrities, male and female, with bodies that the majority of the population can never hope to attain, but are programmed to berate themselves and others for not attaining said body. And when doctors get in on the act, well, bad things happen. Things like doctors removing 80 lbs of fat from 16-year-old kids only for them to gain it back and start hating themselves again, and spurring said doctors once again to urge them to lose weight for their health.

Sometimes it’s all too much.