Bear­ing up un­der a moun­tain of prej­u­dice

Fat Chance 7.30pm, SBS

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

RE­MEM­BER the play­ground rhyme, ‘‘ fatty and skinny went to bed/ fatty rolled over and skinny was dead’’? An over­weight friend of mine swears there are mo­ments when he feels like do­ing that to those he calls the skinny fas­cists. The thin peo­ple who tell him he’s fat, as if it’s break­ing news.

‘‘ No kid­ding! Re­ally?’’ he’s tempted to re­ply, act­ing thun­der­struck. ‘‘ Gee, I’ve never no­ticed I’ve got a gut like Humphrey Bear. Damn those ba­nana muffins Joyce in ac­counts keeps bring­ing in.’’

What’s worse is that th­ese ea­gleeyed ob­servers seem to know with al­most re­li­gious- like con­vic­tion what’s mak­ing him fat.

Too many fatty foods. Or car­bo­hy­drates. He must be de­vour­ing su­per- sized meals. Or pol­ish­ing off half a cheese­cake ev­ery night. He must have fat par­ents. Or fat friends who share his love of glut­tony. He must be greedy. Or just damn lazy.

Obe­sity is a hideously com­pli­cated phe­nom­e­non, one whose cause and ef­fect even med­i­cal ex­perts and nutri­tion­ists can’t agree on. The most con­sis­tent rem­edy they serve up is to re­duce kilo­joule in­take and in­crease ex­er­cise, but if it were only that sim­ple. If weight con­trol were a movie, for ex­am­ple, we’d still be in the silent film era. Safe ef­fec­tive drugs to re­duce weight are still in their in­fancy. Forty years of diet books — and bil­lions of dol­lars in re­search and de­vel­op­ment later — and more than 90 per cent of di­eters fail to keep the weight off in the long term.

It takes a fat per­son to re­ally un­der­stand the truth be­hind that grim statis­tic, to know what it’s like to carry about ex­tra weight ev­ery day of your life, to be the tar­get of jokes and pa­tro­n­is­ing com­ments.

Yuka Sekiguchi, a Syd­ney- based sin­gle mother who is both the sub­ject and di­rec­tor of tonight’s doc­u­men­tary, knows that prej­u­dice well.

She has been over­weight since she was a tod­dler in Ja­pan, fat­tened up like a calf by her dad, who was con­vinced that Amer­ica won the war be­cause of its junk food diet.

On the eve of her 50th birth­day, Sekiguchi is de­ter­mined to get down to a healthy weight range, which at her height of 160cm means drop­ping from 93kg to 57kg. She con­sults a di­eti­tian, a li­po­suc­tion sur­geon ( who she has the hots for) and a psy­chi­a­trist. But it’s when Sekiguchi vis­its Yvonne Allen, founder of the leg­endary epony­mous in­tro­duc­tion agency, that you re­alise what she is up against.

‘‘ For ev­ery Ms Hippo, there is prob­a­bly a Mr Hippo out there some­where,’’ Allen says re­as­sur­ingly, af­ter in­ti­mat­ing that Yuka’s chances of find­ing a mate are up there with cloning the dodo. Mer­ci­fully, the ev­ersmil­ing Sekiguchi — and her pro­gram — rise above such tact­less­ness.

Greg Cal­laghan

Grim sta­tis­tics: Yuka Sekiguchi bat­tles her weight and a tact­less world

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