Supersize vs Superskinny – what did you think of it?

by Lynn Connolly

Dr Christian Jessen and Anna Richardson returned last night for a second run of the diet magazine show which tackles the nation’s relationship with food. This series is to investigate eating disorders, morbid obesity, extreme diet regimes and body dysmorphia.

Last night we met Gillian and Philippa who are both nurses with weight problems.

Gillian is superskinny and at 5ft 3in, she should weigh 8½ stone but she was 2 stone underweight. She was so thin that her bones poked through her skin and her legs looked like matchsticks. Gillian hadn’t had any periods for 18 months, she’d had dangerously low potassium levels and she was always cold.

Her daily diet consisted of drinking diet coke all day and having a child sized meal at night which amounted to about 350 calories a day. The average woman needs around 1500 – 2000 calories a day so her intake was severely deficient. At the start of the show, her BMI – body mass index – was 17; a normal level is 20 to 25.

The supersizer was Philippa who weighed in at 26 stone. She was 16½ stone overweight and had a BMI of a whopping 61. Philippa’s food intake daily was massive and came in at around 3750 calories per day.

So, after the positively edible Dr Christian had talked the pair through the health risks of their diametrically opposed weights, they swapped diets for 5 days which meant Philippa had just glasses of diet coke for breakfast and half a sandwich for lunch while Gillian had to face mammoth quantities of bacon, eggs, chilli, burgers and fries.

I really thought Gillian was anorexic although it wasn’t mentioned. The way she looked at the food and gagged while trying to eat it had the hallmarks of anorexia but nonetheless, she was determined to alter her unhealthy relationship with food.

Conversely, Philippa struggled with hunger as she coped on just 350 calories a day which amounted to around a tenth of her normal intake. However, just as she was starting to feel quite sorry for herself, Christian took her to meet Lisa who was so morbidly obese, she was about to undergo weight-loss surgery. She had all the health issues associated with being massively overweight and would be facing death unless she changed her eating habits.

In fact, Philippa herself also had health problems because of her weight. She had sleep apnoea – caused by the sheer weight of the excess fat that was pressing her respiratory tract as she lay down – as well as swollen and aching joints, again because of the excess weight. Meeting Lisa seemed to be the catalyst she needed to motivate her to lose the weight herself before she got to be in a similar position.

While the ladies were battling with very new diets back at the clinic, the fabulous Anna Richardson travelled to LA to investigate the US obsession with thinness and beauty. She met several men and women who’d had surgery and it seemed to be just routine there. Her main finding was that the majority of the people she met simply didn’t need the surgery, but they thought they did.

Back at home, Anna ran the Flab Fighters club which aimed to teach a group of serial – failed – dieters from Newport how they could indulge in their favourite treats and still lose weight by just increasing their physical exercise.

The fact is, although this show took a relatively radical approach in getting the two people with weight issues to swap diets briefly, it really didn’t tell us anything we don’t already know; moderation in all things, eat sensibly and exercise more.

That said, it wasn’t preachy in any way and Anna’s good humour and lively persona added greatly to the show’s value. Christian’s calm, gentle and non-judgmental bedside manner also gave the show a different tack. Whereas someone like Gillian McKeith would’ve been highly critical and quite insulting about Philippa’s diet for instance, Christian wasn’t because he knew that she already knew she wasn’t eating properly.

So was it worth watching? Yes and no… it was interesting to see how much weight Philippa lost and how much Gillian gained but other than that, there was nothing really new here so I can’t see how future episodes can be much different from this one.

It’ll be the same thing; an under-weight person and an overweight person… so I don’t think I’d feel the urge to watch it again on balance.

What did you think of it?

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.