Children's HealthMedia WatchObesity

Generation XXL – Channel 4

This is a review of the episode featuring the younger children. We have Libby, Lucas and Kelsey aged 7 and Bethany aged 6. Anyone who watched the programme cannot help but be distressed at seeing children look like these youngsters. Under 10’s should be running round with dirt on their knees and runny noses – these under 10’s were effectively spending every day carrying a heavy rucksack – as an analogy for the unnecessary weight they were carrying.

LIBBY (7),  from London, was 3 stone overweight and she loved pasta, pizza and dinosaurs (the edible ones). Her mum was called Tracey. Libby did not eat veg/meat/fruit/salad/eggs. When Libby went to the University of Liverpool for a body analysis, it was revealed that she weighed 54.2kg – that’s a 7 year old weighing nearly 10lbs more than me! Libby had a BMI of 34.5 (obese at 7, half way to morbidly obese) and a body fat percentage of 52%. Fascinatingly, one of the experiments done at the University was a body image question. The children were shown shapes of children ranging from anorexic to morbidly obese and asked to pick the shape they would like to be. Libby chose the most anorexic shape.

LUCAS (7), from Bradford, was the most active of the group by a long way. He almost single handedly demonstrated that exercise won’t make you the right weight. Lucas was as active as his skinny friend. His mum, Keely, blamed steroids that he had taken when he was younger and there may well be some validity with this. However, Lucas had a very sweet tooth and was rarely seen without sweets, so that’s another likely suspect. Lucas weighed 51.2kg and had a body fat of 38% – much lower than Libby’s, reflecting the amount of exercise he does.  Keely admits she is 50/50 of the problem – well done mum. That’s the hardest bit over – Lucas has a more than evens chance now that mum will respond to the tests and work together with Lucas (he was a lovely, mature lad). Lucas had added rugby to football at the follow up meeting. His activity had gone up even further, but the weight was still there. Again – the key to weight is far more what we put in, not how much we try to do.

KELSEY (7), from Herts, was 2 stone overweight and was seen helping herself to biscuits and literally licking the sugar off them “Yummy sugar” she said. She also helps herself to crisps and loves dumplings. Mum, Melissa, was doing Slim Fast during the filming of the programme! Great role model for young Kelsey. Melissa said “she’s got my genes” and “I think it’s our metabolism” and Melissa herself has tried everything from Slimming World to Weight Watcher “every diet there is.” At the follow-up, Melissa had given up the liquid diet and was packing away curry like a builder. Kelsey had 39.6% body fat and interestingly it was this statistic that made mum realise “I knew her bones couldn’t be that heavy”! The researcher in childhood obesity at Liverpool University (Paula Watson) had a really lovely style and she would gently ask the parents “How do you feel about that?” to make them think and start to take ownership.

A common theme with the parents was that they didn’t want to ‘deny’ their children. Giving them sweets was seen as kind and denying them was seen as cruel. Melissa said “Part of nurturing your child is feeding your child” and she makes an interesting point. However, we have to reverse this mentality and develop a mindset where giving one’s child empty calories with sugar, crushed insides of cows (gelatine) and other processed ingredients is tantamount to child abuse and NOT giving children such complete junk is seen as responsible and caring.

BETHANY (6), from Gateshead, had a strong willed mum, called Kelly. Kelly was not happy about a recent policy on healthy eating introduced at school. She thinks kids should eat anything they want. “As you can see I’m slim” she said. She wasn’t slim. She wasn’t obese, but she was clearly overweight. The school’s biggest challenge appeared to be Bethany’s mum: “I’m her mam“, she said “if I say she can eat sweets, she can eat sweets.” Kelly then described Bethany as “cuddly” and said “she looks well.” The word delusional springs to mind.  When Bethany’s BMI was revealed to be 26 (overweight aged 6), Kelly’s response was “She’s me little girl, I don’t care.” Poor Bethany doesn’t stand a chance of having a healthy life. At the follow-up, Bethany was rarely seen without sweets and crisps and declared “I like them.”

A great programme and a fascinating insight into childhood obesity in the UK in 2010.

One thought on “Generation XXL – Channel 4

  • Dear Zoe,

    What happened to the documentary series Generation XXL? My understanding was that the series would follow these children every 2 years? I would love to know more.



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