A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this reality show is almost exclusively about weight loss. While the subject is treated sensitively and is accompanied by nutritional and lifestyle information, some overweight teens or adults might feel worse about themselves after viewing the show (on the flip side, they might be inspired to make healthy lifestyle changes). This type of extreme-exercise approach isn't something that should be attempted without medical supervision, which isn't made explicitly clear. Occasional references to sex -- as well as frequent mild to moderate profanity -- make this show better for older tweens and teens.
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What's the story?
FAT MARCH follows 12 overweight Americans as they walk more than 500 miles in order to lose weight, get healthy, and win a cash prize. The group is helped along by two very positive, fit trainers, as well as a medical team. In a cross between Celebrity Fit Club and Amazing Race, the contestants weigh in at the beginning of the 10-week program, then re-check the scales after each week of walking, camping, and physical challenges. With starting weights that range from 250 to 500+ lbs, the walkers all need some lifestyle changes to regain confidence and feel better. Most drop between 5 and 15 pounds per week, and everyone eagerly anticipates the weigh-ins. Along with the exercise component, trainers discuss healthy nutrition and hydration as part of losing weight safely and keeping it off.
Is it any good?
While the mood is generally positive, supportive, and hopeful, occasional problems between team members develop, and the show devotes a good chuck of screen time to these conflicts. Watching the contestants persevere and process the emotions connected to their body image and weight issues is inspirational, but there's a degree of voyeurism, too. Viewers might be tempted to judge the overweight folks, especially the ones who hit emotional walls during the journey. Several members struggle with the daily challenge of walking great distances. Some find the process emotionally challenging, while others struggle with medical issues. In just the first three days of the walk, two team members go to the hospital.
The calculation of the cash reward is slightly confusing. The pot is initially $1.2 million -- which would be $100,000 per contestant -- but for each person who drops out, the individual pots decrease by $10,000. This is designed to keep the team supportive of one another and is a welcome reversal from many cut-throat reality show competitions. But team members also have a chance at each stage to vote a team member off. This is where it gets a little fuzzy. By losing a team member, the winning pots still shrink, but some people feel it's a way to let a struggling member out gracefully, while others just don't want to be weighed down by a straggler. In all, though, the prize math probably won't be what turns you on or off of this show.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the realities of a world in which thin bodies are prized, fat ones are scorned, and deliciously unhealthy food is more widely available than ever before. Why is thin so in -- and how do the sculpted celebrity images we see in the media affect our perceptions of our own bodies? Why are chubby children teased -- and why do heavy people so often become the butt of jokes in television and movies? Families can also discuss the health of their own lifestyle. Does anyone in the family struggle with weight or nutrition? What about body image? Do family members diet or exercise? What kind of discussions have parents and teens had about body image and weight? What can family members do to have a healthier lifestyle?