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 the kids in this reality weight-loss series are subjected to tough, in-your-face talk from the team of professionals trying to inspire them, often reducing both them and their parents to tears. Their physical efforts are also disparaged, with the experts calling them "pathetic" and "terrible," both to their faces and in private. That said, the criticism they face is rooted in fact, as all of the kids are obese (some morbidly so) and on their way to a lifetime of health problems. It's unlikely that your kids will be inspired to change their own habits just because of this series, but it might open their (and your) eyes to the seriousness of this countrywide epidemic.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
SHAQ'S BIG CHALLENGE follows six tweens who have accepted a challenge from NBA great Shaquille O'Neal to turn around the unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits that have led them to become morbidly obese. Over a six months, four boys and two girls are encouraged to follow strict diet and exercise regimens; their progress is monitored by a team of health professionals. Shaq is motivator and spokesman, while his personal trainer and physician, Dr. Carlon Colker, helps him devise a game plan for the challenge. A nutritionist, a childhood obesity expert, a chef, and athletic trainers also help create a program that will inspire the kids' commitment. The series also highlights Shaq's involvement in pushing for healthier food choices and mandatory physical education in schools.
Is it any good?
While well intentioned, there's too much focus on drama and emotion, the kids' failures are subjected to hurtful comments, and viewers are left wondering what goes on when the cameras go off. But the biggest problem (literally) is the tall man at the center of it all. The series often seems to be more of a resume-builder for Shaq than anything else. He gets plenty of camera time to toot his own horn about how, despite his being "one of the world's greatest athletes," he relates to these kids and can understand their pain.
The show also makes some bold claims about the country's apparent indifference to the problem of childhood obesity, while positioning Shaq as some type of super-hero come to save the day. Really, does celebrity status have to override the efforts of the common folk regarding this issue, too? You might want to check out the show if this is an issue your family is facing and you need some inspiration. But avoid using it as a motivational tool, since pointing fingers at the overweight subjects and reminding your kids that they don't want to wind up like that could instigate a whole new host of problems.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the show approaches the important issue of childhood obesity. Do you think it makes a clear, effective point? What other ways could the experts approach the issue with the kids? Why is obesity such a problem, anyway? What role does the media play in our food consumption and lifestyle habits? Do you think there should be limits on the advertising and endorsements that junk food companies and fast food restaurants can do? Why or why not? (Read more on the issue.) Families can also discuss the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.