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 series deals with eating disorders in explicit detail. While it offers a lot of constructive information on how to identify and address eating disorders, it also contains disturbing images of people's struggles with the disease, including scenes of purging, over-exercising, and images of starved bodies. Occasionally smoking is visible. It's strong material for younger viewers, and parents will likely want to watch with their teens as a way of encouraging discussions about body image issues and other related themes, as well as help teens process the emotional anguish expressed by sufferers.
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What's the story?
STARVING SECRETS WITH TRACEY GOLD features people who are suffering from eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Actress Tracey Gold, who has successfully battled these diseases, reaches out to others who are battling their own disorders in hopes of getting them the help they need. Cameras follow as individuals binge, purge, over exercise, and engage in other behaviors that are a result of their eating disorder. With Gold's help, they enter treatment and continue their difficult journey towards overcoming their illness one step at a time. Throughout it all, Gold, specialists, and those in the grips of their disease offer some insight into what living with an eating disorder is like, and shed light on the physical and emotional impact of the disease. At the end of each episode, viewers get to see how the recovery process is going for the people who entered treatment.
Is it any good?
The series takes a troubling look at how eating disorders, which affect approximately 25 million Americans from every walk of life, manifest themselves in different ways. It highlights the various triggers that can lead to life-threatening behaviors like consistent fasting, over-exercising, and binging. It also underscores how difficult the process of recovery is, and how insurance companies can fail patients who desperately need help and/or relapse.
It has lots of voyeuristically uncomfortable moments, especially when sufferers of the disease begin to purge or openly resist treatment as a way of coping with their pain. But it is also designed to take a quick, supportive look at these experiences so that viewers unfamiliar with eating disorders can learn something from them. Others may find themselves thinking about their own relationship with food, exercise, and their bodies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the media contributes to kids' and teens' sense of a healthy body image. How much influence do you think magazines, movies, and celebrities have on how teens view their bodies? What kinds of stereotypical images of so-called healthy bodies does the media perpetuate?
What does this show teach about eating disorders that you didn't already know? Does someone have to be extremely skinny to have an eating disorder? How can we recognize the symptoms? If you think that you or someone you know are struggling with an eating disorder, who can you turn to for help?
Why do you think people agree to be on this show? What do they stand to gain or lose?
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