Press Reaction

The Star Tribune Minneapolis, MN

"....the documentary concentrates on proving...obesity is dangerous; that's about as revealing as a class on operating a pop-up toaster. But the second half, profiling some very comfortable, physically fit people who happen to be quite overweight, poses some intriguing questions, especially with stars like Courteney Cox and Calista Flockhart looking like they're prepping for movies set in Calcutta.

'Who wants to go to bed with a skeleton?' asks one doctor. Well, plenty of people. In one disturbing experiment, schoolchildren admit they'd be unlikely to befriend chubby children, even as some of them are sitting by their side.

To get to the meat of this hour means swallowing the slow start, as well as the bland narration and talking heads. A little more spice wouldn't have hurt."

The Orlando Sentinel Hal Boedeker

"Bringing much-needed understanding and depth to a despised topic, 'Fat' stands as a liberating documentary. This PBS 'Frontline' is one of those rare programs that can change your view of the world...

It comes as a healthy rejoinder to two pervasive and contradictory forces in the culture: the selling of high-fat foods and the media's glamorous images of impossibly thin people.

In its most wrenching moments, 'Fat' examines prejudice toward the obese. Lynn McAffee, a 500-pound woman, tells a conference about her life of diet drugs and despair. 'I've personally had experiences where people try to run me down in cars, laughing at me,' she says...

The wide-ranging program offers great empathy for anorexics and goes to a London clinic that treats children with 'an irrational horror of fat.' The youngest is 6 years old...

'I feel it is totally unfair that we are raising generation after generation of young people, especially women, to be at war with their own bodies,' says Professor Kelly Brownell of Yale University.

'Fat' should be shared with younger viewers, because it can give them a clearer understanding of the importance of self-esteem, genetics, diet and exercise. It can dispel myths."

Entertainment Weekly Online

"Deconstructing the 'global epidemic' of obesity, 'Fat' shows (among many other things) how America, with 39 million chubbies, schizophrenically leads the way, with both the most fat-phobic sensibility as well as the most relentless promotion of unhealthy eating. A more uplifting segment alleges that fatness and fitness aren't mutually exclusive, citing the case of roly-poly triathlete Dave Alexander. B+"

New York Post Michele Greppi

"Fat, unlike extreme height (or lack of it), for example, is still considered a character flaw, when most experts will tell us that it is far more complex than that.

And so they do during an imported 'Frontline' that is thoughtful but either too short by a half, so that very little time is left to explore the psyches and regimens of people who prove that one can be fat and very fit...

[Producer Antony] Thomas introduces us to Dave Alexander, who stands 5-foot-8, weighs 250 pounds and has completed 264 triathlons and a professor who also is clinically obese but runs 35 miles a week.

The professor has studied some 25,000 people since 1970 and says that fat men who were fit had lower mortality rates than men who were unfit but of so-called normal weight.

But Thomas has not confronted the people who set 'ideal-weight' standards that reinforce the image that thin is inevitably what counts most. He seems uninterested in what leads one fat person to wallow in despair while another fat person swims five miles, runs 30 and cycles 200 in a typical week.

He was too busy stuffing his report with processed information to focus on the information that gives us something more substantial to chew on."

The Sacramento Bee Rick Kushman

"As if Election Day weren't enough, here's something really depressing. According to a 'Frontline' documentary tonight, we are losing a near-hopeless war against fat.

Big surprise, right? But what makes this hour different and instructive, if not particularly uplifting, is the explanation of how we got into this mess.

Apparently, fat tastes good. As simple as that sounds, that's the start of it because we crave fat. It's our body's emergency rations, our back-up energy supply, and we have a primitive survival instinct to eat fat...

The 'Frontline' looks at opposite ends of the problem--obese people, including children, who are treated like outcasts, and young girls with eating disorders who treat themselves terribly.

It also talks about genetics and the fact that some people--really, most people--are not capable of having the 'Vogue' perfect body.

'Frontline' asked Alexandra Shulman, the editor of British Vogue, if they felt any responsibility for creating these impossible-to-live-up-to-images.

No, says a smug Shulman. 'Not many people have actually said to me that they have looked at my magazine and decided to become anorexic,' she says.

... What is missing from the documentary is information on the emotional connection people have with food, how it can offer comfort and reward, which explains why people eat when they are full and, often, alone.

It also does not get into some of the reasons why diets fail to keep fat off, including the reality that they rarely change long-term eating habits, and that because diets lower the rate at which bodies burn calories, when people go off diets and resume normal eating--even at a healthy level--they put the weight right back on."

The Boston Globe Diane White

"Much of the program, will be no news at all for those who closely follow the fortunes of fat. But it's an interesting overview of the state of a subject close to the hearts, so to speak, of many Americans.

... The entertainment and fashion industries, and the media, are as usual blamed for holding up an unrealistic ideal of slimness that fosters eating disorders. Vidal Sassoon denies the connection, saying he has seen very few models that he would consider anorexic. 'Frontline,' meanwhile shows footage of stick-thin fashion models behind the scenes of his latest fashion show. But can all models be anorexic? If some people are genetically programmed to be fat, surely there must be some who are genetically programmed to be skeletal. Is this an example of anti-thin bias? Can there even be such a thing in our culture?"

The Atlanta Constitution Bob Longino

"An interesting hour that goes a long way to debunk the myths surrounding fat consumption--and fat people...

'Fat' goes to great lengths searching for the reason behind obesity--genetics play a huge part as does the growing international dependence on junk food.

... For many 'caught in the fat trap,' the answer isn't just will power. 'Our obesity is in the stars,' one expert says. 'We are genetically determined in our size.'

Pair that with billions and billions of Big Macs served, and you can see the pounds pile up. Still, many experts on this show point away from the scale for their public health message. Their bottom line: Lack of fitness is more important than fatness as a predictor of who's going to die."

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