Depiction Suggestions

The following points for consideration regarding the portrayal of obesity and its health consequences were developed as a resource for entertainment development and production. They are not meant to limit the creative process:

  • Be aware that the diagnosis of obesity is separate from being overweight. Both the conditions of being overweight and obese are determined by Body Mass Index (BMI) calculations.  Morbid obesity is defined as having a BMI over 40kg/m2  
  • Bear in mind that obesity is a serious medical condition diagnosed by medical professionals.  To highlight the severity of the condition and the need for medical attention, attempt to portray the character’s medical tests by professionals and their continued relationship with physicians, nurses, and physical therapists.
  • Understand that obesity is a complex situation with several influences and interactions, all of which need to be addressed during treatment.  In order for treatment and achievement of target weight to be successful, both environment and behavior must be addressed.  Try to explore these elements when dealing with a character’s obesity.
  • Attempt to display the multiple, adverse health effects associated with the onset of obesity. These effects include high-blood pressure (hypertension), Type-2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent), cardiovascular disease, gallbladder disease, respiratory problems, sleep apnea, increased risk of cancers, and increased risk of stroke.
  • Think about ways to communicate the understanding that genetics do play a role in obesity. Due to genetics and familial prevalence of obesity, certain individuals may be more susceptible to obesity. Genotype-environment interactions play a role in, but are not entirely to blame for, the onset of obesity.
  • If possible, attempt to draw the links between childhood obesity and the development of serious health problems in adolescence and adult life. These health risks include Type 2-diabetes and coronary artery disease, both of which can occur as early as childhood or adolescence.
  • Keep in mind that increasing exercise is an important and necessary lifestyle change for obese individuals. Consider showing characters exercising, discussing exercise, or making the decision to start exercising and choosing an exercise plan that is safe, realistic, and fun. This role- modeling can have an effect on your audience’s behavior.
  • Remember that multiple treatment options can be explored with characters. Treatment always includes a change in diet and exercise. Additional options include therapy, prescribed drugs, and, in extreme cases, gastric-bypass surgery. Often, numerous treatment options are tried and any medical intervention must be accompanied by changes in lifestyle management and self-image.
  • Successfully overcoming both childhood and adult obesity involves the support of family and other social figures. Consider integrating other characters such as friends, family, and co-workers during the struggle to overcome obesity. Role models can help provide motivation.
  • When appropriate, consider displaying the character’s change in diet through meal portrayals. Consider as a goal the clear manipulation in the diet of characters to include more fruits, vegetables, and limiting saturated fat and foods with empty calories. Consider sharing the struggle to achieve this discipline and pleasure of eating a healthy balanced diet. This is a critical goal for obese people to achieve.
  • Where possible, try not to encourage or propagate the stereotypes and prejudice surrounding obese individuals. Individuals that are overweight are subject to teasing, discrimination, stereotyping and bullying. Highlighting the influence of genetics and biology can help de-stigmatize obesity.
  • Consider addressing the mental state of individuals who are obese. Many obese individuals suffer from low self-esteem, depression, feelings of anxiety, and difficulty forming relationships. Therapeutic strategies include understanding the environmental and emotional triggers for over-eating, learning new ways to cope with feelings, and enhancing self-esteem. The success of obesity treatment often requires that mental health be addressed.
  • Remember that overcoming obesity is a difficult, long-term struggle. Obese individuals face ongoing challenges in maintaining weight loss. Effective weight loss is a process that requires lasting care, maintained discipline, and successful achievement of appropriate weight.

Comments are closed.