The fat vs skinny eating show is a reality TV show that follows the lives of two people – one who is obese and one who is skinny – and has them swap diets for 30 days. The show aims to challenge common diet misconceptions and show the struggles both overweight and underweight people face with food and body image.
What is the premise of the fat vs skinny eating show?
The premise of the fat vs skinny eating show is to have an overweight and underweight individual swap diets and fitness regimens for 30 days. This challenges the participants to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes when it comes to food and exercise habits.
Typically, the show takes one person who is obese and struggling with their weight and pairs them with someone who is skinny and finds it effortless to stay thin. For 30 days, the obese individual will eat the skinny person’s diet while the skinny person eats the obese person’s diet. They will also follow each other’s exercise routines.
The goal is to dispel myths about weight loss and gain. The show aims to prove that weight management is more complex than simply “eating less and exercising more.” By having the participants live in the other person’s lifestyle, they gain firsthand experience of the genetic, medical, and environmental factors that influence body weight.
How did the fat vs skinny eating show start?
The fat vs skinny eating show concept originated in the UK with the show Fat Families in 2010. Fat Families took obese families and had them swap diets with skinny families to try and lose weight. The show was very popular and ran for multiple seasons.
In 2013, the concept came to the US with the show Opposite Worlds on the Discovery Health Channel. Opposite Worlds took the swap diet concept and added in fitness challenges and temptations to make it more extreme.
The first iteration of fat vs skinny swapping diets shows focused more on weight loss through diet. In 2016, the show My Big Fat Diet premiered and added the skinny person eating the fat person’s diet to illustrate that maintaining an extremely low weight long-term is just as difficult.
What happens in a typical episode?
A typical fat vs skinny eating show episode follows a simple formula:
- Introduction of the overweight and underweight participants, including interviews on their backgrounds and struggles with food and body image.
- Explanation of the swap diet rules and meal plans each participant will follow.
- Check-ins throughout the week showing each person grocery shopping for and preparing their assigned diet.
- Highlighting the differences in hunger levels, energy, mood, and waistlines as the weeks progress.
- Temptations where the participants go back to their original diets for a meal.
- Weigh-ins showing the weight lost or gained during the month.
- Reflections on what they learned about weight management and body image from walking in the other person’s shoes.
There is usually a shocking reveal at the end of just how much weight the obese person lost eating the skinny diet and vice versa. Popular episodes may also include cooking segments for some of the meals in the assigned diets.
What are examples of the diets swapped on the show?
|Obese Diet||Skinny Diet|
|High calorie, 3 large fast food meals per day plus snacks and desserts||Clean eating with salads, lean protein, veggies, some carbs|
|Fried foods, sweet treats, sugary beverages||Plant-based, high volume, low calorie foods|
|No food rules or restrictions||Intermittent fasting, macro counting, low carb|
The obese participant is usually eating a stereotypical “unhealthy” diet high in calories, fat, sugar, and processed foods. The skinny participant often eats a diet perceived as “clean” or “healthy” with strict rules about what they will and won’t eat.
The obese diet focuses on energy dense, hyperpalatable foods. A sample daily meal plan may look like:
- Breakfast – Fast food breakfast sandwich, hash browns, large soda
- Lunch – Double cheeseburger, fries, milkshake
- Dinner – Large pizza, buffalo wings, and a slice of cake
- Snacks – Chips, cookies, candy, ice cream
This type of diet provides an excess of calories, fat, refined carbs, salt, and sugar. It requires little preparation and no strict timing of meals and snacks.
The skinny diet often focuses on clean eating principles. A sample daily meal plan may include:
- Breakfast – Oatmeal made with water, fruit, black coffee
- Lunch – Large salad with chicken breast, light dressing, water
- Dinner – Baked fish, quinoa, roasted veggies
- Snacks – Smoothie, raw nuts and seeds, popcorn
This type of diet emphasizes lean protein, produce, whole grains, and healthy fats. It limits processed foods, sugar, salt, and overall calories. Meals and snacks are eaten at regimented times.
What are common challenges faced on the show?
Both participants face significant challenges in following the assigned diet for a month straight. Common struggles include:
For the obese participant:
- Feeling hungry all the time eating lower calories
- Cravings for sugar, fat, and junk foods
- Having to count macros or calories and read nutrition labels
- Eating lots of unfamiliar “diet” foods
- Being required to exercise frequently
- Mood swings and low energy from calorie deficit
For the skinny participant:
- Feeling stuffed and lethargic from overeating
- Blood sugar spikes and crashes from high carb foods
- Gastric distress from heavy, greasy foods
- Mindless snacking and loss of food rules
- Fatigue from new higher calorie diet
- Seeing rapid weight gain on the scale
Both participants struggle with the sudden change in diet and loss of their usual routines around food and exercise. There is a big psychological adjustment to make and physical symptoms manifest quickly from the extreme dietary swap.
What are the results of the diet swap?
At the end of the month, both participants usually see surprisingly large changes on the scale from following the opposite diet. Typical results include:
- The obese participant loses 15-25 lbs eating the skinny diet
- The skinny participant gains 10-15 lbs eating the obese diet
- Both report differences in energy, mood, cognition, and health
- The obese participant has an easier time with skinny habits at the end
- The skinny participant is desperate to return to their original diet
The rapid weight changes shock both participants. The obese participant sees how quickly weight can be lost with structure and discipline. The skinny participant realizes how difficult it is to maintain a low body weight while eating whatever you want. These lessons stay with the participants and spark lasting changes in many cases.
What are the criticisms and controversies around the show?
While popular, the fat vs skinny eating show premise has garnered criticism over the years. Main complaints around the show’s format include:
- Promoting weight stigma by treating obesity as a choice and underweight as desirable
- Suggesting that weight is solely due to diet and exercise habits
- Encouraging disordered eating patterns in participants
- Exaggerating results by providing extreme meal plans
- Lacking qualified medical oversight and monitoring
- Manipulating weigh-ins and measurements through dehydration or temporary changes
Critics argue participants are set up to fail and pressed into unhealthy habits in the name of entertainment and dramatic reveals. There are also concerns that the show promotes unrealistic, unsustainable diets on both ends of the spectrum.
Responses to controversies
In response to criticisms, creators of the show point out:
- Participants volunteer and are free to quit the process at any time
- The swap diets are designed to be temporary and spark insight
- Ongoing medical monitoring is provided behind the scenes
- Values of body positivity and self-acceptance are promoted
They argue the show highlights the complexity of weight management in an eye-opening way. Critics counter that the negatives still outweigh any educational value from these reality TV diet swaps.
The fat vs skinny eating show offers a unique spin on weight loss reality TV. By having overweight and underweight participants swap diets and lifestyles, the show attempts to challenge perceptions around food and bodies. While results are often dramatic, the show’s setup has faced ongoing controversies related to promoting unhealthy extremes and weight stigma. As with any reality TV series, the show should ultimately be viewed with a critical lens rather than taken as a guide for dietary changes. The swap format may bring in viewers, but long-term lifestyle changes require more nuanced, individualized guidance.