By Oyunga Pala
The reality show Slim Possible hosted by Lilian Muli on Citizen TV is in its 3rd season.
It features a cast of overweight women, most tipping the scales at over 100kg, motivated by a huge cash prize to make a total lifestyle change in order to lose weight. The biggest loser ends up as the winner.
If the audition interviews were anything to go by, then a fair chunk of women in our country are dealing with major body image insecurities.
The show has received a lot of flak from fitter members of the public. First, the sashaying Lilian Muli as host is almost cruel. Besides having a totally different body type, most show contestants would really need surgery to look anything close to her. A host with an Oprah Winfrey body type would have reflected an attainable goal, I think.
The other reason is that in a country where the vast majority scrounges for their daily bread (remember Kenyans for Kenya campaign), losing weight is a privilege that should not be flaunted on national TV. Nonetheless the show is relevant.
Like our chubby friends and relatives living in the Diaspora, our new consumption patterns show on our puffy cheeks and baggy frames.
Exercise has become a class privilege only available to paid members in a gym and the fast pace of life leaves hardly any time for physical fitness. Rising incidences of lifestyle diseases among young people is old news. So the anxiety expressed by those women categorised as obese by the weighing scale is real.
Those who reside on the weighty side of the scale experience discrimination in a society of slender people. Fat, which was just another physical description, has turned into a derogatory word and use of euphemisms is now standard practice. This is why we say, big boned, voluptuous, rubenesque, shapely or curvy.
Fat people receive more stares, are prone to name-calling and fall more easily to stereotypical victimisation such as “you are lazy and greedy” and are blamed squarely for not keeping the public standard.
Our society is making no room to accommodate people above the standard weight. Public transportation costs more, dignity is squashed in tiny toilet cubicles and fashion hardly caters for the plus-size client. It is a lot harder for women than men.
Contemporary media has consigned female beauty standard to a single category as reflected by lead characters in TV soaps, news anchors, pop idols and beauty queens, just to get started.