Is “Heavy” Worthy of “Hoarders” Time Slot?

Fat Cats Vs. Pack Rats


For the past couple of months I’ve been giving the new A&E reality show Heavy a chance.  Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have given it much of a thought if it hadn’t taken over the time slot abandoned between seasons of Hoarders.  But it did.  So I did.  So what’s the verdict?

At this point the verdict is mixed.  Heavy started out with one format and switched abruptly to something very different after the first few weeks.  Originally the show featured two people struggling with obesity and their six month program focused on losing weight and learning strategies to live more healthy lives.  The first month was spent at a facility where they were cut off from the outside world, cooking done for them and trainers there every step of the way pushing them to exercise as vigorously as possible.  After that first month they went home, still provided with a trainer for five additional months.  If they gained weight after going home, they were required to return to the facility.  Each week the two participants were paired, there to support each other, eat together, work out together while at the facility.

This incarnation of Heavy was interesting in a number of ways.  The “inpatient” portion, teaching the participants how to change their habits, exercise with sufficient intensity and start down the road of working through some of the emotional issues involved in severe obesity highlighted the struggles the participants were going to face for the rest of their lives.  After they went home we saw in action the factors that led to their weight gain in the first place and how they dealt with changing their entire way of thinking about food and exercise.   Some succeeded really well, others struggled – none really failed.  There was emotion and tears and some barfing as people faced intense exercise for the first time.

It also had some issues with stagnation.  The introduction, facility staff, title cards, exercise program and approach was identical each time.  The trainers at the facility were harsh and felt mean – both to the participants and audience.  There was not enough focus on dealing with emotional eating.  After a few episodes it was getting boring.

Then A&E switched it up.  I have no idea why.  But the latest incarnation has the paired participants spending the entire six months at Hilton Head Health facility.  There is still a lot of focus on exercise, but it isn’t quite as brutal.  There is increased (seemingly more each week) on the emotional aspects of obesity as the participants spend six months focusing on themselves and getting healthy.  People seem to have greater epiphanies about themselves, what led them to become obese and how resolved they become to surpass their initial goals as they become stronger and more confident.

I like the second incarnation better than the first.  I don’t know if the cloistered environment for an entire six months is as sustainable in the long term as far as weight and health, but as far as a TV show goes, it’s a more satisfying watch.  The trainers are more compassionate and as a result the participants tend to be more motivated and successful.  Their weight loss also tends to be greater, leading to more TV impressive end results.  This second incarnation also skips the humiliating ordeal of the visit to the doctor where he bares their flesh and pronounces them morbidly obese with little chance of survival or change.  It seems to treat the participants with significantly more attention to the emotional as well as the physical and I see more positive responses in return.

At this point my conclusion is that Hoarders is still the better show.  But Heavy, if it keeps evolving toward increased compassion an focus on the individuals, has potential.  You’ll find it on A&E on Monday nights at 9 p.m. Central time. You can also visit the A&E website for clips, a couple of full episodes and more information about the participants and programs.  It’s also available on Amazon Instant Video for $1.99 per episode.


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