My latest episode of the All Fired Up! Podcast has to be heard to be believed. I chatted with Jessica Campbell, a nutritionist & medical intern from New Zealand, who was venting her outrage at an awful documentary that’s been airing there. “The Good Sh*t,” shares the experience of 4 teenage girls who are being fed pills full of thin people’s poo to see if they lose weight.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Only in an extremely fatphobic society can experiments like this exist. In diet culture, our conviction that larger bodies are diseased is so deeply entrenched that ‘anything goes’ in the drive to lose weight. The Good Sh*t is a stinking, festering example of this type of toxic attitude.
This train wreck tv show is based on an actual clinical trial running at New Zealand’s Liggins Institute. When I spoke with Jessica, the documentary had aired 2 of 3 episodes, so we didn’t know what the outcome was going to be (although we had a fair idea it wouldn’t be great).
Jess promised to let us know what happened at the end, so here’s a very special guest blog from her:
The Good Sh*t Episode 3
“The Shit Cliff Hanger”
– by Jess Campbell
We’ve wrapped up the final episode of The Good Sh*t here in New Zealand, and frankly, the whole shitshow can be summed up in one sentence:
“A clinical trial has now *unnecessarily* demonstrated that ingesting a thin person’s shit will not ‘cure’ folks of their fatness.”
But for those of you who want the gory details, here they are…
We follow up our 4 participants after the “disappointment” of the 6 week assessment [read weigh in] where it was found that the girls had gained fat mass and lost lean muscle mass – not an inspiring start, and one which given that the entire experiment promised these girls weight loss, seems to set the poo pill trial firmly on the fast track to Nope town.
Perhaps because no weight loss is happening, this episode’s content is painfully padded with the following nuggets of wisdom:
- We gain insight into the depths of fat phobia and internalised weight bias these poor girls are facing in their family homes. We visit one teen’s house where a family member asks if the girls refer to one another as “hey chubby” at the testing centre. Cue awkies laughter PLUS at the girls’ dinner table, and me yelling “Shut the f*ck up Dave!!” at the tv screen. Seriously, there is so much research to show how incredibly unhelpful fatphobic comments and stereotyping about larger people is – when will these dots be connected!!!! Producers, if you are producing TV fodder PLEASE, I urge you, consider the wider impact and implication of pushing footage like this in mainstream media.
- We meet Geoff, our “gut bug” guru, who researches the diverse microbiomes of the Huasa Tribesmen. Unsurprisingly, people living in the tribe have huge gut bug diversity and also have a much greater number of different gut bugs compared to us Westerners. It doesn’t require a big leap of thought to see why this might be…. The Huasa have no water sanitation or waste treatment, food is hunted, gathered and cooked over fires, and folks are living and sleeping on the ground. Thus, there is simply greater exposure to bugs and this = greater diversity.
- Now… I don’t know about you, but “the next obvious step” for Geoff* after his time spent with the Huasa peoples was to give himself a faecal transplant. I’m talking number 8 wire shit here. Geoff asks a healthy tribesman (How do you know he’s healthy Geoff!) to poo into a bowl. He then mixes the poo with ‘solution’ and using a TURKEY BASTER, ‘colonises’ his own back passage. To ensure maximum assimilation (and one can only *imagine…* minimal leakage), he then lays on his back for an hour bicycling his legs. Let this mental image sink in for a bit….
- Geoff reappears later in the episode to give us some helpful tips on what to look for in the toilet bowl. TMI alert here, but seriously, if you find any of the following “perfect poo” signs please see your GP for a semi-urgent medical:
- “When you go to the toilet there’s two things you are looking for… these are floaters and patties” – no Geoff – if your shit floats, it may be a sign of steatorrhea (fat in poo) – a sign of malabsorption, some medications or even a gastrointestinal pathology. And if your shit is coming out in patties – we may be entering loose bowel motion territory. Again, this is worth keeping an eye on if this is a sudden and abnormal change for you.
- “If you’re delivering the classical swirl you are getting too much protein” – oh Geoff, what a load of shit! I can only hazard a guess where you plucked this pearl of wisdom from – but it certainly wasn’t a medical text. On your bike, Geoff.
- We meet Billy Apple, an artist who created an exhibit called “Excretory Wipings” in 1974, in which he collected and displayed his used toilet paper. Because ART. I am not joking, he even recorded the time & date of each ‘wipe,’ and kept them. In 2016, Apple met Dr O’Sullivan (poo researcher) from the Liggins Institute, in what many would consider to be the dream date from hell, and they decided to compare his 2018 poo to the 1970’s poo. Basically, we learn that as people age, their poo diversity reduces, but a lot of it stays the same. Now, I know they needed to pad out content in this episode, but seriously?
- There’s more, and it’s getting depressing. The Good Sh*t totally disrespects cultural preferences, values and beliefs about food. They spotlight traditional Pacific foods and Sunday feasts (which are extremely important family/religious based traditions) as gluttonous, irresistible and irresponsible.
- One participant has stopped her anti-depressant medication in order to do the trial. Heartbreakingly, she says:
“I’ve always always wanted to lose weight, and I’ve tried my whole life and my mental health WILL improve if I lose weight and I know it will because I’ve always had low self esteem my whole life”.
This young woman is part of the “hey, chubby” family. It is not at all surprising that she’s experienced lifelong low self-esteem when her own family exhibits such intolerance for people in larger bodies. It’s downright upsetting.
- Once the research team realise that the girls aren’t losing weight, the narrative shifts. The team begin to sell the girls the message that their diet and exercise patterns are to blame for the weight loss ‘failure’. This is despite the fact that the girls are doing what they were told to do in Episode 1: to just take the poo pills and NOT change anything else. How convenient that everything ends up being their fault!
So what happens at the end? This was a blind research trial, so until the end of episode 3 we didn’t know if the girls were taking “active” shit pills or placebos. Drumroll please – we are told that 3 of the 4 girls have been given the active poo pills!
And……at the end of 12 weeks…..
None of the girls taking the poo pills lose weight. One of them GAINS weight, and it is clear that she would really benefit from being assessed for disordered eating. But this doesn’t happen. The girl with the placebo pill loses a bit of weight – she was the one who’d stopped her antidepressants.
And what about the gut microbiome? It does show increases in biodiversity. But there were zero health benefits attached.
Bottom line? An absolute festering pile of poop. This is a 5 star-shit fest.
Thanks for hanging in here, I’m off to have a shower!
*Don’t date Geoff.