02/15/2011 05:51 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Is the New Obsession With 'Fat Shows' Helping or Hurting?

On March 7 the Style Network will kick off the second season of Too Fat for 15: Fighting Back, a show that features a group of overweight teens and pre-teens as they struggle not only to lose weight, but to battle their inner demons and change their lifestyles for the better. The show follows the students during their time at Wellspring Academy, a weight loss boarding school, that provides them with an "intense mind/body curriculum." The students struggle with their new lifestyle, with being away from their family and friends, and with the real reasons behind their obesity. It's described as an "inspirational docu-series." But these days it's one among many.

The Biggest Loser. I Used to Be Fat. Heavy. Dance Your Ass Off.

The list of shows about "fat" people and their inspiring lifestyle changes is endless these days. And I don't mean to disvalue what these people are doing, but I do want to take a minute to question why they are able to. Why are the networks creating these shows? Because they are inspiring? Or is it just good business? The Biggest Loser is a success and suddenly every network has a "fat show." Suddenly it's a trend. It's a way to make a lot of cash with little cost.

And if that is the case, is this an exploitation of these people? Is it wrong to put these people on TV and have them share their deepest feelings, address their hardest issues, face their biggest challenges surrounded by cameras? Is this taking reality TV too far? Or did they know exactly what they were getting into when they signed on? They get healthy and the network gets rich. Is it an even exchange or is this new franchise a bit too much?

It's an issue without a clear answer, similar to the controversy surrounding fashion magazines' recent obsession with plus size models. Suddenly every magazine felt the need to do a spread on plus size models in order to better relate to their readers and to the everyday woman. But were they really? And what about the plus size models? Were they being exploited? Used as a cheap campaign trick to make women feel like every shape and size was being represented in their magazine, when really they were only being further marginalized? Or was it a good thing that women were able to see more plus size models in magazines, whatever the reason?

These are tough questions and there's no clear cut answer for them, and like it or not these shows will continue on until people stop watching.

By Jenn Inzetta for