A new reality series that premieres Sunday night is hoping to draw primetime TV viewers into a life that doesn't center on lustful youth or quests for stardom.
Instead, "Ruby" hopes to connect them to the personal journey of a 500-pound woman who roughly 60 million Americans will be able to relate to and many more can come to learn from. More broadly, the series highlights an epidemic that is exacting a heavy toll on the nation.
"It's easy to point the finger at fat people or make fun of them and judge them and say, 'Oh, all they have to do is go on a diet.' But that's not true. That's not what it's about," says Ruby Gettinger, a Sunday school teacher from Savannah, Ga., whose life and death battle against obesity is captured in "Ruby."
According to The Endocrine Society and The Hormone Foundation, obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States and affects 60 million adults. Furthermore, while 30.5 percent of U.S. adults are obese, an estimated 65.2 are considered overweight along with 15 percent of children and adolescents.
"I've lived in this shell all my life, since I was eight. This is all I've known," says Gettinger in the first episode of the new reality series. "And no matter how many times I try to beat it, it's like I can't."
But she'll have to try once more after developing diabetes and hearing from her doctor that her condition is life-threatening.
"The sudden death thing hit me worst than anything because it's happening to me. I'm not breathing at night. I'm waking up and I know I almost died. I'm scared to death to sleep tonight," says Gettinger.
"It's time for me to take care of Ruby and not be overweight at all."
With the help of a team of experts devoted to making her weight-loss dreams a reality, Gettinger will embark on a journey to lose weight, get healthy and battle the discrimination that she faced growing up and even today.
And by sharing her positive and negative personal experiences and allowing viewers to come along on her weight-loss journey, Gettinger hopes to help others realize that they are not alone and inspire them to take the first bold steps toward a healthier and happier future.
"Sometimes I do think, 'Is this it? Am I meant to be overweight?' This is what I want to find out," she says.
Backing the show will likely be health experts who say development and delivery of interventions that promote weight loss and increased physical activity among persons at high risk for diabetes are needed to reduce diabetes incidence.
The one-hour series premiere of "Ruby" Sunday night comes less than two weeks after the government announced that the rate of new diabetes cases nearly doubled in the United States in the past 10 years.
According to the first state-by-state review of new diagnoses, the highest rates were in the South, where Gettinger is from. Furthermore, roughly 90 percent of cases are Type 2 diabetes, the form linked to obesity.
"It isn't surprising the problem is heaviest in the South — no pun intended," commented Matt Petersen, who oversees data and statistics for the American Diabetes Association.
According to The Associated Press, the findings released on Oct. 30 dovetail with trends seen in obesity and lack of exercise — two health measures where Southern states also rank at the bottom.
To coincide with the premiere of "Ruby," The Style Network, which will be exclusively airing the series every Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET/PT, will launch a robust and informative Web microsite, mystyle.com/ruby, devoted to Gettinger's weight-loss journey. It will feature additional show information and highlights, blogs and video blogs, and behind-the-scenes interviews with Gettinger. Visitors will also be able to communicate directly with Gettinger using message board postings, as well as access expert advice nutrition, exercise and overall wellness through other user-friendly interfaces.