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Ruby Gettinger, a 30-something Sunday school teacher in Savannah, Georgia, who has battled obesity since childhood, received a death sentence from her doctor when she reached 700 pounds. But now she is determined to lose weight and live — and to do it on a reality TV show.

Years ago, Gettinger saw an episode of Oprah that showcased the dilemmas of overweight women who had stopped going out in public because people stared and ridiculed them. She realized she was part of America's obesity epidemic, but after eight and a half years of trying to lose weight — when over-the-counter diets, discrimination, Oprah, and romance failed as motivations — her doctor's dire prediction got through to her.

Ruby, a reality show airing Sunday nights on the Style Network, is about one woman's life-and-death battle against obesity. The show premiered Sunday, November 9, and will run for nine weeks.

I interviewed Gettinger by phone shortly before the show premiered.

Why did you permit the cameras into your life in such an intimate way?

Because I wanted to be the guinea pig and find out the truth about this disease, this obesity — the physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological aspects, all of it. I wanted to make a documentary at first that explored the missing link between the diet industry and the obesity epidemic. But I met some television people in Los Angeles who had the passion to tell my truth with my faith. At first, it was difficult being vulnerable and exposing my private feelings and emotions in front of these strangers, but it didn't take long to know I was blessed to have a crew who believed in me and saw myvision.

Many people think reality TV is phony and constructed. What's most real about this show?

I thought ...

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November 2008

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