“Weight of the Nation” Documentary Series Challenges Obesity on DVD

Film documentaries can weigh heavy on our hearts with stark, realistic presentation on prevalent issues in our lives. In the Emmy nominated 2012 documentary film series The Weight of the Nation, filmmakers present individual testimonials, interviews, stories, and day-in-the-life footage through many perspectives on our obesity epidemic.

Individual health narratives, economic factors, health care system, food industries, and genetic history/biological consequences from unhealthy diets provide the evidence and support that a multidimensional solution is essential to stop the “obesity epidemic” in our nation.

Part 1, titled Consequences, contains many personal stories including a landmark study in a small Louisiana town. This part reflects many important health issues and social aspects of obesity. The impact of excess weight on liver function, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes plus emphasis on the societal cost of obesity epidemic bring considerable weight into the obesity issue.

Part 2, Choices, addresses maintaining weight loss and preventing weight gain by balancing energy expended and food consumption. This part presents dieting issues, bariatric surgery, weight loss programs, and several other areas.

Part 3, Children in Crisis, focuses on their damage and presents three example child subjects – Tiara, an 8-year-old girl in Boston, Kaelan, a 13-year-old boy in Madison and Sofia, a 15-year-old girl in San Francisco. Special emphasis on school lunch programs, physical education, and junk food marketing.

Part 4, Challenges, presents several possible solution for varying perspectives. Less healthy choices are the easier choices as the modern world stacks the deck against society, so a wide, complex approach is required to stop obesity.

This DVD set also includes a 20-page booklet with detailed information and statistics on each of the four parts lasting about one hour each plus several hours of bonus features and additional online resources. The 11 bonus films with run times from 15-30 minutes each:

1. Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Risks of Excess Weight
2. Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes
3. Latino Health Access: A Model of Community Action
4. Nashville Takes Action: A City Battles Obesity
5. Can a Lifetime of Excess Weight Lead to Heart Disease?
6. Poverty and Obesity: When Healthy Food Isn’t an Option
7. Stigma: The Human Cost of Obesity
8. Overweight in the Workplace: How Wellness Programs can help the American Workforce
9. The Quest to Understand the Biology of Weight Loss
10. Is Weight Something We Inherit?
11. Healthy Foods and Obesity Prevention: Increasing Markets for Fruit and Vegetable Farmers

In one interview segment, a public health official says, “”Government is how we solve problems collectively that we can’t solve individually.” Filmmakers present many compelling individual case studies (e.g. a registered nurse showing heartfelt compassionate  to obese patients says “they need us to care and we do”) and people seem willing to solve the obesity epidemic themselves, yet the resulting actions reflect a different desire.

Maybe the best solution is just watching the results from a sharp increase in U.S. obesity rates over the last 30 years. In one scene, a patient making some relatively weak excuses for his obesity as a doctor attempting to advise him rolls his eyes at the excuses. A musician describes his battle for personal health as “what will be” amid a society where most people say “I’d like to or need to”.

Why Americans are eating more than they used to? …Our environment sets the tone. We often justify our food intake as a “necessary” energy source our body needs for fuel or as a desirable reward we justify in our minds for certain behaviors without outside perspective or scrutiny. People need help on many fronts to improve obesity. Are we victims of family genetics or can we save lives  with proper attention to mental conditioning history and other psychological aspects. We say obesity is “preventable” , but are not willing in invest in enough mental health resources to battle the psychological consequences that include social stigma, low self-esteem, stress, anxiety, and depression. In my view everyone has value, but everyone experiences what is acceptable and  attractive within constructed social confines that can imprison people from a freeing, unselfish healthy lifestyle.

I feel this issue eventually reveals the following statement: “I know what is good for me…I just don’t want to do it.” People know this truth. They can substitute this statement to many other life elements. People must make concerted efforts with local communities, their family and friends similar to actions like Carly mentioned in her recent “Grocery Shopping Across Generations” feature where people can “look outside of the traditional grocery store to find what they want.” This extra effort means a lot as we battle a pervasive food marketing environment, sleep deprivation from overwork, detrimental personal lifestyles/social circles, and the ease in accessibility and purchase for foods high in sugar, fat and salt.

Weight of the Nation is a worthwhile film that challenges, refines, and reshapes our health processes while occasionally presenting some sensationalized, manipulative-feeling elements. Non-fiction documentaries can certainly promote action, but can also sensationalize and misrepresent certain aspects due to lack of objectivity. For example, filmmakers connect one subject’s comments with his negative view of the TV show The Biggest Loser without taking the due diligence to research the show’s contestant screening process.

Audiences can definitely experience high emotions when viewing effective visuals, charts, and even biological presentation comparing the biopsy of two hearts and aortas from heart healthy and unhealthy people. Basic physiology presentations make strong, common sense cases, especially when explanations about men’s bodies using their abdominal area more to hunt food for their family and women using their hips and thighs for breastfeeding and child caring.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound helps bring the messages through loud and clear. Produced and directed by Dan Chaykin, this film continues HBO’s prominent documentary features that address pertinent national health issues (e.g. 2007’s Addiction and 2009’s The Alzheimer’s Project). The Weight of the Nation is presented HBO documentary films, the Institute of Medicine in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente.


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