May 21, 2012
America has a deep, dark secret. But HBO’s startling--and heavily researched--documentary, The Weight of the Nation, is asking viewers to face reality: we are a nation of the obese.
- More than 68.8% of American adults are obese or overweight
- 1 in 3 children born since 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime
- Only 10% of parents seek medical help for their obese children
- More than 36% of U.S. adults have cardiovascular disease
Yes, you read that right. And that’s just a glimpse of the alarming facts presented in the four-hour documentary. The Weight of the Nation is a film that sheds light on the obesity epidemic plaguing our country, and worst of all, our children. You can’t watch this doc and not be struck by the images and statistics the filmmakers share.
The film demonstrates great collaboration among dozens of doctors and health organizations working toward eradicating this problem. It also highlights many factors that have contributed to America’s obesity epidemic. In a car-dependent, TV-obsessed, overstressed, advertising-driven society that can be “toxic,” health has fallen to last priority for many. When give the option to choose between a quick and easy drive through at McDonald’s or cooking a healthy meal, too many pick the easy route.
The Weight of the Nation urges Americans to realize that health has to come first: No excuses. Obesity is not only debilitating, it’s fatal.
Costs to Our Children
The obesity rate among children is frightening. According to Dr. Shiriki Kumanyika, PhD, MPH of the University of Pennsylvania, obese children “will be on dialysis in their 30s” if drastic measures are not taken. I was surprised to learn that obesity contributed to poor liver health, diabetes, asthma, kidney disease and even cancer. It affects way more than just heart health and weight.
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Do you remember what you used to eat during your lunch period at school? Well, things haven’t gotten any better. A school lunch period filmed in Madison, Wisconsin, vividly illustrates that schools aren’t helping this issue. From hot dogs to greasy pizza to cheese-smothered broccoli (and brand name chips sold in lunch lines), it’s clear that many school lunches lack nutrition. Even worse, only 1 of 6 schools in the entire U.S. requires P.E. at least three times per week.
Costs to Business
I had never thought of how obesity could affect business. It seemed like more of a personal health issue that only hurts individuals. But in fact, obesity not only drives up health care costs for employers, it also lowers productivity among the workforce and leads to frequent sick days.
Fortunately, some workplaces highlighted in the documentary have created programs to encourage employee health and fitness. Having this built-in infrastructure to promote health makes things easier for employees and creates a culture of health within the company. Hopefully more companies follow suit so that we are able to combat this issue in the workplace.
Costs to Happiness
One of the saddest lines in the film came from a teenage girl. She spoke of things she dreams of doing but said, “Being fat can hold you back.”
Some of the other people highlighted in the documentary have succeeded in losing weight, while others still struggle with health issues. Most share feelings of sadness or frustration that they are not living their lives to the fullest. Obesity has become a sort of trap for these people and many don’t know how to get themselves out. This is why educating people about health is such an important part of turning the problem around.
Dr. Elsie Taveras, a pediatrician in the film, points out that weight isn’t just about appearance; it’s about quality and length of life. A healthy weight will lead to a healthy – and hopefully happy – existence.
Summing it Up
This documentary drove home the urgency of obesity in the US. Beyond fat jokes and celebrities’ battles with weight, the issue of American obesity is the elephant in the room that more people need to talk about. The information, stories and studies were somewhat overwhelming but they made me realize, “Wow. This is scary. We have to act now.”
This is just a small snapshot of all that “The Weight of the Nation” presents. I encourage you to learn what you can and watch it out for yourself – free viewing is available at HBO.com and the film’s website and Twitter feed are excellent resources.
Take a look. The cost of doing nothing is too great.