The Weight of the Nation

The Weight of the Nation

Whether you have HBO or not, you should watch the 4 part miniseries Weight of the Nation. It is available free online.

The documentary covers many aspects of the obesity situation in the US, and comes out with a clear conclusion: it is the societal pressures put on individuals that contribute heavily in getting us fat and sick. We are no less responsible than the generations before us were. We have no less willpower on average that our parents did.

To all those who think obesity is just a matter of parents educating their kids, or a person exercising self control – think again. To tackle the obesity crisis, we need to unravel vast business and political interests that are almost incomprehensible. Americans are facing impossible odds coming from various industries that profit mightily from the current obesogenic economy:

  • Junk food manufacturers (over 100 billion dollars in annual revenues)
  • Fast food establishments (over 300 billion dollars)
  • Weight Loss (tens of billions of dollars)
  • Supplements (tens of billions)
  • Healthcare (over 150 billion dollars annually in obesity related treatments)

President Calvin Coolidge once famously said that the “Business of America is business.” It seems that our society has taken this to an extreme without heeding the warning he added:

“Of course the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence.

We make no concealment of the fact that we want wealth, but there are many other things that we want very much more. We want peace and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all civilization. The chief ideal of the American people is idealism. I cannot repeat too often that America is a nation of idealists. That is the only motive to which they ever give any strong and lasting reaction.”

Seems like we need to get off the money train and back to some of the basics that have made this country so great. Easier said than done.

What do you suggest?

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  • Ken Leebow

    I found the documentary to be horrifically depressing. 

    Beyond interviewing many obese people who wanted a magic pill and cried, they perpetuated myths such as … Eat Less, Exercise More and a calorie is a calorie. 

    On a positive note, as least they did not chop off the heads of obese people.  

    And, by concentrating on obesity, we lose sight of the real problem (cause and effect)… horrific food = disease. 

    Ken Leebow

  • Dr. Ayala

    I agree with Ken. The first installment of the series was terribly depressing. But I applaud HBO for this effort to agitate for change. It is also clear that the series won’t end with a simple prescription for a quick fix, but depressing as it is, we need to remind ourselves of what we already know.
    The historic perspective of the fight against smoking should make us hopeful.I have a feeling we’re reaching a tipping point, and things will start to change.

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  • nelliesabin

    “To all those who think obesity is just a matter of parents educating their kids, or a person exercising self control – think again. To tackle the obesity crisis, we need to unravel vast business and political interests that are almost incomprehensible.”


    • EVIL food scientist

      So, basically we’re back to the point where people can’t make decisions for themselves.  “Evil” businesses (fast food, snack foods, candy, soda) must be closed or taxed out of existence. 

      What a fine idea! Perhaps we can have people get on a scale prior to buying any food products and we can dictate to them what they can and can’t buy!  Even if there’s no more soda, chips, candy, or quarter pounders, these fatties will figure out a way to continue to gorge themselves on SOMETHING, I just know it!

      • April

        Wow! Your comments are stunning and clearly not made from an educated point of view. In a study conducted at Yale University, which looked at MRI brain imaging found “that a chocolate milkshake and a line of cocaine might not be so different”. The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry,
        a peer-reviewed journal. The study’s findings have debunked the notion that “fattys” who are overweight are not simply lacking self-control, lazy or self-defeatest. Instead, these individuals are part of 2/3 of Americans who are either obese or overweight and who are dealing with a gripping disease. The scientific and medical community alike are just now beginning to understanding this deadly epidemic. Perhaps you should watch the film in its entirety and do a bit of research prior to discussing such a complex issue.

  • @stuartberry1

    But the good news is that you can take the science begins getting you to wear more and turn it on its head. Check out the fantastic website : you’ll have to watch it on a flash friendly device.
    Watch for free the overviews of the mindless eating experiments. Never ending soup bowl.
    I love the one where the same wine is giving to both groups of people. The ones who were told it was a great wine ate more more and rated it higher than the ones who were told it was an obscure red from a place you would be crazy to make wine from.
    Expectation influenced total calories consumed and overall satisfaction score.

  • PrincessDianne

    I am an American who falls into the charming “morbidly obese” category.  I’ve had issues with food my entire life, which is a story unto itself, but here’s my actual point for today:

    I had an epiphany 5 months ago while I was waiting to be approved for lap band surgery.  I had gotten so fed up with my own struggle that I was ready to resort to surgery…and I have resisted that for YEARS. 

    My gut instinct wouldn’t let me go through with it, though…and – in the middle of the holiday season – I found myself finally ready to walk away from the sugar, fast food, and garbage I’d been feeding myself for over 20 years. 

    What do I suggest?  I suggest that every overweight/obese/morbidly obese American get back in touch with themselves and LISTEN to the ridiculous BS they tell themselves.  It is still a daily struggle with me and I know I’m not alone.  If we’re not mentally berrating ourselves for being fat, we’re trying to put ourselves on ridiculous diets and holding ourselves accountable to impossible expectations.  ENOUGH!

    I gave up sugar and fast food on December 15th.  I gave up diet soda on Christmas day.  I’ve lost 39 pounds, 19.5 inches, and 1 size in the last 5 months.  I’ve started a blog about my process that keeps me honest…and I have found so many people who share in my thoughts and struggles. 

    This is a battle royale and it all starts in your HEAD.  I stopped listening to the diet and fitness industry and now I do what works for ME.  Everyone is too busy looking to the “experts” and following them like sheep instead of really paying attention to what works for them.  This is a very individual process.  You have to do what works for YOU, not some guy who’s a multi-millionaire because he has a new diet for everyone to try…and fail.

    I’m going to watch this series this weekend – but I’ll tell you what I know:  it starts with personal accountability with each and every person. 

    Society in general needs to stop being so incredibly cruel towards overweight people as well.  It is unthinkable to me that bullying is not okay with some groups but apparently it’s still open season on the overweight.  It perpetuates the problem and needs to be stopped…but the first step and the bulk of the work must be done in the head.  And the heart.

    181 more pounds to go and my engines are FULL of steam.  Follow my progress here:


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