Earlier this month, HBO aired a four-part documentary series entitled “The Weight of the Nation: Confronting America’s Obesity Epidemic” (http://theweightofthenation.hbo.com/). The filmmakers sought to comprehensively examine the recent trends in overweight/obesity estimates as well as potential consequences and explanatory factors.
The series is certainly thought provoking (particularly the information on the harmful effects of TV advertisements aimed at children and on the inherent struggles that farmers face to produce healthy foods), however there is an active opposition to the film and many of its primary tenets. The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH; https://sizediversityandhealth.org/index.asp) has voiced particular concern about the film’s use of rhetoric that induces fear and propagates the idea that obesity = poor health.
Those involved in the response to HBO’s documentary (debatetheweight.com) rightfully point out the differences between established correlations between weight and disease states and actual causal mechanisms. ASDAH also takes issue with the fact that the filmmakers involved with The Weight of the Nation failed to consult with any professionals involved in the Health at Every Size movement (HAES) and thereby present a largely one-sided view of the issue. The ASDAH community is also quick to note that, “our obsession with obesity is contributing to the rise in eating disorders” (from “Top 10 Reasons to be Concerned about ‘The Weight of the Nation’ documentary” at: http://healthateverysizeblog.org/2012/05/10/the-haes-files-top-10-reasons-to-be-concerned-about-the-weight-of-the-nation-documentary/). Their astute observation is likely reflective of the fact that a constant focus on weight may contribute to an increase use of fad diets and “quick fix” products that can have deleterious effects on body weight (e.g., “yo-yo dieting”) and on the mind in the form of disordered eating thoughts and negative body image.
So what do you think? Where do you stand on this issue? To learn more, check out both sides of the story: The Weight of the Nation documentary series is now available for free on youtube.com and ASDAH’s “Debate the Weight” page is open to the public with a variety of resources including a part-by-part breakdown of the documentary and a video response of their own.
By: Dr. Christine Peat