I’ve spent about 4 hours over the last few days watching a documentary series on HBO called The Weight of the Nation, which originally aired on May 15th and 16th. A couple of my coworkers emailed me about this series this week, and it was well worth the time I spent watching it.
HBO felt so strongly about getting this public health message out to the masses that they made it available to all cable subscribers, whether they paid for HBO or not, and have made it readily available on their website and on YouTube (all free) for those who missed the initial airing. Aptly named, this four-part series interviews everyday folks from all over the United States who struggle with their weight, in addition to medical professionals, experts on obesity, diabetes, heart disease, pediatric health, public health, concerned parents, and school board members.
I was incredibly moved to see that the slowly growing, but VERY important movement of exposing the systemic problems of Big Food’s influence on what we eat and the lack of access to healthy choices to is becoming a national topic of conversation. And I’m thrilled that HBO is sponsoring the effort to get the word out. While I hope that each of you will find the time over the next week to watch this series at home, I would like to share a few tidbits with you now. Some of this might be review for you, but whether this is new information or something you’ve heard before, it’s alarming, and especially salient for those of us in the health industry taking care of these sick Americans.
- 18% of American children are obese.
- 66+% of American adults are overweight or obese – this means that ONE THIRD of our population is able to successfully maintain a healthy body weight.
- Children born in the 2000’s will be the first generation with a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
- Sugary beverages constitute 1/3 of the average American’s daily caloric intake. This is not just soda. This includes sweet tea, fruit juice, and “sports drinks.”
- Exercise only plays a tiny role in weight loss, but is the most important factor in keeping it off (maintenance).
- Nearly 50% of the farms in this country are farming corn and soy.
- Less than 3% of US farmland is planted with fruits and vegetables.
- We’re spending less on food than ever before and more on healthcare than ever before.
One of the most important takeaway messages I think we should glean from learning what’s presented in this series is that weight management and weight struggles are not about the individual’s drive or lack-there-of to take care of him/herself. This is a societal challenge. We are inundated with cheap, unhealthy food choices with ingredients that are subsidized by the government. And while personal responsibility may play a role, it is NOT the only driving factor that is causing an obesity epidemic in this country. This problem calls for systemic change, and it will be an uphill battle. This inspiring documentary calls for change and is definitely worth watching.
I challenge you to watch this series over the course of the coming days and come back and post something you learned. You might be surprised at what you find out.