Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Weight of the Nation on HBO

The HBO obesity documentary The Weight of the Nation has inspired a vigorous discussion of issues surrounding economics and obesity. My earlier post warned about cultural conflicts based on body fat levels, but that is hardly the most urgent issue. Many people have had something to say.

Robyn O’Brien writes in Inspired Bites that childhood obesity could be the root cause of most allergies.


Fooducate says that character is not the issue. People are as responsible as we ever were. The real problem is that the economy is obesogenic — it is designed to make most people obese.


Susan Blumenthal, a medical doctor and Huffington Post’s public health editor, offers a more optimistic assessment of the situation. Yes, the obesity problem is getting worse and the personal and public costs are enormous, but at the same time, we know more than ever about what we can do to solve the problem. The key to success, she says, is making healthy food and exercise more accessible to people.


I won’t link to any of the practicing medical professionals who commented because they all seem to say the same thing: Weight loss is far more complicated than HBO made it out to be. You shouldn’t expect to make any progress on your own, but hire a team of medical specialists, and you might have a chance.

And if that point of view seems self-serving, much of the conversation surrounding The Weight of the Nation has been less responsible than that. An alarming number of “advocates” (though who knows how many of them are secretly on big pharma payrolls) are essentially encouraging people to be fat. They argue that obesity should be regarded as a normal condition and not as a illness, which is basically like saying that illness should not be regarded as an illness. There actually is a point behind that reasoning, but in the end it is self-defeating. There has to be a way of approaching obesity that creates the possibility of action. No one really wants to die young, fat, and happy, even if such a thing were possible.

Most alarmingly, many writers, even at mainstream media outlets with strong reputations, have used the occasion as an excuse to promote unscientific and dangerous fad diet systems.

The best answer to those who would try to profit from obesity is found at The Full Yield Blog. Commercial culture is the cause of obesity and a host of related personal problems, and self-determination is the only solution we have.


Unfortunately, behind the veneer of the idealistic blog, The Full Yield is actually part of the big commercial weight loss system that hopes to profit from your obesity for as long as possible. It is a complicated world indeed for anyone seeking commercial solutions to personal problems.

The whole Weight of the Nation movie can be seen online. One place to see it is at the HBO Documentary Films channel on YouTube:


Another is at the documentary’s own web site: