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BEDA board member Marsha Hudnall's comments on the new HBO film due out next week.

By May 14, 2012 - 8:55am

Weight of the Nation: Fear & Shame Isn’t a Motivator

by Marsha on May 11, 2012

Up for a little fear, shame and overall misdirection next week? Then have we got something for you!

Tune into HBO’s documentary “Weight of the Nation,” produced in collaboration with the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health. It’s scheduled to air Monday and Tuesday night.

I haven’t seen the documentary yet, but I have seen the trailer. I just watched it again and it’s hard to describe how I feel. Defeated comes to mind, yet here I am writing this post. I’m not ready yet to give up in the face of what to me seems like overwhelming tunnel vision on the part of the people “in charge,” e.g., those that have the wherewithal to truly change the national conversation about body weight into — wait, here’s a revolutionary thought — into something that actually helps people.

Just the tagline “To win, we have to lose” tells me they don’t get it. It’s not like the vast majority of people who struggle with eating and weight haven’t tried. And there seems no recognition of the fact that the trying actually causes most to gain weight because of the methods they employ. One fellow in the trailer says, “I always say this is the biggest I’m going to be, and I said that 20 pounds ago.” So what was he doing 20 pounds ago? Likely dieting. It’s proven to cause weight gain. Yet it seems like everything I continue to see come from government agencies charged with protecting our health advises calorie counting, the cornerstone of dieting.

And will they mention emerging information that points to underlying processes that may be at the root of weight struggles for many? Things like chronic inflammation, which I talk a lot about in our Healing with Foods classes at Green Mountain. And the potential protective role that fat plays in guarding our body from toxins in our environment? Issues that take the focus away from our body size and place it where it belongs — on our health.

Weight of the Nation will surely talk about the need to improve what we eat, which is central to improving health. But with its focus on weight instead of health, the documentary is likely to offer far from an inspiring message.

Can you imagine instead a piece that instead explores how we can help ourselves feel better and reach and maintain a healthy weight naturally? I will guess that likely many of the same messages about food and fitness could be there, yet delivered in a way that makes people feel hopeful. Am I a dreamer?

For more help in critically examining the messages you’ll hear in Weight of the Nation, check out the Association for Size Diversity and Health’s excellent work “Debate the Weight: Deconstructing HBO’s The Weight of the Nation.”

Are you planning to watch the documentary? I am. I’m still holding on to the tiniest sliver of hope that it will be a balanced presentation. Although with that trailer, I don’t know why. Still, I have to know what they do say in order to counter misinformation.

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