The Weight of the Nation

Did you know that 1 out of 5 of kids drinks three or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day, accounting for an extra meal? With Mayor Bloomberg proposing a ban in New York City over sugary drinks and the Disney channel banning junk food advertisements, it’s no secret that America is facing an obesity epidemic. Along with childhood obesity rates on the rise, chronic heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes have also increased over the past few years. Type 2 Diabetes, which  was once primarily diagnosed in old age, is now a common medical concern in children. While obesity-health related problems have been a looming crisis for quite some time, recently HBO launched a documentary, drawing quite a lot of attention to  the nation’s obesity crisis. The Weight of the Nation: Confronting America’s Obesity Epidemic, is a four part series focusing on consequences, choices, children in crisis, and challenges. To those who believe that the root of childhood obesity stems from a lack of parental responsibility in educating their children or a lack of exercise, Weight of the Nation presents viewers with an all-around perspective on the complexity of the issue.

Obesity is very complex and the documentary does a good job highlighting the many factors that contribute to the issue like poverty, genetics, food culture, personal responsibility, environment, issues of diet and lack of exercise. Issues with childhood obesity are caused in part by a lack of nutrition education, over-processed school food lunches, the overwhelming access to nutrient-poor foods conveniently located everywhere you go, and how video games and electronics have replaced outdoor and sport activities as a means for childhood entertainment. If the weight epidemic is not addressed,  Americans will eventually wind up paying even more for the cost of treating obesity-related illness. As obesity contributes to 5 of the 10 leading causes of death in America, it has added a whopping $150 billion to health costs now and according to the documentary, may hit or exceed $300 billion by 2018.

While the various factors that make solving the obesity epidemic seem nearly impossible, the biggest take-away from the series is that the nation’s weight crisis can be reversed. While some critics point out that the series is “too blunt” or “too graphic,” The Weight of the Nation is a wake-up call, drawing awareness to the depth of the problem and most importantly, a chance for us to fix it. Whether it’s taking the stairs or walking to work, change begins with the individual and we can start by integrating physical activity into our daily lives. In fact, the documentary points out that losing as little as 5% of your weight can improve your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and also lowers diabetes risk by nearly 60% in people with pre-diabetes. The show’s statistics, backed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and the Institute of Medicine among others, shows hope that even small improvements can make a difference.