The Weight of the Nation premieres on HBO

In the next two days, HBO will air The Weight of the Nation, a four-part documentary on the US epidemic of overweight and obesity. As described by the program’s website,

The first film, CONSEQUENCES, examines the scope of the obesity epidemic and explores the serious health consequences of being overweight or obese. The second, CHOICES, offers viewers the skinny on fat, revealing what science has shown about how to lose weight, maintain weight loss and prevent weight gain. The third, CHILDREN IN CRISIS, documents the damage obesity is doing to our nation’s children. Through individual stories, this film describes how the strong forces at work in our society are causing children to consume too many calories and expend too little energy; tackling subjects from school lunches to the decline of physical education, the demise of school recess and the marketing of unhealthy food to children. The fourth film, CHALLENGES, examines the major driving forces causing the obesity epidemic, including agriculture, economics, evolutionary biology, food marketing, racial and socioeconomic disparities, physical inactivity, American food culture, and the strong influence of the food and beverage industry.

For a nice overview, check out this piece from Brian Stelter in The New York Times. As his article suggests, scrutiny of the contributors to and consequences of our nation’s growing waistlines is imperative, since public policy, the demands of for-profit agribusiness, and human evolutionary history are all at play. As one example, take the opening of the piece:

During the production of “The Weight of the Nation,” a set of films about obesity that HBO will start showing this week, John Hoffman watched over and over again the commercials for sugary snacks and gut-busting meals that appear in excerpts. He knew exactly which buttons the ads were trying to push and why, yet he still was not immune to them.  “When salt is sprinkled over fries and juicy meats are sliced open in front of my eyes, I can feel myself going, ‘Oh, that looks good,’ ” Mr. Hoffman said in an interview, recounting a day when one of the advertising sequences was being stitched together by editors. The ads, he said, “were operating in parts of my brain that are outside my control.”

For more, check out this interview with Hoffman (series exec producer and VP of HBO Documentary Films) by Ira Flatow on NPR’s Talk of the Nation Science Friday. For the local angle, Madison-area readers should head to this article by Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal: “… the segment [in the third film] featuring Madison schools as the typical American cafeteria experience should alarm a city that prides itself on its farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture, said Martha Pings, a local parent nutrition advocate who appears in the film.”

Starting May 14, view the series on your TV or online, where it reportedly will be streaming for free. In the meantime, check out the trailer below.


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