Sneak Peek: 'The Weight of the Nation' Documentary Series

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This week, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of a documentary about one of the most pressing issues of our time: the US obesity epidemic. The Weight of the Nation  will air on HBO as a four-part series May 14 and 15. Here is a description of the project, from HBO's website:

''Bringing together the nation’s leading research institutions, THE WEIGHT OF THE NATION is a presentation of HBO and the Institute of Medicine (IOM), in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and in partnership with the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente.

The centerpiece of THE WEIGHT OF THE NATION campaign is the four-part documentary series, each featuring case studies, interviews with our nation’s leading experts, and individuals and their families struggling with obesity. 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.''

Check out the trailer here:

I viewed part three, "Children in Crisis," which addressed topics we've all heard: children are becoming more overweight and obese due to the fact that they lack healthy food options at school and at home, spend too much time in front of computer and television screens, and are constantly swamped with media images that entice them to eat sugary, nutritionally-void foods.

The film showcased some phenomenal parents who were doing everything in their power to help their children become healthier. Not only did they seek out advice from medical professionals, but they also lived as an example for their kids by choosing not to keep sugary foods in the house and by exercising with their children on a regular basis. And it worked--slowly but surely, the kids made healthier choices, lost weight, and reduced their risk for future chronic disease. Unfortunately, these parents are in the minority: only 10% of parents with overweight or obese kids actively do something to correct the problem.

The documentary pointed out that most parents would take action immediately if they found out their child had a life-threatening condition like cancer, so why not take action in the case of obesity? After all, obesity is a huge risk factor for cancer, as well as other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Though it may not be as sudden or immediately threatening as cancer, obesity is a slowly-creeping problem that can be just as fatal over time. But because it is such a slow creep, it can be difficult to create a sense of urgency surrounding the issue.

Whether your children are overweight or not, helping them make healthy choices now will save them from becoming statistics down the line. According to the documentary, we live in a time where we may be raising the first generation of kids who will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, and, according to new data from researchers, obesity could affect 42% of Americans by 2030.

At SparkPeople, it's refreshing to see that many of our members do have that sense of urgency needed to create change. Every day, these parents are making an effort to help their children live a healthy lifestyle along with them--and it's working, just as it did for some of the families in the documentary. According to a recent SparkPeople member survey, we found that two-thirds of our members' kids are eating better because their parents are.

Sometimes, it seems like we're making it harder than it needs to be. You don't have to forbid your kids from ever having a treat, but you can lead by example. Just look at MOSTMOM1, who shares the joy of hula hooping with her daughter, or JMERLAU, who recently took his entire family on a healthy field trip to the farmers market. If you stay consistent and continue to provide your child with healthy messages like these, it will click and make a huge impact down the line. For more healthy kid-focused ideas, check out our Healthy Kids and Families Lifestyle Center.

The main message to take away from this segment of The Weight of the Nation is that education, prevention, and acting as a healthy example for your kids has never been more crucial. It's an obvious message, but it bears repeating, and it's time to make that message more urgent. With Mother's Day and Father's Day coming up, this is as good a time as any to remind yourself of your duty as a parent to keep your child thriving--not just surviving--as much as you possibly can. Never underestimate your power as a parent; your influence reaches much farther than you may even realize.

If you want to learn more about obesity in the US and the challenges of fighting against it, you can watch The Weight of the Nation on HBO: parts 1 and 2 on May 14 at 8 p.m. EST and parts 3 and 4 on May 15 at 8 p.m. The information is nothing new if you are up to date on health news, but the themes and statistics throughout are interesting (though aggravating at times); it feels daunting to know that we're up against such a large and complex issue. But don't get discouraged! You can do your part by teaching your kids today so we can build a healthier nation for the future.

If you are a parent, what are you doing to help your kids make healthy choices, for the short term and long term? Do you have a sense of urgency when it comes to your child's weight and health?

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There is one reason for obesity that is not talked about...the amount of time kids have to spend on homework. My daughter literally gets home at 4:00, does homework until dinner, then returns to the books. Report
This is very interested. I must watch it on You Tube. Report
This is very interested. I must watch it on You Tube. Report
This is very interested. I must watch it on You Tube. Report
Thanks for informing us about this film, I just watched the first part on YouTube. Report
It is viewable online for free, even if you are not an HBO subscriber. Cut and paste the following website, and all 4 parts are available, with subtitles in Spanish.
There is a similar campaign here in the UK. It enrages me to see kids bought up on fast food; yes it's okay as an occasional treat! But the amount of money spent on fast food meals could so easily buy fresh nutriional food.
There is no need to eat a day's calorific intake in one meal!
Kids need to be out riding bikes or playing football not sitting at computers all day!
Why isn't this on a regular network?! We have satellite, but not the HBO station, and we're certainly not going to subscribe for two days.

The program is available on DVD for $19.95 on, to be released at the end of July. Report
Sounds interesting! I'll make plans to watch. Report
I think there is a political agenda to every 'crisis' the media chooses to cover. I know of MANY schools that offer healthy choices, almost ALL in ND have fabulous salad bars. Let's tackle other issues like mental health and homelessness. No hate mail please. This is my opinion, that's all. Report
This program sounds interesting. I will figure out a way to watch it, as I don't have HBO. To ICADOIT1220, I agree with you 100%. Kids need recess to run around, burn off excess energy, and get some fresh air. Here's to recess! Report
I don't get HBO and I would love to see this I work as a cashier and I see children who are no older then 4 and 5 abd weighing close to 80 pounds already and their parents give the kids candy while they are shopping its amazing at the same time I see adults who are 400 to 500 pounds carts are just loaded with junk food its sad Report
I really want to see this but don't have HBO. It isn't on Netflix yet either. Reading the comments above as I type, I see that someone posted that it is available on HBO's website. Report
W hat is life without health .What is life for our grand children if we destroy the world.What is the most important thing.Think about it and go for it. Report
So glad to see that good parenting is emphasized. I don't buy the nonsense about "marketing to kids". When I was growing up there was far more marketing and many more commercials aimed at children. Toys were in every box of cereal. But were weren't fat. I definitely think that schools need to make sure that P.E. and recess are parts of the curriculum. They truly are important.
I agree, this should not be restricted to premium cable channels. In any case, I'm sure it will come to public TV soon enough and in the meantime, send emails to the producer and director to get it! Report
educate educate educate. Report
Must be for the Rich people !!!!
To Bad !!!! Report
This kind of thing needs to NOT be restricted to premium cable - subject matter is just too important for restrictions in viewing audience! Sheesh! Another reason I despite premium cable and will not fall into their lair! Report
One of my email buddies that I met here on SparkPeople is one of those interviewed in this documentary. Can't wait to see it. Report
Good to hear it might be available on their website because this sounds like an abundance of great information - too good to miss! Report
Obesity is now in the fifth generation in my family. The last two generations have it under control and I say "good for them". And I certainly am trying. I could just have it conquered before I die....that is my hope. I have a granddaughter who is studying nutrition and is in her second of four years. Finally, we are "gettin it" and hopefully, it will rub off on all of us. Report
I have five grown children, 21 - 37, and none of them are fat, as they do the P90X work out. I never wanted to raise fat children, so they were into JUDO, soccer, swimming, etc. and thought nothing of exercise. I'd leave fruits & salads in the frig with a sign "DON'T EAT, MOM'S DIET FOOD" and of course, they ate it all. Report
HBO is doing a LOT to make this series widely available beyond their paid subscribers and deserves credit for this. Check their website as well as your library. Report
As a former elementary school teacher I saw how our district's academic expectations undermined the amount of physical activity for young children. I was teaching 2nd graders and we had to give up our "snack recess" in the morning in order to reach district mandates for how much time spent teaching literacy and math. Now I have 2 children of my own in elementary school and I am a huge fan of recess. Some years their teachers have them go out for recess twice a day, but often they don't. It makes me angry that educators would value literacy or math more than a child's physical and emotional well being.

There are my 2 cents! Report
What everyone seems to be forgetting or may be ignorant of, is that not everyone who appears to be overweight eats the wrong foods or gets too little exercise. My daughter was on the bottom of the growth chart and tiny for her age. She had a sudden change with no change in diet or activity level. She is quite active. I took her in for testing and she was hypothyroid. That didn't change her appearance, so I put her on the GAPS diet and she dropped 10 pounds immediately. Fluid retention from inflammation due to allergies can cause a person to look obese.

I put myself on an elimination diet and lost 40 pounds in 50 days due to being allergic/sensitive to certain foods. It was a lot of fluid.

Please don't lump everyone in the same group because there are people like me who don't eat junk food, desserts, sugar, dairy, gluten, eggs, breads, etc. and still cannot take off the weight. I am exercising, too. I have been through many tests at Mayo clinic since December and I still don't have the answers I need. Report
there is a girl at church who had gastric bypass so she could hopefully get pregnant. She did (twice) and has kept her weight off.

what really bugs me is that she has 2 very chubby little boys. Way past the 'baby fat' age. Why would you set your kids up to have a weight problem all of their lives? Report
I wish this was available to watch for those of us that don't subscribe to HBO. Maybe I'll check out the website. Report
The HBO series will be available to watch on the HBO website even if you don't get HBO. Check the site on Monday if you don't get HBO but want to see this program. I think they will be available at that time. Report
I don't have HBO but I'm going to find a way to watch this documentary. I think the subject matter is just too important. Report
My daughter's concert was the other night and I was AMAZED at how many kids were visibly overweight, and some who were downright obese. But then at the end of the concert when you see the kids leaving with their parents, it was obvious this is a generational problem. Report
It upsets me to see obese or overweight kids. I know it is a problem everywhere, but for the sake of the children, we need to do something. Report
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