Boy you gotta carry that weight
Carry that weight a long time
The Weight of the Nation: Consequences, part one of a four part HBO series on obesity in America, focuses on its consequences: for the individual, family, community, and even the nation. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher and it’s easy as we grow older to gradually put on the pounds. The country too has grown fatter as it enters middle age – 68.8% of Americans are now technically overweight or obese. If this were simply a matter of vanity or looks this issue would not be so grave. However, being even slightly overweight, by as little as 5%, can have serious consequences for one’s health.
Consequences is a science heavy film. Some of those interviewed were part of the groundbreaking Bogalusa Heart Study (1972-2005) that followed children into adulthood and discovered conclusively that heard disease begins in childhood. Other interviewees are doctors and specialists. Those interviewed who struggle with their weight discuss frankly the emotional and physical challenges. The doctors and pathologists, meanwhile, explain in vivid detail the dangers of obesity: high blood pressure; heart, liver, and kidney disease; asthma; dementia; diabetes and its consequences such as blindness and amputations; and early death.
The statistics are not pretty. Twenty percent of the kids in the Bogalusa study had arterial plaque and high cholesterol. Now 50% of the children in Bogalusa, Louisiana are overweight or obese. Obese children are eight times more likely than normal ones to develop diabetes. It’s hard to say if Bogalusa is exceptional or whether it’s a bellwether – the new normal.
At one time obesity was considered a problem of poor people but rates of obesity are increasing among all socioeconomic classes. While obesity no longer discriminates based on income, 9 of the 10 poorest states have the worst problem with it. Nor is obesity determined by one’s ethnicity. The scientific consensus is that it is a complex condition brought on by a combination of one’s DNA (not a single gene but perhaps hundreds) and one’s environment. Some people are more susceptible than others and your surroundings play a big part.
The good news is that unlike many diseases, or a natural disaster such as a tsunami, obesity is preventable. While being a mere 2-5% overweight carries increased health risks, many of these can be eliminated by achieving a healthy weight. Consequences does not suggest that everything is up to the individual. The film recognizes that solutions extend to the community and to the nation. In fact, obesity costs the United States $150 billion in health care dollars, half of which is paid for by the public through Medicare and Medicaid.
Because The Weight of the Nation is a four-part series, it hones in on its subject matter and does not suffer, as do some food documentaries, by covering too much ground. Consequences lays the groundwork on the dangers of obesity and hints at some solutions. Subsequent parts, Choices, Children in Crisis, and Challenges complete the picture.
Weight of the Nation: Consequences will show Tuesday, May 14, second floor meeting room of the Coop, 7:00 p.m. Free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.