The Weight of the Nation

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Weight of the Nation TV Poster Image
Quality obesity docuseries is educational, straightforward.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The series characterizes obesity in the U.S. as a national epidemic and underscores the consequences of not confronting the problem. Connections are made between weight gain and genetics, lifestyle choices, socio-economic factors, government decisions, low-cost manufacturing trends, and marketing. Ways to live a healthier lifestyle and lose weight are also discussed.

Positive Role Models & Representations

First Lady Michelle Obama is presented as an advocate for healthy living. Experts and people struggling with weight are from all walks of life and most seem sincere in their efforts to make positive change. The blame for childhood obesity is shared by parents, policy makers, food manufacturers, and the media.

Violence

Contains images of various surgeries, including gastric bypass surgery, plus people handling diseased organs. Blood is shown being drawn from individuals participating in weight and nutrition studies.

Sex

Contains images of fine art paintings that feature male and female nudes.

Language

Words like "crap" are audible, but only on rare occasion.

Consumerism

Kaiser Permanente is one of the sponsors of the series. Fast food restaurants like McDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and others are shown. Labels for things like Kit Kats, Coca-Cola, Smuckers, Gatorade, and other foods are also visible. Contains references to diet plans like Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, and others. Shows like The Biggest Loser are discussed. All of these are presented within context.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Smoking is discussed. Online multimedia presentations feature archived images of smoking. The use of prescription drugs to combat blood pressure and other weight-related chronic diseases are discussed. The injection of insulin is shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Weight of the Nation is a docuseries highlighting the reasons behind and the consequences of the obesity problem in the United States. The language is mild (an occasional "crap" is heard), and it contains strong images of surgical procedures and human organs that may be tough for sensitive viewers to watch. The Obama administration's efforts to promote childhood nutrition is highlighted, and it criticizes lobbyists and corporations who have hindered their efforts. It's educational, but some viewers may find it a bit dense to get through.

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What's the story?

WEIGHT OF THE NATION is a documentary series that examines the complexity of the obesity epidemic in the United States. It features historians, researchers, medical experts, and government officials offering straightforward and scientifically evidenced reasons why 68.8 percent of the U.S. population is either overweight, obese, or morbidly obese. It shows the long-term impact this excess weight is having on individuals, communities, and the overall nation, ranging from chronic diseases and higher medical expenses to a less productive work force and a shortened life-span. The ways in which politics and corporate lobbying is reinforcing this epidemic is also discussed. Throughout the series, various people who are struggling with their weight and/or watching their children struggle with their weight share their thoughts and insight about their journeys.

Is it any good?

The straightforward and unapologetic series underscores the connections between the exponential rise in obesity in the United States in the last 30 years and changing social and economic trends, like a reliance on cheap food production, a sedentary lifestyle, and unchecked urban planning. It shows how food manufacturers, who are responsible for creating marketing schemes designed to promote minimally nutritious foods (like many breakfast cereals and juice) as healthy food alternatives, continue to lobby government decision-makers to protect their ability to do so. It also highlights how these unhealthy foods are specifically marketed to children, and how this, in turn, contributes to the lifestyle habits that are resulting in life-threatening weight-related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  

The amount of information offered here can be overwhelming, and at times, a little repetitive. Nonetheless, this is a documentary that is worth making the effort to watch from beginning to end. It not only demonstrates how America's weight-gain trend is costing the nation money, time, and lives in ways that most of us don't even think about, but it shows us why individuals, the government, and corporations have a shared responsibility for combating the problem. It is an educational -- but stern -- warning about what the consequences will be if we don't confront this nationwide problem now.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the reasons why people weigh more today than they did 30 years ago according to this series. Did you know that the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, including soda and fruit juice, are one of the primary reasons for weight gain in America?

  • How is the media used to market these beverages, and other unhealthy foods, especially to children?

  • Why are people more sedentary today than 30 years ago? How much does watching TV and playing video games factor into this? What are things that you can do to enjoy these activities while still living an active lifestyle? What are other things that you can do to keep healthy and fit?

  • Who does this series accuse of being to blame for the rise in obesity? Are these fair claims? Who sponsors this series? Are there any conflicts of interest at play in this series?

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