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Television Series Tackles Weighty Issue

Sarah Henry spotlights "The Weight of the Nation," a new series airing this week on HBO that explores obesity and its enormous economic, emotional, social, and health costs.
May 16, 2012, 6am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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In four episodes that premiered this week, The Weight of the Nation: Confronting America's Obesity Epidemic, "serves as a clarion call to the country to take action - and fast - to combat this pernicious, complex problem that has myriad root causes." As we've mentioned before, there is a direct correlation between our development patterns and our emerging health crises. While not all of the episodes in this program are place-based, the intersection between the built environment and obesity are explored. As Henry notes, "in the final installment we meet a Nashville mayor trying to help his city get healthy and a Latino community in Santa Ana, Calif., whose members spend years advocating for a play space for their children."

"Despite the familiar territory, this viewer gives the filmmakers points for framing the issue in a fresh, visually compelling way through astute story selection," writes Henry. "Some critics (including those who have yet to watch the series) worry that The Weight of the Nation only fans fear, stereotypes fat folk, and doesn't go after the real villain in the war against weight: the food and beverage industry. But from this critic's perspective, the program doesn't lay shame and blame at the feet of the overweight and obese people it features. On the contrary, it presents their struggles in a sympathetic and non-judgmental light, revealing how hard the body fights weight loss despite good intentions, and how current social, economic, and government systems sabotage Americans' attempts to stay healthy."

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Published on Monday, May 14, 2012 in Grist
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