The Weight Of The Nation: New HBO Documentary Tackles Nationwide Obesity

woman standing on a scale
Vivia Armstrong was obese at the age of 10. By the time she reached her teens, she tipped the scales at more than 200 pounds. Today, the Atlanta-based marketing consultant is considered morbidly obese according to clinical standards.

Read: Weight Loss & Healthy Aging

“Being overweight or obese is all I have ever known,” says 28-year-old Armstrong. “I can’t relate to people who used to be thin.”

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Armstrong is just one of millions of Americans who are classified as overweight, obese, severely obese, morbidly obese or super obese. The magnitude of the obesity situation in this country was the impetus behind HBO joining forces with the nation’s leading medical institutions, to make the four-part documentary, The Weight of the Nation, which premieres on May 14.

The film offers an uncompromising look at the severity of the obesity crisis and the driving forces behind the problem.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (2012) about 69 percent of U.S. adults fall into these categories. The situation is getting worse. So much so that health practitioners are talking about an obesity epidemic at catastrophic levels, which could potentially threaten the health, welfare and future of the United States.

“The sole purpose is to sound a very loud alarm that the issue of obesity has to become a top priority in this country” says John Hoffman, executive producer of the project, which was three years in the making.

“The health of our country is compromised if two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese,” adds Hoffman. “Our future is weakened if one-third of our kids are obese and our healthcare system will be on the verge of bankruptcy if things don’t change.”

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From Jennifer Hudson To Janet Jackson: Does Celebrity Weight Loss Really Encourage Us?

Janet Jackson
It’s not abnormal to see commercials for weight loss programs. Almost everyone I know (myself included) is trying to drop those pesky extra pounds.

Read: Chaka Khan Drops 60 Pounds!

But what did stand out to me was how many Black celebs were in these commercials.

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Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, who has been promoting Weight Watchers since last spring, has lost a whopping 80 pounds. Her newest commercial has her old larger self singing to her new smaller self. But other R&B divas, namely Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson, have joined in the weight loss game, promoting Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem, respectively.

On one hand this is a good thing. Not just for their pockets, but for the everyday Black woman.

Perhaps Black women can identify with celebs who are not scary skinny and look more like them, and who can therefore encourage us lose weight just like them. Which is something we desperately need to do. According to the U.S. Office of Minority Health, in 2009 Blacks were 1.5 times more likely to be overweight or obese than whites. African-American women are 60 percent more likely to be obese than White women and about four out of five African-American females are now either overweight or obese.

But, on the other hand, I do have a few reservations about whether these ads will be the catalyst for better health among black women. First, with any celebrity, regardless of race, boasting that these meal plans have helped them lose weight always garners somewhat of a side-eye reaction.


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