'Weight of the Nation': To Win, We Have to Lose

As a child, I once overheard my grandma discussing how big I had gotten - and she wasn't referring to my height. In high school, I would get winded trying to run even a half of a mile, and remained dance-less at my sophomore Valentine's Day dance. I often turned to junk food to help fill emotional stresses and social vacancies. My parents, like many, did not know what to do or how to improve my health. I was a product of our obesity epidemic. At the age of 16, I reached my peak weight of 250 pounds and was in the obese category for BMI at 33.9 .

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) have partnered to create an important new documentary entitled The Weight of the Nation. The four-part series, which started the 14th of May, delves into the obesity issue by focusing on: Consequences, Choices, Children in Crisis, and Challenges. Each section explores different aspects of the obesity epidemic and various implications and solutions.

The Weight of the Nation helps to put human faces and stories to the familiar striking statistics from the CDC, NIH, and IOM. I related to the discussion of the desperation of searching for a diet that works, the biological and physical forces working against maintaining weight loss, and the struggle of growing up in a toxic food environment.

"You've got to start somewhere" is a quote from The Weight of the Nation that brought me back to the beginning of my own lifestyle change. Released over eight years since my journey began to overcome obesity, The Weight of the Nation beautifully encapsulates all the biological, environmental, and economic variables that promoted my own obesity, as well as breaking down the answers and solutions that helped me lose and maintain my weight loss.

At age 16, I vowed to myself that I would change and live the life that I wanted to have. I started small by doing what I knew at the time. I gave up soda and other sweetened beverages, started running and exercising almost everyday and stopped eating at fast food restaurants. Through these small steps I began to see results and it encouraged me to continue on this path. By the beginning of my senior year of high school, I had lost 65 pounds. It's now been six years since then and I have maintained my weight and have expanded my lifestyle with running, completing six half-marathons and one full marathon. The solutions mentioned in The Weight of the Nation for weight-loss maintenance align perfectly with what helped me begin (and continue) my lifelong lifestyle change.

There are many heartbreaking statistics highlighted throughout the film, but one that struck me the most was in the "children in crisis" section. The Bogalusa Heart study found that "77% of... participants who were obese as children remain obese as adults." This is why the new, national, non-profit program that I'm now serving for -- FoodCorps -- is so vitally important.

The Weight of the Nation demonstrated that issues with childhood obesity are caused in part by a lack of nutrition education, school food lunches that look like something you would order at a mall food court, the overwhelming access to nutrient-poor foods everywhere you go in our society, and how video games and computers have replaced afterschool organized sports.

FoodCorps aims to help change this toxic environment through teaching nutrition education through hands-on activities; building and tending school gardens; and providing healthy and wholesome food from local farmers for school lunches. All across the country, FoodCorps service members are running afterschool cooking and gardening programs, connecting local farmers to their school food district and building gardens to encourage their students to eat their vegetables. I know the struggle and challenges that are involved with losing and maintaining weight and the emotional and health consequences that can come from childhood obesity. FoodCorps knows how important it is to start children off on the right foot with a healthy relationship to their food.

The Weight of the Nation encapsulates all the issues that are challenging our nation as a whole and comes to the plate with helpful solutions for our obesity epidemic. I believe just like with other public health campaigns of the past we can change and The Weight of the Nation is an important film to help encourage success and long-lasting maintenance against this obesity epidemic.