HBO’s ‘The Weight of the Nation’ previewed at VPAC
“The Weight of the Nation” fell on the Valley Performing Arts Center at CSUN Thursday night, with a free public screening of the final part of the four-part HBO documentary series. The series addresses the underlying causes of the obesity epidemic, from human biology to inactivity to government policy.
Hundreds turned out for the screening of “Challenges,” part four of the series. Beginning with a brief look at the history of the human-food relationship, the film illustrated the culmination of events that has led us to a time when nearly two-thirds of the nation is overweight or obese.
Our days of hunting and foraging on the savannah are long gone, yet our genetic programming is virtually the same today as it was tens of thousands of years ago, according to the documentary. Our physiology and psychology are designed for scarcity, and we are simply not programmed to turn down calories. The technological advancements that have made our lives virtually effortless coupled with the availability of boundless calories in the form of processed and fast foods are killing us slowly, the film said.
Loaded with statistics, facts, and graphic illustrations, the film described in everyday terms the health crisis facing America.
Highlighted in the film were children who have no access to safe parkland or open space to play and be physically active, as well as neighborhoods dubbed “food deserts” where residents have virtually no access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Farmers in the film discussed the obstacles hindering large-scale production of fruits and vegetables, most notably, our own government.
The messages of the film were clear: If we fail to rigorously address America’s obesity epidemic, the security of our nation is at risk and rising healthcare costs and lost productivity could bankrupt the nation, according to the documentary. But there is reason for hope. The film offered solutions to tackling obesity and featured community members who are making real change across the nation.
George Perez, a CSUN alumnus with an undergrad degree in kinesiology, was one of dozens of members of the program 100 Citizens in attendance at the screening. 100 Citizens was developed by Professor Steven Loy, Ph.D., of CSUN’s kinesiology department to help San Fernando residents get active and improve their quality of life.
“Our mission is getting people more physically active and combating obesity,” Perez said. “We teach people that you can be physically active without having to go to the gym.”
The film screening was immediately followed by an expert panel discussion that included health experts from CSUN’s kinesiology department and the Marilyn Magaram Center for Food Science, Nutrition and Dietetics, a doctor from Kaiser Permanente, a representative of Pacoima Beautiful, a registered nurse from the Northeast Valley Health Corporation, and the president and CEO of the Southland Farmers Market Association.
The panelists discussed what they found most compelling about the film as well as solutions to the nation’s obesity epidemic, which they said will require fundamental infrastructural changes of both our food system and lifestyles.
The four-part HBO documentary series features interviews with the nation’s leading health experts and interviews with everyday citizens who are struggling with obesity and related diseases.
“The Weight of the Nation” was produced with the Institute of Medicine, in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, and in partnership with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente.
It will air on HBO May 14 and 15, free to cable subscribers.
Alexis Johnson, a Nutrition Science major at Cal State Los Angeles drove across the city to attend the film screening.
“To have something like this available on a wide scale and free to all who have cable is great, “said Johnson. “For laypeople to hear the messages of the film may change guilt into action.”