The life of a Dad who strives to be the best dad possible

My HBO “Weight of the Nation” Review

I recently watched HBO’s “Weight of the Nation” documentary.  Here is HBO’s “Weight of the Nation” site.  The information and statistics in the show were not only terrifying and stunning, but also terribly saddening.  It was filled with mystifying and dreadful stories.  The tellers were all obese to morbidly obese and filled with sorrow.  From never having a boyfriend or girlfriend to suffering from weight-related health issues in their 20s, the issues were extreme in their profundity.  They had all tried many weight loss diets, tried to eat healthy, and tried to get healthy.  Nearly all had not succeeded.

While watching, I sat riveted, rapt with attention.  I found the statistics and advice as compelling as the personal stories though.  While the stories nearly provoked me to tears, the advice and lessons did provoke me to take notes, even at times filming my television.  While many of the people had a variety of stories, nearly all of the people made the same comment: I simply don’t know what to do.  This greatly saddened me.  I’m lucky.  For me, fitness, exercise, and eating healthy are second nature.  I don’t even really think about it, except when trying to resist the tempting allure of a cookie or the siren call of a milkshake.  But, obviously for others, that’s not the case.

So, to the extent that I could help someone better their health and improve their life by summarizing the information from that show, I felt an urge to act.  What follows is Part One of a summary of some of the salient facts from Episode 2 of the series.  Remember, knowledge is power and power is change.  (I stole this from Tony Horton, the creator of P90X.  I love it because it is so simple yet so true.  P90X was the springboard for me to changing my life and becoming what I am today.)  If you want to change your life, start with having the right information to make the necessary changes.

Yolanda, a cook and one of the few participants who had made positive changes in her life and health, had these tips, which I found to be excellent and easy-to-follow changes anyone could make:

  1. Start with small steps: The easiest is eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages.  Soda, juice, and “energy drinks” are just sugar delivery vehicles and really effective ones at that.  You can easily consume more than 25% of your daily caloric intake in ONE beverage.  To make matters worse, the human brain processes recognizes the calories in solid food and liquid differently.  As you eat solid foods, you brain begins to recognize the calories and will send a signal letting you know when it is sated.  Sadly, with liquid, this does not happen.  You can literally drink over 1,000 calories and your brain will not recognize those calories.  Ditch those garbage drinks and just have water instead.
  2. Have realistic goals:  Regardless of your final objective, have your stepping-stone goal be reasonable.  While setting heroic goals is great, it can all too easily lead to disappointment.  We are hard-wired to enjoy the feeling of accomplishing any worthy objective.  So, set a goal you can reach with REASONABLE effort.  Don’t make it too easy and, likewise, don’t make it unreachable.
  3. Seek support: Get help.  We were not created alone.  We do better when working with others.  Don’t be a martyr.  Reach out to those who can help you, especially those who can relate to your struggles.  This can mean a Coach, a friend, family, or anyone who understands what you are going through.  Fitness Coaches may not have ever been overweight, but they are trained to work with those who are.  People who have previously lost weight will generally be able to appreciate what you are trying to accomplish.  Lean on them when you need support.
  4. Keep your portions under control: Learn what is one serving of anything you eat.  Read the nutrition labels until it becomes second nature and habit.  Always know the volume of what you are eating.  Food manufacturers are in the business of selling you as much food as possible.  Don’t be fooled into believing they care about your health, because THEY DON’T.  Not to be cynical, but we are all just “users” to them.  So, take back control from them.  It is your mouth, stomach, body and HEALTH.  There are literally thousands, if not millions, of resources on Google about portion control.  Use Google.  Generally, (a) 8-12 ounces of liquid is one serving, (b) 3/4 to 1 cup of dry foods (e.g., cereal, chips, etc.) is one serving, and (c) the palm of your hand (palm only, not fingers and thumb) is one serving of meat.  If you have further questions, just ask me.
  5. Track your caloric intake: Again, knowledge is power and power is change.  Tony Horton is dead right.  To change your life, you need to know how and that starts with knowing your caloric intake.  This can be a daunting task when you begin, I know it was for me.  But, quickly, it becomes much easier and simpler.  Start it and stick with it.

Those five are the basis of making MASSIVE changes in your life.  But, there’s one more that’s equally critical: ALWAYS MAKE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY A PART OF YOUR LIFE.  Nutrition and diet are critically more important that being active, but being active is a “cure all” for nearly every known physical ailment, whether genetic and/or environmentally caused.  Being physically active may not prevent or heal what’s wrong, but nearly every study has indicated that physical activity always helps.  You don’t necessarily have to exercise (although, I would of course advocate you do), but simply being physically active will works wonders regardless of your goals.

Are those five (well, really six) steps challenging?  Maybe, at the start.  Will they get easier with time?  Of course, nearly everything does.  Most importantly, are they worth the effort???  Ummm, is that a rhetoric question?  YES to both!  The effects of being healthy are extremely far-reaching and well worth it.  Take the time to assess your life.  Are there areas that need improvement?  Do you know what you need to do?  If you do not, reach out to someone that can help you.  I’d be happy to assist but you can probably find hundreds if not thousands of free resources simply using Google.

Next, in Part Two, I will cover the challenges with getting healthier, how much one needs to do to improve their health, and a few of the facts and myths surrounding health and exercise.  Thanks for reading!

HBO Weight of the Nation

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