by Mary Saucier Choate, M.S., R.D., L.D.
Dietitian and Food and Nutrition Educator
Is it true? A person can be both fat and healthy? Fat or skinny, for many of us, eating a balanced and varied diet and getting regular activity into your day leads to a healthy body: good cholesterol and blood sugar numbers, normal blood pressure, lower stress and higher energy levels. However, every time we turn around, weight loss diets are being hawked by celebrities, celebrity doctors, and others trying to make a quick buck. Skinny has become synonymous with healthy, even by health professionals who should know better. You can’t tell if someone has high cholesterol or high blood pressure by looking at their weight.
We end up wasting miserable hours starving ourselves silly, losing and then regaining all the weight and often more. Americans spend billions of dollars every year on supplements, diet foods, and exercise contraptions to lose weight; presumably to keep it off. It doesn’t work, but we keep spending. The pressure to be skinny at all costs is tremendous.
It would take a powerful experience to make a dent in this cultural force. That’s why I wholeheartedly recommend “America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments” by documentary filmmaker Darryl Roberts. He really hits home on this topic. I want to encourage readers to watch for it when it becomes available on DVD or in time, perhaps on hulu.com for free. Dartmouth College’s eating disorders program, along with the Co-op Food Stores and other college organizations sponsored a showing of the film on February 15.
“America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments” is a powerful and eye-opening presentation explaining why starvation dieting is not the answer. Roberts looks at the wider picture of images and false beliefs about dieting and weight that permeate our culture. Real people talk about their lives as healthy, active fat people. Others, both fat and skinny, discuss their past or current eating disorders.
He uses himself as a guinea pig in the film. We see him in the doctor’s office being put on not one, but two blood pressure lowering medications because his levels are so high. He is also diagnosed with a heart beat irregularity called atrial fibrillation also known as “afib”.
We watch as he tries several very restrictive diets with foods he doesn’t like and gets all kinds of advice. Then he talks to a registered dietitian about the idea of moderation. We see him finally going to a grocery store and shopping the produce aisle for alternatives to his junk food snacks. He finds he enjoys bike riding and works his way up to 10 miles a day (about 45 minutes). The results: normal blood pressure and completely normal heart rhythm without medication! He lost about six pounds from his modestly changed eating habits and exercise, so he was still fat, but much healthier. His doctors are totally surprised and then pleased with his success, that they felt could not happen unless he lost a lot of weight.
If you are constantly dieting, this may be the most important movie you’ll ever see. It is one hour and 40 minutes long, and is suitable for both adults and older teens.
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