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America The Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments

This evening, my father and I went to a screening and post-screening talk-back of America The Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments at The Hippodrome Theatre.

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The documentary is the second installment in a series of movies by independent writer, producer, and director Darryl Roberts. The film was brought to Gainesville by Kelsey Taylor, a film student at the University of Southern California and a graduate of a local high school here in town. Taylor served on the film as a researcher, camera operator, and associate producer.

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In the first documentary America The Beautiful (available to watch on Hulu) Roberts examined America’s obsession with beauty and physical perfection. It brought up topics such as low self-esteem, eating disorders, and how the media targets women (and men) about beauty and perfection. All of these topics revolved around the story of Gerren Taylor, a then 12-year-old rising to be one of the next supermodels.

In his second installment, America The Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments, Roberts focuses on a similar, but different topic: America’s obsession with dieting and the need to be skinny.

The documentary discusses a myriad of topics including the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale, eating disorders/ disordered eating patterns in women and men, fad diets, among others.

There were different points of this documentary which I found particularly interesting.

The first was the idea that diets “just don’t work.” Roberts went on a variety of diets while filming this documentary including a 28 day vegan raw food diet (which he lasted 21 days), a Lean Cuisine diet, weight loss cookie diet, etc. Every time he went on a diet, he lost weight, but gained it all back and sometimes, a few extra pounds.

Like many Americans, he tried diets and they failed. The problem with a “diet” is that you are restricting yourself from foods and as soon as you are off the “diet” and you introduce those foods back, you gain back weight. This is the reason why American’s give up so quickly on dieting and go back to their old habits.

Second was the discussion of the BMI scale. More and more Americans are learning that the BMI scale is not the most effective and accurate way to measure a person’s body fat, yet it is the scale used by the government to measure the overweight/ obesity epidemic in America.

I’ve known for years that the BMI scale is not accurate. It does not factor in a number of things including muscle mass and body frame size, but yet, it is the tool used to measure health in this country. If your BMI is over 25, you are overweight. Over 30, you are obese and so on.

What I learned was that in the 1980′s the BMI number of being overweight was LOWERED from 27 to 25. Overnight millions of people became overweight when they were considered healthy before! I was shocked!

Another section of the documentary I found interesting was the discussion about eating disorders/ disordered eating patterns. This more or less “hit home” for me because I could definitely relate to the topic. Roberts followed two women, one who has suffered from anorexia since she was 16-17 and another women who suffered from some sort of exercise addiction.

In both of these women, I could find myself. While I never suffered from extreme anorexia, I definitely could relate to the mental aspect of an eating disorder. It isn’t something you can switch off in your brain- even if you are “cured” or recovered, the thoughts are still there and can creep in from time to time.

Candi, the woman suffering from a form of exercise addiction, was particularly heartbreaking to watch. It was clear that she had started exercising with good intentions (to lose some weight) but had let it get out of control- even going to the gym when she was sick with the flu. I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever had an extreme exercise addiction, but there have been times in the past (coupled with my disordered eating patterns) where I probably borderlined on it.

But perhaps one of my favorite parts of the film was when Roberts interviewed a group of boys who had suffered from eating disorders. This is a topic that I feel is rarely addressed. Eating disorders can affect men just as much as women, especially in the society we live in today, but eating disorders are often thought of as an issue affecting women. I thought that the boys were courageous to open up about their stories and bring awareness to the topic.

There is so much more this documentary discusses and I have barely even touched the surface.

Overall, I really enjoyed this documentary. I thought, like its predecessor, it was presented in a professional, but relatable way. At times it did feel a bit “preachy” but I feel that is how many documentaries are like. Some may argue that the individuals Roberts followed were extreme in their thoughts and actions, and maybe that is true, but it also depicts how much the pressure to be skinny can affect someone.

I definitely got the overall objective that Roberts was trying to convey, “is it possible to be healthy at any size?” People come in different shapes and sizes- everyone has their own equilibrium point. Someone who may be 10-15 pounds overweight, but extremely active will probably be more healthy than someone who is in the middle of their BMI, but never works out and eats junk food.

From this film, I got the message that we need to ditch the dieting gimmicks, love ourselves and the bodies we have been given- what is healthy for one person may not be for another. Yes there is an increase in overweight and obese American’s and it is a cause for concern, but I do not think it is as much of a crisis as the government wants us to believe.

I highly recommend you watch the first film on Hulu and see this second one if there is a screening in your area!

Have you seen America The Beautiful or America The Beautiful 2? Do you think more documentaries need to be made discussing topics like this?

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16 Responses to America The Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments

  1. Thanks for sharing a bit about these movies. I definitely plan to check them out:)

  2. These documentaries sound really interesting. I will certainly try to check them out.

    I am almost convinced that more or less everybody has a somewhat disordered relationship with food nowadays. At least thoughts if not full-blown disordered patterns. I’ve been talking with my youngest sister’s friends, she is your age, and I’ve been hearing really worrisome stuff. Documentaries like that can at least offer a different perspective.

  3. I’m gonna have to watch that. One of my NY resolutions is to be kinder to me….to be accepting of myself while still striving for self-improvement. That will probably be the hardest NY Res of all! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I’ve never seen this documentary or heard of it for that matter but I’m definitely interested in watching the first one on hulu now. There does need to be more discussion about these topics. Not discussing them just makes things more difficult for everyone.

  5. I’ve never heard of it until now, but I really am interested in watching it. I think these topics really do need to be discussed in an educational light – they’re way too easily shoved under the rug. We blame the media for making us feel pressured but rarely get to the nitty gritty of it.

  6. I would be so interested in seeing both of those documentaries – I wish there was some way of watching them from the UK!

    I’d be particularly interested in the section relating to the lady with exercise addiction.

    xxx

    • Candi (the exercise addicted woman) was definitely the section of the movie I was the most interested it. It was scary too because some of the things she was saying were things I said in the past.

      During the talk-back, I did learn that, while she still exercises a lot, she no longer wants to lose any more weight. She started at 170 then dropped to 150, 140, 130 and wanted to get down to 115. For her body frame, it was way too small. She is now at 127 and wants to stay that way, so I guess that is good.

      • Thanks – did the docmentary happen to mention how many hours a day she exercised/what type of exercise she did? I only ask because I have similar problems with exercise compulsion, but I’ve never met anyone as badly afflicted as myself. It would be good to know I’m not the only one…

        • According to the film, she would workout I believe an average of 4 hours a day. Working out before going to the gym, at the gym, and then sometimes after work. It didn’t say what she really did, but I know she worked with a trainer a few days a week and did an hour or cardio a day.

  7. Great post about America the Beautiful 2 The thin Commandments.

    I would like to point out that Candi’s goal,of weight loss was at the start flawed. If you research there is no reason that anyone should ever try to lose weight, except in rare cases. Candi could have approached exercise as a way to become healthier and done it moderately to become fitter without any goal of weight loss. Her desire to lose weight coupled with her actions is an eating disorder. (she restricted food as well)

    We need to make this distinction. Trying Tom,owe weight by exercising and restricting food is at best a mentally and physically damaging pastime. The mildest forms are disordered eating which many Americans engage in.

    We have been sold a lie for one hundred years. There is huge money to be made by Dr.Oz (which is shameful as he is a doctor) and others who hock weight loss as a health goal.

    If anyone is interested, read Linda Bacon PhDs book titled Health At Every Size: The Surprzing Truth About Your Weight.

  8. Trying to lose weight, not Tom,Owe. Auto spell,strike again!

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