America The Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments
|December 21, 2011||Posted by Katy under Film Reviews|
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.
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.
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?