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The Weight of the Nation

Kristin Molven is a medical student at The University of Olso. She is currently a student in the Norwegian Entrepreneurship Programme at UiO and UC Berkeley, and is interning at Health 2.0.

HBO’s documentary series The Weight of the Nation made me sad. I was left with the feeling that the wealth my parents have provided and all prior generations’ good intentions to make it easier for us to gather food and survive, and the technologies they developed to make our lives easier now are destroying us. My generation is short-circuiting. When looking to satisfy our needs, we meet no obstacles, no resistance. Everything is readily available to us, and we are fast-forwarding towards the negative consequences of constant access. And the food industry makes a profit off our misfortune.

The Weight of the Nation campaign consists of four main films, a dozen of extra short films and an accompanying book and website. It was launched in May by HBO and the Institute of Medicine in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente.

The campaign abandons the idea that obesity is an individual shortcoming or to results from a lack of self-control. Instead the campaign holds society responsible for today’s weight problems. Come to think of it, this is not unreasonable as humans have the same mental capabilities as former generations that were not obese. What has changed is our behavior and surroundings. Physical activity has been engineered out of our daily routine, while unhealthy tempting food has become cheaper and more accessible. Let’s not pretend that our grandparents had higher moral standards by avoiding sugar and fat and took the stairs instead of the elevator. They surely would have made the same choices as us if they had the chance. Given that nobody intends to become overweight or obese, we have designed a society where it is just too hard for most of us to maintain a healthy weight.

Consequences and Choices, the two first films of The Weight of the Nation series, examine the physiology and pathology of weight gain and obesity.Continue reading…

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