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The other day I was sitting in my oversized recline, staring at my belly and thinking, “Man, I sure wish I had more ways to incorporate obesity into my life…”
Not actually. The last thing I want to do after being on my feet all day is to turn on a nice documentary that makes me feel like a moral failure for being obese.
However, that’s not to say that documentaries about obesity are bad. And I would know as I’ve watched them all.
However, all joking aside, apparently, the obesity epidemic has become a global health concern, affecting millions of people across various age groups and demographics.
This means that, in my mind, documentaries about obesity can serve two purposes:
- To educate obese people. As an obese guy, I know that I’m obese. However, understanding what has gotten me to this point (it’s way deeper than calories-in, calories-out) requires much more information. Whether or not I choose to lose weight or not is immaterial as I feel there is value in the information itself.
- To educate non-obese people. People hate what they don’t understand and obese people are somehow universally loathed by the rest of the population. Walking a mile in an obese person’s shoes can breed, if not understanding, at least some empathy.
But what documentaries are best? Because there are a ton of them. Obesity is such a prevalent topic that many aspiring creators find it a cheap and easy way to pile in a controversial topic, leaving us with lots of crap to cut through.
Since I tend to be picky about documentaries as they cut into my gaming time (fat guy joke) here are a few things I thought about before making this list. In my opinion, documentaries about obesity should offer insightful perspectives on the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to this growing issue. I don’t need to know how much fat people eat.
So, with that being said, here are a few of my favorites (I’ll also include links to watch ones that are available for free).
My 17 Favorite Documentaries About Obesity
1. Super Size Me (2004)
This documentary, directed by Morgan Spurlock, explores the consequences of consuming fast food by following Spurlock’s 30-day diet of only eating McDonald’s food.
I actually read this book before seeing the film and ended up a bit disgusted.
As a spoiler, the film concludes that fast food, particularly when consumed in large quantities, can lead to severe health issues. Shocker.
This documentary is suitable for those interested in learning about the negative impact of fast food on health and the role of fast-food chains in promoting unhealthy eating habits.
My Thoughts: I first saw Super Size Me in high school and found it to be eye-opening. Especially since I had an open campus lunch hour and ate at McDonald’s nearly every day. It’s both entertaining and educational, and the experiment conducted by Spurlock provides a unique perspective on the topic.
If you want to watch something that is as shocking as it is interesting (without being overly scientific), this is a great start. Not to mention the fact that this is one of the first documentaries that people tend to watch so I consider it a “must-see” when it comes to obesity or diet-related documentaries.
2. Fed Up (2014)
Narrated by Katie Couric, this documentary investigates the role of the food industry and the U.S. government in the ongoing obesity epidemic, with a focus on the role of sugar in modern diets.
The film concludes that the overconsumption of sugar is a significant contributor to obesity and related health issues and that the food industry and government have played a role in perpetuating this problem. “Fed Up” is well-suited for viewers who want to understand the connection between sugar and obesity, as well as the influence of the food industry on public health.
My Thoughts: “Fed Up” is a thought-provoking and informative documentary that sheds light on the sugar industry’s tactics and the consequences of excessive sugar consumption.
However, if you’re new to documentaries, I’ll let you in on a secret. Each one chooses a different villain and shoe horns every bad thing into being a consequence of that one input.
This is called the single variable fallacy. The actual issue of obesity is far more complicated.
So, while the film presents compelling evidence and expert opinions that challenge conventional wisdom about diet and health, just be aware that there’s more to the story than just sugar. Still highly recommended though! (both sugar and Fed Up).
3. Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (2010)
This documentary follows the journey of Australian entrepreneur Joe Cross as he embarks on a 60-day juice fast in an attempt to regain his health and lose weight. The film concludes that adopting a healthier lifestyle, which includes consuming more fruits and vegetables, can lead to significant improvements in health and well-being. Why have I never heard of this before?!
My Thoughts: I found “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” to be an inspiring and motivating documentary as it shows that radical changes in lifestyle can result in radical health changes.
However, while Joe Cross’s journey is both relatable and uplifting, most experts (and non-experts such as myself) would advise a more moderate lifestyle change as it will be far more sustainable. The benefits of weight loss and a good diet are experienced over a period of years, not months.
However, if you’re looking to start juicing (the natural kind of juicing) then this will be of interest to you!
4. The Weight of the Nation (2012)
This four-part documentary series produced by HBO explores the obesity crisis in the United States, examining its causes, consequences, and potential solutions.
The series is a bit more nuanced (meaning less punchy and marketable) than the above which, in my opinion, is a good thing.
The series concludes that a multifaceted approach is needed to address the obesity epidemic, including changes in individual behavior, public policy, and societal norms.
My Thoughts: “The Weight of the Nation” presents a balanced view of the problem and offers potential solutions. While I wish there was a bit more of a focus on individuals and their stories, it’s still a great take for those who want to understand the problems from a systemic rather than an individual level.
5. That Sugar Film (2014)
In this documentary, filmmaker Damon Gameau investigates the impact of sugar on the human body by consuming a high-sugar diet for 60 days, mirroring the average Australian’s sugar intake.
The film concludes that excessive sugar consumption, even from seemingly healthy sources, can have detrimental effects on health.
My Thoughts: And we’re back to sugar again! If there is a single thing that is more marketable as being deleterious to our health then the media machine hasn’t discovered it yet.
However, if I’m not being pedantic, “That Sugar Film” is an entertaining and enlightening documentary that does a decent job of looking at sugar and its effect on health. It just doesn’t get much beyond that.
I did find Damon Gameau’s personal experiment to be both engaging and informative, and it did make me feel bad about the ice cream I was eating while watching it so I guess that’s something.
6. Fat Head (2009)
This documentary by Tom Naughton challenges the conventional wisdom about diet and health, taking a critical look at the nutritional advice promoted by the government and the food industry.
The film concludes that low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets may not be as healthy as once thought and that saturated fats may not be the primary cause of heart disease (take a guess…is it sugar that’s at fault?)
My Thoughts: “Fat Head” is a thought-provoking documentary that challenges widely accepted beliefs about diet and health which I appreciate. Mostly because it makes me think that no one knows what they’re talking about and so someone somewhere probably has a documentary proving that my personal diet is the best.
I will say that the film presents compelling evidence and arguments that make viewers reconsider the nutritional advice they’ve been given and you’ll probably want to correct your boomer doctor after watching it.
7. Globesity: Fat’s New Frontier (2012)
This documentary explores the global obesity epidemic, focusing on its impact on developing countries and the role of multinational food companies.
The film concludes that the spread of processed foods and the influence of the food industry are significant contributors to the rising rates of obesity and related health issues worldwide.
My Thoughts: It turns out that obesity isn’t just the domain of lazy deplorable Americans. I personally am excited for the day when obesity is considered more of a universal human condition rather than simply a problem of just the first world. In other world’s let’s solve world hunger!
However, this film suggests that doing so with fast or processed food is probably not the best way to go about it. Personally, I think solving hunger is a first priority, and eating healthily probably takes a back seat. But maybe that’s just me missing the point.
8. The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite (2010)
Based on the book by Dr. David Kessler, this documentary examines the science behind overeating and the food industry’s role in promoting unhealthy food habits.
The film concludes that the combination of sugar, fat, and salt in processed foods stimulates overeating, leading to obesity and related health issues. Personally, I think it’s my unhealthy emotional state but I’ll be darned if I don’t love salty & fatty foods…
My Thoughts: I did find it very interesting to look at how I’m (easily) manipulated on a daily basis by the food industry. While I’m not sure that all of my cravings are a result of their insidious marketing, it does feel good to shift a bit of the blame!
9. The Complete Skinny on Obesity (2012)
This seven-part documentary series by the University of California Television (UCTV) discusses the biological, environmental, and societal factors that contribute to the obesity epidemic. Sounds pretty vanilla, doesn’t it?
Well, to add to the excitement, the series concludes that addressing obesity requires a multifaceted approach, including changes in individual behavior, public policy, and societal attitudes toward food and health.
While it’s not exciting or groundbreaking “The Skinny on Obesity” is still a great watch for viewers who want to gain a deeper understanding of the various factors contributing to the obesity crisis and potential solutions to combat it.
My Thoughts: If you’re looking for something informative (dare I say, comprehensive?), “The Skinny on Obesity” provides a thorough examination of the issue of obesity.
The series covers a huge range of topics which can get a bit overwhelming (it’s a bit dry) but is worth muddling through if you’re set on understanding the topic.
10. Why Are We Fat? (2016)
This documentary follows chef Simon Gault as he explores the reasons behind the worldwide obesity epidemic and seeks solutions to improve health and well-being. Unsurprisingly, the film concludes that a combination of factors, including poor diet, lack of exercise, and societal influences, contribute to the obesity crisis, and that a holistic approach is needed to address the issue.
My Thoughts: One of the best parts of this documentary is its acknowledgment of social influences on obesity. For most of us who are overweight, it’s much more of a complex issue than “Sugar bad, make me fat.”.
So if you want a more well-rounded exploration of the issues and some possible “fixes” then this is well worth watching.
11. Killer at Large: Why Obesity is America’s Greatest Threat (2009)
This documentary investigates the causes and consequences of obesity in the United States, highlighting the roles of the food industry, government policies, and socioeconomic factors.
While nuclear war seems like a bigger threat to my health at this point, I do appreciate that obesity is something that I could probably do something about.
The film concludes that a comprehensive approach is needed to address the obesity epidemic, involving changes in individual behavior, public policy, and societal norms. Just the same as every other documentary that uses its budget to film and not enact change.
My Thoughts: One of the best parts of this film is that it highlights what a complex issue obesity is. And it does so by presenting compelling evidence and expert opinions, offering a valuable resource for understanding the causes and consequences of the obesity epidemic. I would recommend this one to just about everyone.
12. Sugar Coated (2015)
And we’re back to sugar again! “Sugar Coated” examines the sugar industry’s influence on public health, exploring how the industry managed to deflect concerns about the health risks of sugar consumption for decades.
As with the ones before it, the film concludes that the sugar industry has played a significant role in perpetuating the obesity epidemic and related health issues by downplaying the risks associated with sugar consumption. It just does so in a highly watchable way.
My Thoughts: “Sugar Coated” is a thought-provoking and eye-opening documentary that reveals the tactics employed by the sugar industry to protect its interests at the expense of public health. I would recommend this documentary to anyone interested in learning more about the influence that the sugar machine has on your health.
13. Bite Size (2014)
This documentary follows the personal stories of four overweight children in America as they struggle to improve their health and fight the stigma associated with childhood obesity.
The film concludes that addressing childhood obesity requires a combination of personal determination, family support, and societal change. “Bite Size” is ideal for viewers who want to learn about the challenges faced by obese children and the importance of promoting healthier lifestyles for young people.
My Thoughts: If you’re after a story that will help you empathize with obese people, this is probably it. I appreciated that it did not make light of the issues that many obese people have that started with their conception (eg their genetics) and continued throughout their childhood. Some of us simply had no chance. Watch it, pity me.
14. Hungry for Change (2012)
This documentary exposes the deceptive strategies used by the diet, weight loss, and food industries, offering practical advice for healthy and sustainable weight loss.
The film concludes that the key to achieving lasting health and well-being is through adopting a whole-food, nutrient-dense diet and rejecting the processed and artificial foods promoted by the industry.
My Thoughts: “Hungry for Change” is an eye-opening documentary that reveals the hidden side of the diet and food industries. Not so hidden anymore, is it?! At least, it shouldn’t be after dozen of documentaries “exposing” it.
The film also provides practical advice on how to achieve better health through natural and sustainable means, making it an essential resource for anyone seeking to improve their well-being. This is a great one if you’re looking for information on achieving lasting health rather than simply quick changes.
15. Forks Over Knives (2011)
This documentary advocates for a whole-food, plant-based diet as a means to combat obesity and chronic diseases, presenting evidence that animal-based and processed foods contribute to a variety of health problems.
The film concludes that adopting a plant-based diet can lead to significant improvements in health and well-being. “Forks Over Knives” is perfect for viewers who are curious about the benefits of a plant-based diet and want to learn more about the connection between diet and health.
My Thoughts: “Forks Over Knives” is an informative and persuasive documentary that makes a compelling case for the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet. While it has received a lot of criticism (including just the existence of so many fat vegans). the film presents scientific evidence and personal stories that showcase the transformative power of a plant-based diet on health. I would recommend this documentary to anyone interested in exploring the benefits of a plant-based diet or looking for inspiration to make positive changes in their own lives.
16. Fast Food Babies (2011)
This BBC documentary explores the impact of fast food on the health of young children, following three families as they attempt to break their dependence on fast food and adopt healthier eating habits.
The film concludes that fast food consumption can have detrimental effects on children’s health and that parents play a crucial role in helping their children make healthier food choices.
My Thoughts: I guess I have something else to blame my parents for! The personal stories of the families involved provide valuable insights into the challenges of breaking free from fast food dependence and adopting healthier habits. I would recommend this documentary to anyone interested in understanding the consequences of fast food on children’s health…and especially if you are a parent and want something to feel guilty about!
17. Carb-Loaded: A Culture Dying to Eat (2014)
This documentary explores the rise in popularity of carbohydrate-rich, processed foods and their connection to the obesity epidemic and related health issues.
In other words, it covers the history of taste and deliciousness and how tasty food is killing us.
The film concludes that a diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar contributes to a host of health problems and that a return to a more natural, whole-food diet can help improve health and well-being. Get your protein, fat guys!
My Thoughts: This film presents compelling evidence and expert opinions that challenge conventional wisdom about diet and health. While I don’t completely buy that carbs are evil (I need energy after all) I would recommend this documentary to anyone interested in learning more about the impact of modern diets on our health and exploring the benefits of a whole-food, low-carb lifestyle.
The 17 documentaries listed in this article address various facets of the obesity epidemic, including its causes, consequences, and potential solutions.
While I wouldn’t recommend binging on all of them at once, it’s probably a better idea than binging on fries and ice cream.
Hopefully, by exploring different perspectives on this complex issue, these films can help raise awareness and promote informed discussions about obesity and its impact on public health.
And, if nothing else, hopefully, we can all be a little kinder and more empathetic to those who are obese, whether we understand the reasons or not. Believe me, there are reasons and it’s not as simple as just eating less. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.