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    Archive for the ‘Turn It On’ Category

    Turn It On: King Corn

    Eye-opening documentary King Corn is coming to a television screen near you on April 15, thanks to PBS’ Independent Lens series.

    Until then, you can view the King Corn trailer here.

    Lastly, cross your fingers and head here to see if your local PBS station is showing this riveting look at the state of farming — and the food supply — in the United States.


    Turn It On: Your Reactions to Too Young To Be So Fat

    Small Bites reader Richard had this to say about Corina’s case:

    “[She] was on vacation with her mother and cousin in a casino and [the two] were left alone [to eat lunch] (with the filming crew i guess) while the mom was gambling.

    She eats fried chicken with fried fish and a lot of dessert. I found it disgusting that the crew left the girl eat that [when] they knew she had a morbid weight problem. Just for the show I guess.”

    The scene Richard refers to is particularly memorable because the complexity of factors behind Corina’s obesity are on full display.

    We see the loneliness she experiences, her denial about her weight problem, her self-resignation, and the sad truth that there doesn’t appear to be anyone around to teach and help guide her when it comes to making decisions about what she eats.

    At the same time, Corina seems to only be interested in the quick fix (liposuction) and does not appear very open to “slow and steady” approaches.

    I don’t see anything wrong with the crew not intervening. They are not counselors or dietitians. They are simply there to document Corina’s reality.


    Turn It On: Too Young To Be So Fat

    A busier week than I predicted didn’t allow me to catch up on my recorded shows until last night, including Wednesday night’s “Too Young To Be So Fat” on TLC.

    The documentary, part of the “My Shocking Story” series, follows three obese teenagers.

    Dexter is 16 and weighs 340 pounds.

    Corina is 13 and weighs 230 pounds (she is three times the size of an average 13 year old girl).

    Garrett is 14 and weighs almost 400 pounds.

    Dexter and Garrett both enroll in the Academy of the Sierras, the world’s only boarding school for obese teenagers.

    Integrated with a regular academic curriculum covering science, history, and art are weight maintenance and eating behavior classes, recreational sports, counseling sessions, and a daily pre-breakfast 3 mile walk.

    At the academy, students are put on a low-fat (20 grams a day) 1,200 calorie diet.

    Five weeks later, Dexter and Garrett’s BMIs decrease by twenty and thirty percent, respectively.

    In that relatively short time periods, they learned the basics of eating healthy and smart. Even better, they both enjoy the taste of healthier snacks.

    Corina, meanwhile, is aiming to be one of the youngest liposuction patients in the world.

    However, she needs to boost her blood iron levels to reduce post-surgery complications.

    As the show progresses, we find that despite supplementing her diet with iron pills and multivitamins, Corina’s bloodwork does not provide the required safety net.

    As a result, she is unable to undergo liposuction.

    WHAT I LIKED: The show demonstrated that the only path to successful weight loss and maintenance is a gradual change in dietary habits and patterns.

    It goes without saying that this change must also include less calories and more physical activity, but it was through portion awareness, tasty food, and enjoyment of healthy food that Dexter and Garrett successfully started shedding pounds.

    A few scenes at the Academy of the Sierras made it clear that at this institution, food is not an enemy. It is a friend that hasn’t been discovered.

    Students are not made to feel guilty about eating, nor are they told to avoid food groups altogether. Instead, they are given skills to help them navigate the food landscape and make healthy choices.

    The show acknowledges that a deep emotional void lies at the root of all three subjects’ obesity. I appreciated this picture of obesity as a mind-body-spirit triad.

    In fact, all three teenagers’ weights began to skyrocket soon after an emotionally traumatic event (coincidentally, all three cases involved divorce or the abandonment of a parent at an early age).

    In Corina’s case, this facet of her obesity is fully explored.

    Her mother works night and sleeps in the morning, allowing the two of them approximately two hours a day of interaction.

    In turn, Corina’s eating goes unmonitored.

    One particularly painful segment follows Corina, her mother, and her cousin as they take a short vacation to a nearby casino.

    While Corina’s mother is off at the slot machines for hours, Corina and her cousin head off to the buffet.

    We then see Corina, who in previous confessionals states she puts effort into eating right and losing weight but it just “doesn’t work for her”, pile on fried chicken, fried fish, and macaroni and cheese onto her plate.

    That is then followed by slices of cake and cookies.

    It is clear that what Corina needs is not liposuction but a therapist and dietitian to help unravel her motivations and behaviors.

    One unforgettable scene has her eating grilled steak and salad, a meal she says she has never had. Corina literally gags on a cherry tomato (first time she’s ever tried one) and says her meal is disgusting!

    WHAT I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO SEE MORE OF: The confines of a one-hour (44 minutes without commercials) documentary tracking the lives of three separate people make it difficult to truly dig into any given “storyline.”

    Although we delve into Corina’s psyche, some of the other teenagers are left in the dark.

    In Dexter’s case, we see a short in which, during parents’ weekend at his school, he feels comfortable and secure enough to express his frustration with his father’s overly high expectations in a family counseling session.

    As far as Garrett is concerned, he admits to turning to food as an emotional refuge, but we never see him altering — or attempting to alter — these coping skills.

    The ending of the documentary was rather abrupt.

    A “six months later” followup segment would have been a treat, particularly since I was interested in all three teenagers’ stories.

    I was particularly intrigued to know if Corina made an effort to change her diet after she was rejected as a liposuction patient.

    WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN LEFT OUT: A scene showing Garrett’s grandmother visiting the Sierra Academy hinted at the teenager’s truancy problems as well as issues with obeying authority.

    This seemed out of place because, prior to this, Garrett was portrayed as a motivated willing participant who enjoyed his time there.

    IN CONCLUSION: “Too Young To Be So Fat” takes a multi-layered look at obesity and demonstrates that a combination of healthier eating, behavior modification, and psychological counseling provides the most effective results.

    Two thumbs up to TLC!


    Turn It On: Too Young To Be Fat

    The Learning Channel will be showing My Shocking Story: Too Young To Be Fat on Wednesday, January 23 at 8 PM (and replaying it at 11 PM).

    A summary from their website reads:

    “16-year-old Dexter Washington weighs 340lbs. He attends the Academy of the Sierras, probably the only year-round boarding high school for morbidly obese kids in the world. We film Dexter’s emotional change as he confronts why he has eaten excessively.”

    I’m very interested in learning more about this high school, as well as seeing what angle this documentary pursues.

    Write yourself a reminder note, tune in, and stop by on January 24 for my review.


    Turn It On: Too Young To Be Fat

    The Learning Channel will be showing My Shocking Story: Too Young To Be Fat on Wednesday, January 23 at 8 PM (and replaying it at 11 PM).

    A summary from their website reads:

    “16-year-old Dexter Washington weighs 340lbs. He attends the Academy of the Sierras, probably the only year-round boarding high school for morbidly obese kids in the world. We film Dexter’s emotional change as he confronts why he has eaten excessively.”

    I’m very interested in learning more about this high school, as well as seeing what angle this documentary pursues.

    Write yourself a reminder note, tune in, and stop by on January 24 for my review.


    Review: Super Skinny Me

    Super Skinny Me, BBC America’s dieting documentary, follows Kate and Louise, two female British journalists looking to get down from a Size 10 to a Size 00 in 5 weeks.

    WHAT I LIKED: Super Skinny Me goes beyond the standard “I’m eating so little that even routine chores wear me out and I feel lethargic all day” narrative to spotlight the emotional repercussions of extreme dieting.

    Kate, for example, starts off the experiment highly motivated and initially even has fun with it.

    After three weeks of deprivation, she “falls off the wagon” and eats more calories than her ultra strict regimen permits (800 calories, approximately 40% of her needs).

    Afraid of putting weight back on, Kate becomes anxious, depressed, and even reverts to bingeing and purging. The doctor supervising the experiment mandates that she stop the extreme dieting halfway through week four.

    Kate later reveals that the four weeks of extreme dieting — in which she dropped 17 lbs. — triggered painful memories of weight struggles as an adolescent.

    It was also interesting to learn some of the various extreme diets — the watercress soup diet (800 calories a day, three bowls of watercress soup a day and nothing else), the protein shake diet (1,000 calories, 2 protein shakes + one protein-heavy meal a day), and the popular “cleanse” lemonade diet (drinking nothing but a heinous concoction of pure lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and water three times a day).

    I am also glad Super Skinny Me showed the sheer stupidity of many “diet tricks”. At one point, Louise tries an exercise routine loved by “a certain pop star”.

    It involves wrapping yourself in Seran Wrap and running on a treadmill (in a sauna!) for 30 minutes.

    She only lasts 15 minutes — and manages to lose half an inch off her waist and hips! Of course, one glass of water brings that half inch right back because the only thing you lose by doing that (apart from your time and self-respect) is water weight.

    WHAT I WOULD HAVE LIKED TO SEE: Although we see a few effects of the extreme diets on Kate and Louise’s social lives (Louise goes out to dinner with friends and brings her watercress soup in a plastic bowl, which she asks the waiter to heat up for her), I was left wondering how this assignment affected Kate and Louise’s work performance.

    WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN LEFT OUT: Louise’s interview with an anorexic teenager seemed choppy and slightly out of place. The subject of the interview wasn’t very likeable — she mainly complained about the fact that people only wanted her to gain weight because she wasn’t famous (alluding to the fact that if she was an A-list actress, her weight would be complimented, rather than criticized).

    In fact, there was no mention of her struggling with body image issues, engaging in dangerous eating patterns, or even some background on how and why she developed her condition.

    IN CONCLUSION: While Super Skinny Me did not delve into the socio-political, business, or cultural aspects of dieting, it did a wonderful job of showing the toll these insane regimens have on people’s bodies and psyche.

    I especially liked the last segment, in which Kate and Louise weigh in two weeks after ending their extremely restrictive eating plans.

    Not surprisigly, they gained the weight back. This is precisely why crash diets are a waste of time; not only do they involve unnecessary deprivation, they also set you up for failure.

    Losing weight is much more manageable — and pleasurable — when done with a balanced, nutritious meal plan and realistic timelines.


    Turn It On: Super Skinny Me

    “Turn It On” is a new section highlighting television shows relating to food and nutrition you won’t want to miss.

    I’m very excited for the premiere of Super Skinny Me on BBC America this Sunday, December 2 at 10 PM EST/PST.

    In it, two female British journalists come up with a new — and, I would say, scarier — twist on the 2004 classic documentary Supersize Me.

    For five weeks, they will emulate notorious celebrity diets in hopes of shedding five dress sizes.

    I’ll be watching it for the first time myself this Sunday and publishing a review Monday evening.


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