Tag: anorexia

America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments

America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

Though Darryl Roberts’ documentary about America’s obligation to be thin is neither the most focused nor the most astute, it is informative and at times a surprising look at one nation’s psychological crisis. That is, the obsession to keep losing weight even if it is achieved through unhealthy means—which likely causes physical and psychological problems in the long run.

The film runs a little long. The first thirty minutes, though amusing, is tantamount to junk food where the director is shown trying to determine which avenue he should take when it comes to losing weight. After visiting the doctor and being informed that his blood pressure puts him at a high risk for developing serious illnesses, he starts to consider three options: taking medication, eating healthy and calorie-counting, and eating only raw food. While the third option has its terrifying moments because its proponents are so uninformed, it is a miscalculation to pair avenue-searching with a very serious subject: the validity of BMI (Body Mass Index) which sets the standard of what is considered obese. BMI is clearly a problem because of its one-size-fits-all approach.

There are plenty of people who get a chance to speak to the camera, from former supermodels like Beverly Johnson to the scientific advisors of Weight Watchers, but the documentary is most effective and most haunting when it shows the repercussions of wanting so badly to be thin.

Roberts visits a middle school and a group of young boys walk in. We are informed that they had eating disorders. They look healthy now but it is established that one cannot really “cure” a person who has had an eating disorder even though behavior has been altered. Their faces are blurred for privacy purposes. Incidentally, this allows us to focus on their bodies—mainly their arms as to whether they look thin or normal currently—as they discuss what they did to lose weight. At one point, a boy says that he had restricted his food intake not because he wanted to be strong or healthy or get a six-pack. He just wanted to look skinny. A person receives less respect when a person is fat.

Later, we come to meet a woman named Jenn. She has been diagnosed with severe anorexia nervosa. While she speaks, instead of looking at her face, I stared at her stick-thin arms, how weak and frail they appear. Then I was reminded of Lauren Greenfield’s “Thin,” an excellent documentary, and how it shows that people with anorexia, even though they are essentially skin and bones, still consider themselves as overweight.

But the documentary does not rest with restriction. One of the director’s friends is obsessed with working out. Even when there is a snowstorm and people are advised to stay indoors, she goes out—putting herself and others in danger—to go to the gym because she claims she does not feel like herself if she skipped a day. When she gets the flu, she still goes to the gym. Putting other people’s health on the line does not concern her. On top of that, she smokes as not to feel hungry.

The approach of “America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments” is casting a huge net and covering as many topics as possible. While it is likely to engage the casual viewer, it is not a movie for me because I felt as though I already knew what the experts (and “experts”) had to stay. In order for it to have been a stronger work, it ought to have shown more examples of how extreme dieting and weight loss can not only ruin a life but actually put it to an end. No one looks beautiful as one rots in the ground.


Thin (2006)
★★★★ / ★★★★

One of my professors in a psychology course about psychological disorders stated that a person with an eating disorder will always have an eating disorder. I took a lot of useful information from that class but I think that statement is the one I’ll remember the most for two reasons: I was very shocked when she said it and though I don’t want to accept it, I know deep inside that I agree with her. In “Thin,” directed by Lauren Greenfield, we get a chance to follow four women with varying ages and backgrounds concerning their treatment in Renfrew Center in Florida. I don’t want to mention the four women’s names because I believe it’s their right to remain anonymous especially with an illness like anorexia and/or bulemia. What I loved about this film was it really managed to cover a range of symptoms of different kinds eating disorders without sugarcoating anything. The documentary showed us how their families eventually became tired of their daughters because being committed in a facility was not foreign to their children, especially when it costs a lot of money. The documentary also showed us the neglect of insurance companies for these people; I know that insurance companies are driven by money but I can’t help but get angry whenever they decide to not cover a girl’s treatment just when she shows signs of getting better. The therapy sessions were heartbreaking for me because the girls were really honest about their feelings–feelings about their fear of disappointing their families and the people that they live with in the treatment facility. Oddly enough, not many of them admitted to being afraid of disappointing themselves. Certain things they said really got to me such as when one of the girls said that she’s so willing to be skinny to the point where death wouldn’t stop her from achieving her goal. That irrational belief to want to be skinny really stood out to me because I sometimes forget about the importance of that adjective. It solidifies the fact that these girls not only need help when it comes to getting food in their bodies but also to change the way they think. I get so upset whenever I hear friends or read posts from message boards that people who have eating disorders are just vain or that they just lack motivation. To be quite frank, when people say those things, they really show their ignorance. Have a little sensitivity and try to do a little research before you judge someone with a really serious illness. Most of the time, being irrational is out of one’s control. I thought this movie was exemplary even though it did lose focus for fifteen to twenty minutes somewhere in the middle. Everything about it was fascinating. Considering that a lot of people have body issues, I think watching this movie will help a lot of people who have friends or family who might have an eating disorder to spot the symptoms and how to provide invaluable support.