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Childhood Obesity: a New Film and a New Resource
A Closer look at documentary film BITE SIZE and the MEND Program
June 3, 2015
By: Erica Younkin
Every couple of years, a worthwhile documentary film comes out that reminds us about the still very real obesity epidemic in America. While we wish there was no longer a need to create movies on this subject, we are grateful for the filmmakers who continue to raise broader awareness for issues like childhood obesity.
The recently released BITE SIZE highlights the complex challenges associated with childhood obesity. The film follows four inspiring kids from diverse backgrounds who are struggling with obesity and diabetes. Moy (11), KeANNA (13), Emily (13), and Davion (12) generously and bravely show us just what it means to be an overweight child in America.
For these four kids—like so many others in their shoes—teasing, bullying, and family frustrations are the norm. But, despite these challenges, the film shows us that the support of parents, step parents, aunts and uncles, coaches, guidance counselors, principals, and school nurses is crucial in order for kids to make lasting changes to become healthy, active, and happy individuals.
Happiness is big part of the BITE SIZE message. KeANNA, for example, doesn’t like to exercise, but she and her friends are happy when they are dancing, so her guidance counselor encourages her to do that more often. Emily on the other hand shows us that even after attending weight loss camp, twice, and losing weight, happiness can still be hard to grasp. Although Davion makes great strides by joining the football team, a locker room fight (sparked by teasing about his weight) brings his emotional pain to light. If there is one thing this film doesn’t deliver, it’s perfect storylines, because that’s not real life.
But, the film does give us hope and provides a view of the steps and tools needed for improved health and emotional healing. For instance, Moy Gutierrez (who, incidentally, loves making his own movies) and his parents participate in the MEND Program, a 10-week, 20-session program in which children and their families learn important skills and knowledge to help them manage their weight and feel fitter, healthier, and happier for the rest of their lives.
“We truly believe in embedding change within the home,” said MEND Director and Board Member Teresa Earle when I spoke to her over the phone. “It hinges on the child making the decision to make the changes, but parents are important to the equation. It goes up and comes down the ladder.” According to MEND’s website:
“Research has shown that programs that combine behavior change, physical activity and nutrition with ongoing support for families are more likely to produce long-lasting health benefits. The MEND 7-13 Program has been designed by childhood obesity experts to contain all of these vital elements. MEND 7-13 meets the recommendations of the US Preventative Services Task Force for improving physical and mental health in overweight and obese children.”
According to Earle, BITE SIZE is definitely worth watching, ”It’s a very real picture of what families are going through.” She should know—the MEND Program has helped over 85,000 people since 2000.