As someone who subscribes to a variety of YouTube channels, I get a myriad of recommendations coming my way thanks to the algorithms at Google. One of those being the 2009 documentary by a personal trainer/model, that attempted to gain and then lose a massive amount of weight. I must admit I was very much intrigued…
The premise of the documentary was a want to understand overweight and obese clients better, to develop empathy for the struggles they go through. In gaining a lot of weight over a 6-month period, Paul James (or PJ as he is also known) hoped to understand what it meant to be at that weight, and to then lose it. He certainly isn’t the only one who has undergone a similar weight management journey, but the documentation of all the changes was certainly something interesting to watch.
Check it out here…
Something I liked was that throughout the documentary, not only did you noticeably see the physical differences in PJ, but also the mental and emotional differences. Nearing the end of the 6-month weight gain period you could see the toll it was taking on his overall mood. The low energy. The constant justifications for eating the types and amount of food he was wanting. You could really see how it was impacting PJ as a whole.
However, I cannot help but feel that this was more so an extension of PJ’s vanity, a publicity stunt, than a true attempt to empathise with those of stuck with a higher BMI. Throughout the process he was very concerned with his appearance, with a constant checking of stretch marks. Understandable, considering he also works as a model, but this set a precedent for the theme of weight equalling ugliness and unattractiveness, something that made me feel uncomfortable whenever he was interacting with a client. If he was thinking those things about himself, what was he thinking about them?
When it came to losing the weight, training another overweight person at the same time, it felt like there was very little compassion. His goal at the start was to empathise with overweight people, however this clearly wasn’t achieved. It was very much more a mentality of ‘Well I can do it, so whats your excuse?’. There was no consideration for how long that person had been overweight, at least from PJ, and the long lasting emotional strain that had taken. There was little consideration of their experiences, and the personal struggles the client had with weight.
From the experts in the film however, I was glad that there was an understanding of the obesogenic environment and culture, that has become apparent over the last few decades. That obesity is a product of changes in food options, with little regulation on the amount of sugar, salt, and fat that food manufacturers are adding to their products. Often times obese and overweight people are solely blamed for their weight, and while responsibility for taking care of your own health is something I would encourage, we have to recognise the role food franchises play in increasing the weight of the general population.
What do you think? Do you have any recommendations for what I should watch next? Let me know in the comments below!