Many of us are guilty of this behavior – we look at a person who is obese or morbidly obese and think, “Ugh. S/he is so lazy. How can they even think about being in that fast-food drive-thru line? Where is their willpower? All they need is fruits, veggies, exercise, and self control.”

But, what if we are wrong? What if the forces that keep us fat are so much stronger than the willpower we think it takes to keep the weight off?

I’ve been wanting to watch HBO’s epic documentary, The Weight of the Nation, for quite some time. When I discovered that the 4-part documentary is available for download and viewing for free (from both iTunes and the official film page), I jumped on it faster than a raw vegan grabs a lettuce wrap. I dived in as soon as it was downloaded and was captivated, saddened, shocked, angered, inspired, stunned… and resolved to do something about this epidemic, both for myself and for those that are influenced by my actions.

The documentary is broken up into four parts: Consequences, Choices, Children in Crisis, and Challenges. These sections review every part of the obesity crisis – from the effect of nation’s weight gain on health care costs and government regulations on cafeteria food to kid-focused advertising campaigns and the lack of availability of healthier choices in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. It strives to shed a bright light on questions about why obesity rates have tripled since the 1950’s, why affluent neighborhoods have lower obesity and higher life expectancy rates than poorer communities less than 20 minutes away, why the diet industry is more interested in keeping you “on a diet” than helping to maintain your weight loss, and much, much more.

For me, it’s the questions that inspire the greatest action, so I was inspired to see the film focused on people who are doing their part to combat obesity in their lives and their communities. Once you know better, you can do better.

Case in point – the documentary highlights the action being taken in Nashville, Tennessee to combat the obesity crisis in that city. After Tennessee was ranked second (tied with Alabama) as the most obese state in the country, Mayor Karl Dean recognized the need to change the health of his constituents and instituted several city-wide programs to make a difference. To support the studies that report greater access to walkways, parks and greenways increases physical activity, they have instituted and promoted mobile fresh markets, created several new city parks, sidewalks and bike paths, and have even launched a “Walk 100 Miles with the Mayor Challenge” exercise program.

As is stated in the opening, “If we don’t now take this as a really serious, urgent, national priority, we are all of us – individually and as a nation – going to pay a really serious price.” Obesity is no laughing matter and, for me, is no longer an “individual” issue. It is one that affects us all, and therefore we have a responsibility to reach out and change the lives and the health of those around us.

So…what can YOU do to make a change?