Beyond Food (2017 Brazil/Colombia/USA)
When I turned 40 my body hit a wall. Most of my adult life my weight ranged from 200 to 240 – my playing weight in football was right at 200, and I think I look my best at 190, but I haven’t seen the underside of 200 since the 1990s. In 2009 I peaked at 265, but by early 2011 had regained some sanity and trimmed back to about 215.
Since St. Patrick’s Day of 2012 (a little more than 5 years), I have gained 115 pounds, putting me well over 300, and 40 of that has come in the last 2.5 years (I’ll be 43 in November). I never struggled with weight until I did, and it has brought with it a host of problems that compound themselves with each passing month. I look like a man of 50, for starters, and although my problems with Major Depressive Disorder have been with me since puberty, my first bout of Depressive Psychosis hit 18 months ago.
I don’t blame morbid obesity for my depression, but it certainly hasn’t helped things. Even though I live in a college town with a D-1 university from which I have a degree, I loathe going out on gameday for fear of running into someone who hasn’t seen me in the last 3 years, because the change to my appearance is drastic. For that matter, very few pictures of me exist that were taken in the last seven years. That said, the second I was admitted to a hospital for my depression, I was tanned, toned and weighed a hair over 200 pounds – when I say the depression and obesity aren’t linked, that’s what I mean.
Of the variety of explanations regarding the small percentage of depression sufferers who have it to the degree that I do, the focus on it being a literal issue of inflammation seems to hold the most promise, although I do not think there is a “cure” anywhere on the horizon. I take anti-inflammatories every day and whether I’m eating well or not, I start my day with a shake that includes 42 grams of protein. In the winter, I take up to 6,000 mg of Niacin each day to try to stave off the blues, but I’ve not seen any major improvement from it.
Beyond Food is a documentary about the relationship between all aspects of food, how we consume it, and its relationship to our physical and mental health. There are scores of interviews with doctors, scientists, extreme athletes, farmers and ranchers discussing what seems to work and what definitely does not. I knew much of what was being discussed because as a relatively newly fat person, I have a library of books about diet, exercise, food and mental health, and if it’s a topic you’re interested in, the documentary will engross you.
For a long time I’ve believed there are two ways of eating that are ideal for a modern American: the raw food path, or the so-called Paleo path. I firmly believe we have far too much gluten and dairy in our food, two topics given much weight in Beyond Food. The two most common-sense pieces of advice given in the film: 1) From a vegan ultra-marathoner male approximately my age, start each day with a shake made out of dark greens and other super foods; 2) from Mariel Hemmingway, the longer the shelf-life of a food – especially a processed food – the less nutritional value contained therein.