The film Bite Size explores the lives of four young people, ranging from age 11 to 13, then catches up with them one year down the road. It tracks the weight loss journeys of two girls and two boys, all diagnosed as clinically obese. Two are coastal kids, Emily in Florida and Moy in California, while two live in Mississippi. This is Emily’s day.
Bite Size assumes a certain amount of knowledge on the part of the viewers, and does not over-explain. Indeed, no omnipotent narrator supplies a voice-over. Children, parents, professionals, and school staff members all tell their experiences in their own words. The tone of the film is very low-key, never hysterical or preachy, and it accurately shows how life is pretty much a “two-steps forward, one-step back” proposition.
Outside Help for Obesity
Though hard-working and middle-class, Emily’s family is closest to privilege of all four. She lives what many would consider a glamorous life near Disney World, where her father used to work. His job, managing a candy store, made it hard for her to stay off the fudge. Emily finds being overweight a social liability, and at some point a doctor told her she was going to die. We also learn that her parents used to lock the food cabinets.
Emily’s big problem is that she always wants to eat and never feels full, and finds this constant hunger really painful. At 13, she is already a veteran of two semesters at MindStream Academy. She sees it as a rehab center for kids, and characterizes food addiction as similar to drug addiction. In the idyllic MindStream setting, she accomplished an amazing weight loss of about 80 pounds and learned, technically, everything there is to know about sustaining it. The staff there realized that she would need constant support, and Emily realized “I can’t be here for the rest of my life.” By the time Bite Size was filmed, she was losing ground.
Stopping Short of Perfection
Emily’s parents reveal that paying for her MindStream experience caused considerable distress to the family’s finances. They don’t complain, but after so much expense and sacrifice it must be frustrating to see such a disappointing return on their investment. There is even a scene where her father voices mild reproach over the fib Emily told about the acceptability of eating unlimited amounts of watermelon. He suggests that this habit might be feeding her addiction, causing her to crave sugar more by constantly feeding it into her system.
On the other hand, her parents like fast food and junk food and don’t seem very willing to change their ways, which Emily calls “emotionally wrecking” because temptation is always nearby. But as time goes on, they ceremonially give up soda.
Parents are always advised use exercise as an opportunity for family togetherness, and her dad takes her to a gym where they work off calories together. But Emily is less than stoked about doing these activities with her dad, and is especially reluctant to have her dad present when she steps on the scale to measure her weight-loss progress. She feels that it’s an invasion of her privacy.
One Year Later
When the film crew checks back a year later, Emily has regained considerable weight, which especially shows in her full face. She admits she is “mad at her old self,” but her new self is obviously struggling.
Emily has two obese older sisters, but in the film they are mere shadow presences. We don’t know their reaction to how the household changed to accommodate Emily’s needs, or how they feel about the family using up all its resources on her account. The viewer is left to imagine the various possible family dynamics. Did the parents go all-out because they saw Emily as their last chance to have a normal-weight child? Are the older sisters resentful of all the attention and money showered on her, or glad to have been left out of the whole weight-loss project?
The whole film is very even-handed, and while it allows the subjects to speak their own truths, and hints at deeper dynamics, it does not delve. Bite Size can be seen via Vimeo on Demand, and on March 24 will be available on iTunes, Google Play, and other VOD platforms. More information can be found at http://bitesizemovie.com.
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Source: “Bite Size”
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