We’re closer to March than January by now and, like the typical person in recent studies, you’ve likely given up on your New Year’s resolution. Goodbye smoothie shakers and new yoga mats, hello Netflix and frozen discounted pizzas! While bingeing the new season of Bates Motel is probably not what Oprah had in mind when she said to “live your best life,” the following documentaries may help improve your health routine—just be sure to consult a health care practitioner prior to starting any new diet or exercise regime first!
1. Fat Chance (National Film Board, 1994) – Directed by Jeff McKay, this documentary follows Rick Zackovich, a child therapist from Winnipeg who decides to stop trying to lose weight and start the journey to self-love. Central to Rick’s struggle with his weight is the fact that, even after losing thirty pounds, Rick still doesn’t feel happy or good about himself. Take this film as a reminder that wellness is not just a number on the scale, it’s how comfortable you are in your own skin.
2. High: How Drugs Work (British Broadcasting Company, 2011) – This three-part series produced by the BBC and the National Geographic Channel takes an in-depth look at the effects of marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy on the human body. While the series presents a biased view on the risks and benefits of taking these drugs, it is still an interesting take on the journey that these drugs go on when they enter your system. The film also makes an effort to address some of the myths that surround these substances.
3. Forks Over Knives (Monica Beach Media, 2011) – Amid debates over the healthiest way to live your best life, this film advocates for plant-based diets and discusses the science behind the benefits (and risks) of veganism. Even if you’re an avid omnivore like myself, this makes for an interesting watch.
4. Hungry for Change (Permacology Productions, 2012) – Another hot health trend that has been around for years is ‘clean eating,’ or the elimination of processed foods from your diet. The documentary looks at the clean eating lifestyle from a variety of angles with interviews from health experts and clean eaters. Watch them analyze the most common messages we’re sent from food companies regarding health.
5. GMO OMG (Compeller Pictures, 2013) – A father goes on a journey to find facts on GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, and learn why they aren’t yet labelled on our food. The film is comprised of interviews and home footage of him and his family. Whether or not you agree with the anti-GMO advocates, this touching film is a reminder that it’s important to be aware of what’s in your food.
6. The Vasectomist (2013) – This film follows the travels of urologist Dr. Stein, an eccentric, environmentally conscious physician with two firm beliefs that are central to the film. He believes that overpopulation is one of the sole contributors to environmental destruction, as well as that vasectomies are an easier, safer method of curbing childbirth than tubal ligation. Dr. Stein travels to Haiti and Philippines to offer free vasectomies but is faced with obstacles imposed by local politics. He found they were heavily influenced by Christian beliefs, as well as beliefs around masculinity and the ability to reproduce. Take this film as a reminder that practicing safe sex and keeping yourself informed in body matters is the best way to stay healthy
7. The Nature of Things: The Curious Case of Vitamins and Me (CBC, 2017) – This episode of “The Nature of Things” with David Suzuki asks important questions when it comes to vitamins and our health. What are vitamins? Why can’t we produce them ourselves? Do we really need them? The episode follows the filmmaker Bryce Sage as he travels from Washington, DC to San Francisco searching for more information about vitamins and supplements. I especially recommend watching this if you’re thinking about incorporating vitamins and supplements into your diet. Make sure to consult a health care practitioner before doing so!
8. Stress: Portrait of a Killer (National Geographic, 2008) – While we all know that stress has both physical and mental impacts on our health, do we really understand what it does to our bodies? This film examines the research in a variety of schools of thought, from primatology to neuroscience, in order to determine how stress works and what we can do to live less stressful lives. Choose this film for your next movie night to remind yourself why it’s important to de-stress and engage in self-care.
9. Sicko (Dog Eat Dog Films, 2007) – I truly believe this list would not be complete without at least one Michael Moore film. Whether or not you like him, this film takes a hard look at the reality of American health care under the Bush administration, comparing it to non-profit universal health care systems in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom. This film has an eerie feel to it considering the potentially scary future of America’s health care system under the Trump administration. I’m sure it will inspire everyone to consider the political implications of being healthy.
10. Super Size Me (The Con, 2004) – This quintessential health documentary stars Morgan Spurlock, an independent filmmaker who spends the entirety of February 2003 eating nothing but McDonald’s. While the film provided excellent parody opportunities, it also served as a chilling reveal at how fast food companies use misleading advertising and corporate influence to lure people into their restaurants. While there is nothing wrong with treating yourself once in a while, it’s clear that fast food should never become a staple in anyone’s diet—and that the future is bleak for those who don’t have a choice.