"I'm a fat man and I hate myself for it."
Rick is 40 years old. He weighs 400lbs. His blood pressure is 160/112. He has been dieting since he was 12. "Fat Chance" is a daunting documentary film about a fat man trying to lose 200lbs. Or is it?
Rick Zakowich believes dieting is the only way he can become healthy and ultimately feel better about himself. In "Fat Chance" we follow Rick to his doctor's appointments and trips to the weight loss clinic; shirtless, having his rolls measured by callipers, his girth calculated and his body weighed with two scales while in the background a "Target Get Fit" sign looms. We witness the humility of it all.
In the real world of shopping, exercise, sexuality, family, friends and work, Rick reflects on how his weight looks to others and the effect it has had on him emotionally. "My life is on hold until I lose this weight," he says.
Rick's life is quite typical of many fat people. He grew up in a loving family where food was a part of his identity. He was teased at school with the usual "fatso!" and "fatpig!" He learned quickly "being fat was connected to everything negative. It meant that you were stupid and lazy and didn't have any self control." Rick coped by becoming the clown.
There's more to Rick than the numbers on the scale. He's a caring man who works with abused children. He's a pretty good singer and songwriter and he paints. When he loses 30lbs he still doesn't feel better about himself, "I'm losing weight but I'm not happy." Despite being really down he still manages to work with troubled kids, manages to bring them up and make them feel better about themselves.
Rick posts flyers around town looking for other fat men in an attempt to form a support group. The first person to join is Dr. Mo Lerner. Dr. Learner is an obese practitioner who used to be an active man. "I'm afraid of the day I won't be able to walk anymore," says Mo in a candid conversation with Rick. Together they form their support group. They attend fat conferences and interview other fat people. Suddenly the video takes a 180 degree turn becoming about acceptance rather than changing what you have and are. After the conference there's an immediate change in Rick, "somebody listened," he says. Rick suddenly accepts himself and believes he has something to offer. He becomes an advocate and a role model for fat menů even women.
A lot of the 'fat dialogue' in our society involves women. Fat is not only a female issue although you wouldn't know it from all the diet ads. I enjoyed witnessing a man's opinions and emotions on growing up fat, living with fat and surviving with fat in a skinny world. It's often taken for granted that fat men have it easier than fat women. In some cases it may be true. "Fat Chance" shows there are men out there who are hurting too and they can feel good about themselves. They deserve to be happy.
Despite being filmed in 1994, the content is still relevant. My only qualm was the lack of subtitles for people being interviewed (i.e. So-and-So from Albuquerque). I highly recommend this film. The unfortunate thing is if you want to see Fat Chance you probably won't find it in your local video store.
The National Film Board of Canada
BullFrog Films Inc., 1994
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