Local women put a face on obesity epidemic in documentary

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by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN FISHER

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on November 3, 2013 at 11:54 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 4 at 8:53 AM

AUSTIN -- Austin is helping to put a face on the obesity epidemic -- three faces, to be exact.

A new documentary, "All Of Me: A Story of Love, Loss and Last Resorts," features three Central Texas women as they go through the highs and lows of deciding the best course of action when it comes to weight loss surgery.

"This is my little sanctuary," said Dawn Brooks, a Pflugerville resident.

Brooks and producer/director Alex Lescaze strolled through Brooks' backyard, a short trip compared to the five-year film making journey they recently completed.

The movie "All Of Me" documents the lives of Brooks and two of her Austin-area friends as they deal with the highs, lows and reality of obesity. At her heaviest, Brooks was 415 pounds.

"When you're 415 pounds you're in a whole different world," said Brooks. "Society treats you differently, and you're not part of the norm."

"We're told we're living in an obesity epidemic in this country," said Lescaze. "Yet, so much of the stories that we hear about and see [is] headless fat people on the evening news. I really feel like this is an opportunity for people to actually see and hear and listen to real people."

The film provides some lighthearted moments, such as Brooks making light of their weight loss situation by referring to it as "fat girls gone wild."

The audience also gets a real life look behind the curtain as Brooks and her friends decide surgery is their only option to better health.

"I'm such a yo-yo dieter," said Brooks in the film. "The weight loss surgery was my last resort. It was kind of like a domino, when Whitney got it, and then Karen got it, and then Sonya got it."

How important was it for Brooks to get the surgery?

"It was critical for her to have it done," said Mark Sherrod, M.D., a surgeon who practices at the Bariatric Center at St. David's Medical Center.

Sherrod said the movie can go a long way in removing some of the stereotypes associated with obesity.

"There's still a lot of idea out there in the public that all this has to do with just the inability to push away from the table, and that's not true," he said.

Sherrod said once an obese person loses a great deal of weight it's hard to keep it off. Brooks agreed. Although she lost 165 pounds and said she hopes to someday get under 200 pounds, she said keeping the weight off is a daily struggle.  

"We really wanted to get a message out about weight loss surgery and how the effects of weight loss surgery does interact with the person," said Brooks. "Also, we detail the trials and tribulations of weight loss surgery, and how it's not an easy fix."

Brooks said that aside from the physical changes, there are often the not-so-obvious personality, relationship and mindset changes weight loss surgery patients often confront. Her own marriage dissolved along with the pounds. Still, Brooks said she's in a far better place.

"I'm healthier," she said. "I'm better. I'm doing what I want to do with life."

"All Of Me" recently played at the Austin Film Festival. If you missed any of those showings, you can see the documentary on PBS on March 24.

To learn more about the film, go here. For information on the Bariatric Center at St. David's Medical Center, go here.

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