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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 10, 2006

Movies can be form of reel therapy

By Charles Stuart Platkin

We all know that movie food can be dangerous to your waistline, not to mention that simply sitting in the dark tends to give you the feeling that you can eat with immunity. But don't cancel your cinematic plans just yet. There are movies that actually can stimulate you to action. In fact, movies are now being used in therapy to help people improve various aspects of their lives it's called cinematherapy or reel therapy.

How can films motivate you to achieve your goals?

"The process of film helps to suspend belief. Viewers trust that what they're seeing is true and, in turn, think they can do it, too," says Gary Solomon, a professor at the Community College of Southern Nevada and author of "Reel Therapy" (Lebhar-Friedman Books, 2001). When viewers relate to the characters, they are able to identify and potentially start to work through issues of their own.


This is one of the more important film categories. These films have the power to get you out the door and moving.

  • "Rocky" (1976): Talk about training this movie can have you up at 5 a.m. running sprints and eating nothing but protein.

  • "Pumping Iron" (1977): This was the governor of California's big break in film, a documentary about bodybuilding.

  • "G.I. Jane" (1997): I loved Demi Moore in this film about the first woman to go for Navy SEAL training. The training scenes are intense enough to get the most comfortable couch potato off his or her duff.


    Watching others transform their bodies can motivate you to change your own.

  • "Irreconcilable Differences" (1984): Shelley Long's character is miserable after her divorce and gains weight. The scenes with her getting back in shape are motivating. Revenge can be a powerful catalyst.

  • "Ruthless People" (1986): Includes inspirational and funny scenes of Bette Midler losing weight and getting in shape while being held hostage.


    According to Solomon, food and weight control are rarely portrayed accurately in film. In fact, alcohol and drug films can be better examples of the problems faced by many dieters. When the issues aren't so "close to home," it can be easier to see our own issues, suggests Solomon. He mentions a few that are good to start with, including: "Days of Wine and Roses" (1962), "Clean and Sober" (1988) and "When a Man Loves a Woman" (1994). The following depict many of the experiences we have when attempting to lose weight and get control of our eating behaviors.

  • "Fatso" (1980): This comedy starring Dom DeLuise as a bachelor trying to lose pounds works as a good reminder that crash dieting doesn't work.

  • "Requiem for a Dream" (2000): The sad depiction of a woman who fails at dieting, starts taking diet pills and becomes addicted.

  • "Super Size Me" (2004): The famous documentary shows what happens when you eat nothing but unhealthy fast food.


    In reel therapy terms, a viewer may think: If those people in the movie can overcome those great obstacles, so can I.

  • "The Guns of Navarone" (1961): A war movie in which the lead characters are faced with an impossible mission.

  • "Rudy" (1993): This motivating film shows what can be done with determination. Rudy is a young man who wants desperately to play on the Notre Dame football team but is too small.

  • "Radio" (2003): The story of a young man who inspires a football team and an entire community.


    Many movies can give a person confidence, and believing in oneself is among the core ingredients of a successful weight-control program.

  • "Bridget Jones's Diary" (2001): Bridget Jones is a single British woman who is overweight, smokes and drinks too much, but overcomes it all and finds love.

  • "Finding Nemo" (2003): An animated story about a clownfish, Nemo, who is lost in the ocean and finds not only his way home, but also courage and confidence.


    If you want a few films that are going to turn you off from eating, try watching these and see if you're still hungry.

  • "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life" (1983): The vomitorium.

  • "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984): Eating of monkey brains.

  • "Alive" (1993): The members of a soccer team are stranded in the Andes when their plane crashes and have to eat their team members who didn't survive in order to stay alive.

    Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public-health advocate, and author of "Breaking the FAT Pattern" (Plume, 2006). Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter at www.dietdetective.com.