LDS filmmaker aims to raise mental health, obesity awareness

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LDS filmmaker Tucker Dansie represents his documentary, “Recommended Daily Amount,” by wearing a shirt about being overweight. He hopes to create awareness about obesity after experiencing health issues in his own life. (Tucker Dansie)

LDS Church filmmaker Tucker Dansie recently turned the camera on himself for 30 days. He eliminated caffeine from his diet and lowered his sugar intake, in order to raise awareness about obesity and mental health.

The documentary, titled “Recommended Daily Amount,” was shown at the 16th annual LDS film festival March 1-4 at the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem.

The film explores the challenges leading to obesity and mental health problems in both society and Dansie’s own life. He said he created the film because he feels society often tries to shy away from addressing the two subjects due to fear.

“I’m going to my doctor’s visits, and I start seeing that my weight is getting more and more, but the doctor’s not saying anything about it, and I thought this is strange,” Dansie said. “Why aren’t we classifying obesity as a medical issue that we should be looking at? Why aren’t we classifying (mental health) as a medical issue, but instead we’re treating my chronic pain?”

Dansie took it upon himself to make some changes by looking at what factors might be affecting or aggravating his conditions. He found an excess of sugar may be the root of these problems.

“When I first started getting a lot of migraines, I used (soda) sort of medicinally … but I got to the point where I was just drinking it all the time,” Dansie said.

In connection with his experiment on cutting back caffeine and sugars, Dansie met with several health specialists and medical professionals. He did this to learn more about the relationship between sugar consumption and obesity and mental wellness.
Tucker Dansie, right, sits down with BYU physiology and developmental biology assistant professor Benjamin Bikman to discuss his documentary, “Recommended Daily Amount.” (Tucker Dansie)

BYU physiology and developmental biology assistant professor Benjamin Bikman was one of the doctors involved in Dansie’s film. Bikman said he was glad to participate in the project.

“I admire what Tucker is looking to accomplish, part of which is to raise awareness of the consequences of dietary sugar,” Bikman said. “Obesity is a health disorder that is definitely related to nutrition, but also terribly misunderstood. More people need to realize that the effects of sugar extend beyond their calorie count.”

Dansie decided to record his medical journey of eliminating excess sugars from his diet to see how it would affect his obesity and mental health in the film.

“I was trying to tell myself, ‘Hey, you’re putting yourself on check right now, and the only way that you are actually really going to do this is you’re going to tell everybody else in the world that you’re going to film it, and now you can’t say no,'” Dansie said.

Dansie said the documentary is very raw and personal for him. He said he likes to joke that there were parts of the film his wife wanted taken out.

“It’s very real, and it’s very me,” Dansie said. “There are a lot of people who will see this for the first time and not know that I have bipolar disorder. It’s not something that I’m ashamed of. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. That and being overweight and all of these things are things that we need to be able to talk about publicly and in an easier way.”

LDS filmmaker Tucker Dansie created his documentary “Recommended Daily Amount” to create awareness for obesity and mental illness. The rough draft of the film was shown at the 16th annual LDS Film Festival. (Tucker Dansie)

Dansie also recruited his friends Lindsey Swan and Eric Oliver to join him in the experience.

Swan’s experience was about finding a healthy way to overcome her emotional battle with postpartum depression. Swan said she was an emotional roller coaster after the birth of her fourth child, but was afraid to even tell her mom because of the heavy stigma associated with postpartum depression.

“It’s one of those things a lot of people hide because they’re ashamed of it,” Swan said.

Swan said she doesn’t understand why there are different stigmas for those with mental health issues compared to cancer.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Swan said. “I was going to say cancer is one of those things you don’t choose, but nobody chooses mental illness, and I think maybe that’s the mistake. People think that it’s a choice, but it isn’t.”

Like Dansie, Swan said she hopes this film will help change some of those mistaken beliefs about mental and other illnesses and make it easier for people to talk about them more openly.

“I think there needs to be no shame in those types of things because it’s not going to help it,” Swan said. “Every single person at some point is going to have those days, and they’re going to have to deal with that. It’s just one of those things that if people talked about it, it wouldn’t be such an odd thing.”

Dansie said he also hopes his film will inspire others to change their own diets and cut out excess sugar.
He also said he hopes his film’s message will reach younger generations and influence them to make healthier choices.

“It’s the younger generation that I really want to get this message to go to,” Dansie said. “I would absolutely love to get it into schools. I think it would be really interesting because not only is it addressing mental health, but it’s talking about caffeine and sugar and all of those things.”

The rough draft of Dansie’s film was shown at the LDS Film Festival, and a final draft is available online.