Last night, I went to see Fed Up, a documentary about the obesity epidemic, and primarily about the food industry’s role in causing it along with the government’s complacency. Obviously, writing this blog I find imperative the need to spread the word to Americans about what goes on behind the scenes in the food world, so I’m very happy a piece like this is in theaters. I was really looking forward to seeing it and had pretty high expectations.
After seeing Fed Up, I was mostly very pleased with it. In my opinion, the film highlighted some of the most important factors behind obesity and diet-related disease, namely:
- the power of food industry to influence government and scientists
- aggressive food marketing to children
- the addictive and toxic properties of sugar
- ubiquity, convenience, and cheapness of processed foods and limited access to whole foods
- unhealthy food in schools
These topics were covered by some of the biggest players in the food movement and obesity prevention field, who I consider my role models, and who are excellent at communicating complicated scientific and political matters to the general public. They included Marion Nestle, who I wrote about the other day and Margo Wootan, the director of nutrition policy at Center for Science in the Public Interest, who I was lucky enough to shadow in D.C. over spring break.
The filmmakers also focused on four obese adolescents, along with their families, and how the current food environment has encouraged them to gain weight and has prevented them from losing it. Frightening is the amount of self-esteem problems and physical health problems these kids are already having at 12, 13, 14, and 15 because of their diets and weights. One young man was having bariatric surgery at age 14! That should not be the case. Spotlighting these youth was a good way to put faces on the staggering statistics the film presents.
There was one significant problem I had with the film. The major theme running throughout the documentary was that the idea that calorie imbalance is the root of the obesity problem is hugely misguided, because the food industry and government are essentially promoting and subsidizing the calorie imbalance. I COMPLETELY AGREE with that theme, but the way the film communicated it was also misguided. The film seemed to say that there is nothing to the notion of calorie balance when it comes to weight, which I think would really confuse the average viewer. It certainly angered my brother, who got very puffed up over what seemed to him a lie. I tried to explain to him why the experts featured in the film would be saying that overconsumption is not the problem, because of course it’s the problem. The direct cause of weight gain is consuming more calories than you burn. But this message has been beaten into the public for decades now, and clearly it is doing nothing for us. That is because it doesn’t address the root of the problem, the indirect causes of obesity, which have everything to do with government policy and food industry business tactics that form the obesigenic ( obesity-promoting) food environment in which we find ourselves. As I’ve said before, the government could reform the food system so that overconsumption is no longer the default. If that were the case, I’m telling you–the need for promotion of calorie balance would gradually disappear on its own.
Anyway, seeing Fed Up definitely inspired me big time. It reaffirmed my assuredness that I am on the right track by studying and preparing to work for the cause that compels me more than almost anything else. I think it can inspire you too.
Here’s the trailer, please check it out!