“Terror from within”… “What if our entire approach has been dead wrong”… “If a foreign nation were doing that to our children we would defend our families”… These are just some of the incendiary quotes from “Fed UP”, the documentary film directed by Stephanie Soechtig.
The “film the food industry doesn’t want you to see” is everything you would expect in terms of compelling narrative. We are launched into an emotionally-charged and sobering look into the obesity crisis that has become too overwhelming to ignore. The film really hits the right emotional buttons – from the heart-wrenching personal stories of obese teens and their families, to the anger-inducing accounts of corporate interests undermining health initiatives.
Throughout the film we are peppered with disheartening statistics – most of which outlining how obese we have become and where we are headed (More stats available here) http://fedupmovie.com/#/page/about-the-issue?scrollTo=facts and expert voices (some of them reputable, others not as much – more on this later) alerting us to the specifics of the calamity we are facing.
What I liked about it:
In many ways, “Fed Up” does a masterful job in uncovering various issues surrounding corporate influence and how it impacts our nations eating habits. The film gives numerous examples on how the food industry lobbyists have successfully silenced attempts to change policies/guidelines and recommendations that would better our health.
Fed UP exposes a systemic problem fuelled by a government entity (USDA) that responsible for both public health and promoting agriculture – the result being a “government-subsidized obesity epidemic”.
It exposes the marketing campaigns aimed at children and the deceptive nature of how companies lock into children at early ages.
We see numerous cozy relationships between big food and beverage manufacturers and organizations that are responsible for promoting health. A couple of examples are; The American Academy of Family Physicians partnership with Coca Cola and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign being sponsored by companies like General Mills, Kellogg and Nestle.
There is a very human element to the film coming from the voices of sad and discouraged teenagers and families – this part really played on my heart strings as someone who works with obese youth. It really hits home when you see the epidemic encapsulated into those fighting their own personal battles.
What I didn’t Like about it:
While “Fed Up” accomplishes much in creating awareness and exposing the pitfalls of corporate influence on our collective health, it does suffer from a glaring short-sightedness in 2 ways.
Firstly, as much as I do believe big food has a substantial influence on our eating patterns and is culpable when it comes to wide-spread obesity, I felt there was an OVER-emphasis on its role. I felt as though the overwhelming message was that we were absolutely powerless against the forces of corporate bullying.
Secondly, there was also far too much emphasis/misinformation on the role of sugar and a misconception of the role of energy balance. While sugar has indeed proliferated our diets more so than other foods in the past 30 years, the truth is we are eating more of EVERYTHING. The film producers were guilty of using a correlation/causation fallacy to implicate sugar as well as to eradicate the role of exercise – correlating increasing gym memberships with the obesity rates.
I alluded earlier to the experts who contributed to the film. This may have influenced some of the “single cause fallacy” focus of the film. I would have liked to see more of Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle and David Kessler and less Gary Taubes, Robert Lustig and Mark Hyman (the latter 3 have very clear nutritional leanings).
While the energy balance principle has layers and imperfections to it, I didn’t like that the concept was dismissed outright. Instead of telling people “it doesn’t work”, I would prefer a more scientifically truthful “creating an energy deficit works, but it isn’t easy to accomplish – it takes consistency, resolve and hard work to accomplish.”
And yes we were treated to an outrageous “sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine” bomb (prompting an audible groan from yours truly).
Lastly I was left a little dissatisfied at the call to action at the end of the film. In a “what you can do about it” epilogue, I would have hoped for long-term, sustainable suggestions to improve eating habits rather than cutting out sugar for 10 days (as per one of the experts’ well-documented book). The Fed Up website does, however have ways to influence change in government policies and a link to find out your school’s nutrition policies.
It’s always a compelling discussion when it comes to individual responsibility vs. industry responsibility. I happen to think this is a shared responsibility. To me, fighting the obesity epidemic will take a proverbial village: a collective effort that starts and ends with our own resolve to eat defensively and engage in habits that will make us and our families healthy. Our environment also needs to be one that helps set us up for success – a cooperative effort from food manufacturers/government/schools to set us (and most importantly future generations) up for success.
Despite some flaws, Fed Up remains an important film that does bring a largely ignored issue to the forefront. It forces us to think about the choices we make and how they can impact our health. In the end, we have to vote with our dollars and encourage others to do the same.
About Mike Howard
Mike has been actively involved in the fitness industry since 1996 – amassing more than 10,000 hours of in-the-trenches experience helping people achieve phenomenal health.
He has worked with a diverse number of individuals of varying ages, goals and abilities. Mike specializes in fat loss, corrective exercise and youth fitness. His approach is comprehensive, individualized and results-oriented. A dedicated and lifelong student, Mike is on the cutting edge of exercise and nutritional science and designs strategies to help people get fast, efficient and long-lasting results.
In addition to personal training and coaching youth, Mike is an accomplished writer, having just released the e-book: “Talking Back to Diet Gurus: An Un-Revolutionary and Un-Sexy Guide to Fat Loss” in addition to his over 350 articles in online and print media. He has also been a guest on the Good Life Show, with Jesse Dylan — an internationally syndicated radio show.
Mike has just opened up limited spots for online coaching and training. Contact him at mike@ coreconceptswellness.com for details.
For more information about Mike, visit www.coreconceptswellness.com and check out his blog http://www.coreconceptswellness.com/blog . And please do feel free to connect on Facebook www.facebook.com/mike.howard2 and/or follow him on Twitter https://twitter.com/CoreConceptsMH