“There is a public menace that threatens the children, threatens the future prosperity of the country and threatens you” ― Robert Cameron Fowler, Indiewire
Today I saw the documentary film, Fed Up. From the film’s website, “Everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong. FED UP is the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see. From Katie Couric, Laurie David (Oscar winning producer of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH) and director Stephanie Soechtig, FED UP will change the way you eat forever.”
Like a whole generation of young people growing up and growing obese, I’ve struggled with weight all my life. I’ve been shamed and blamed for my weight. I’ve been both bullied and shunned, I’ve been told that I should push myself away from the table, eat less, and exercise more. I should show some willpower, make better decisions about what I put in my mouth, and I should take a good look in the mirror.
In my efforts to advocate for my health, I’ve received little help from health care providers. Until recently all health services related to obesity were considered by insurers as “weight loss treatment.” Most weight loss services were not covered by health insurers, including fitness and exercise programs, diet programs such as Weight Watchers which included education about diet, healthy choices and exercise. Many surgical or pharmaceutical treatments are frequently not covered.
In the decades leading up to my hypertension, heart disease, and Type II Diabetes, I was told to eat less, exercise more, make healthier choices and visit the nutritionist (aka the plastic food lady) and learn about portion control. I am now one of the 30% of Americans who are overweight or obese.
I admit to having some personal responsibility for this condition. I control what I put in my mouth, and how much exercise I get. I have compulsive eating issues. I am an emotional eater. I’ve been a binge eater in the past. I have a relationship and addiction to sugar that doesn’t serve me. Years ago, I even earned the nickname, Lolly Keebler, for my love of cookies.
On the flip side I’ve joined Weight Watchers (more than once), gone on diets (more than once), attended Overeaters Anonymous (more than once), exercised, purchased fitness machines (more than once), attended and paid out of pocket for educational workshops about healthy eating (yes, more than once), visited the plastic food lady numerous times and stepped on scales more times that I’d like to admit. Like most dieters, I’ve yo-yoed, lost weight, gained weight back, increased my set point, lost weight, gained weight back, you get the picture.
I’ve also had a history of problems with substances in the past and I’ve worked diligently with the support of peers, 12-step and recovery programs, to be clean and sober, free of alcohol and drugs, including nicotine for over 25 years, almost 30. I’m not afraid of the hard work required to achieve healthy changes. The tricky part for me with food compared to other substance issues is how do I abstain and still eat?
Fed Up shifts the blame and shame for obesity from the consumer and places it squarely in the laps of the food industry, Congress, lobbyists, and public schools. The real culprit is the increasing amount of sugar added to our processed foods. Most vulnerable to obesity and metabolic conditions are our children, our poor, and our working families. Michael Pollan is quoted as saying that “the government is subsidizing the obesity epidemic.”
The documentary features a number of experts including Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, Gary Taubes, Rob Lustig, Michele Simon, Mark Hyman, David Ludwig, and David Kessler. They provide the facts and commentary about the life-threatening effects of sugar and processed foods. The film is most successful in providing an historical context to the evolving obesity crisis and shows how today’s generation of young people may be the first whose life span may be shorter than ours. Where adults in their fifties and sixties once developed adult onset diabetes, now children as young as 10 years old are being diagnosed and the long term treatment and consequences of the disease are unknown.
The emotional heart of the film is the young people and their families who are profiled. The teens kept a video diary of their efforts to eat less, make healthier choices, and exercise more. It’s heart-wrenching to watch their stories. It’s shocking to see them work so hard and not achieve the desired results. Finally, to understand in the end that it’s not their fault. The deck is stacked against them.
- Eighty percent of the 600,000 food products in the United States have added sugar.
- A growing list of nutritionists, now regard sugar as a poison potentially more addictive than cocaine.
- If trends continue, 95 percent of Americans will be overweight or obese by 2035.
- Eighty percent of American high schools have contracts with soft drink companies, with 50 percent of school cafeterias serving fast food.
- When the food industry began producing reduced fat foods, they added sugar to make it taste better. The recommendation to eat foods lower in fat resulted in an unintended increase in caloric consumption by 25%.
- Seventy-five percent of all health care costs involve metabolic diseases.
David Ludwig, an M.D., notes that there is no difference between many processed foods and sugar itself, saying you can eat a bowl of cornflakes with no added sugar or a bowl of sugar with no added cornflakes and “below the neck they’re the same thing.”
See this film, get fed up and hungry for change.
To read more about obesity, the health care industry, and my personal journey:
Note: All graphics are from the official Fed Up Movie Website.