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Upending the conventional wisdom of why we gain weight and how to lose it, Fed Up unearths a dirty secret of the American food industry-far more of us get sick from what we eat than anyone has previously realized. Filmmaker Stephanie Soechtig and TV journalist Katie Couric lead us through this potent exposé that uncovers why-despite media attention, the public's fascination with appearance, and government policies to combat childhood obesity-generations of American children will now live shorter lives than their parents did. Written by
Sundance Film Festival
Fed Up is a clearly well-meaning documentary, and its producers, director, and parties involved obviously bear emotions on the food industry that are perfectly in-line with the title of the documentary they are making. However, it bothers me that reviews of the documentary praise the film as something groundbreaking and that its discoveries and examination of the food industry is shocking. Did everyone forget the documentary Super Size Me, which garnered nearly-unanimous praise and just came out ten years ago? What about Food, Inc., another documentary concerning what we eat and where it comes from, or even its follow-up documentary A Place at the Table, released last year? As stylistically sublime and efficient as Fed Up is, it's not new information, but, maybe like the recent NSA/wiretapping controversy, maybe we just need a friendly reminder with more bells and whistles.
Fed Up is narrated by news anchor/talk-show host Katie Couric, who brings her perky-mannerisms and clarity to the table when discussing the food industry's peddling of high-sugar products, in addition to illustrating the tremendous influx of diseases like diabetes, heart problems, and obesity in America. Couric examines how America has seen numbers and their pant-sizes explode in the last couple decades, after the McGovern Report in the late seventies attempted to implement harsher food restrictions and advertising campaigns on the food industry. The industry responded by releasing many products claiming "low fat," "reduced fat," and "no fat" products which, despite their ostensible health benefits, literally taint their possibilities for being nutritious by adding massive amounts of sugar to compensate for the flavor fat provided. In addition, ad campaigns of the food industry were not given very detailed restrictions, allowing corporations to peddle food to kids that had little to no nutritional value and result in health problems from an early age.
How anyone could see any of this information to be new or groundbreaking is beyond me, but I continue to digress. Fed Up, after all, is a competent and intensely watchable documentary, illustrating a growing problem in America. The topic it touches on is one I've been telling people about for years, when my friends and I engage in debates about food and the health of America, in that poor-quality, processed food is ubiquitous beyond belief. Service stations have turned into gas stations/convenient stores, stocking every brand of soda, chips, and frozen foods one could imagine, and with no restrictions with advertising and lower-cost ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup in the foods, the corporations wisely look to glitz their products with billion dollar advertising campaigns to make sure your children know their product, by every color on the box to the plastic-wrap you need to peel off of the tray.
In addition to exploring the utter anomaly of how gym memberships in America could double, while obesity rates do the same, directress Stephanie Soechtig also illustrates stories from obese teens all across America, who are committing themselves to make healthy eating choices. While these kids are only twelve, fifteen, and even as young as ten or eleven, they condemn the idea of a diet, stating consuming healthy foods is how we should be eating all the time, but nonetheless, feel soul-crushed to learn that their lifestyle changes result in little-to-no weight loss whatsoever. Some of them, through their dietary ventures, experiences weight gain. While this part of the documentary steers into emotionally manipulating territory, if one looks past this effect and seriously contemplates the devotion of the kids and the fact that everything they were told to do to lose weight isn't working, it becomes a very upsetting situation to witness.
Watching these kids in tough positions makes me recall my own food habits, which are flawed to say the least. I weigh about one-hundred and forty pounds at age eighteen, am roughly five feet, ten inches tall, and, for the last two years of my high school career, scarcely ate breakfast, ate a muffin and an RC Cola for lunch, occasionally ate a balanced dinner, but mostly just played it by ear, and still kind of live that way today. When I was younger, my family ate a balanced dinner nearly every night we could, with meat, a vegetable, a salad, and a side of corn, mashed potatoes, rice, or stuffing. Then both my parents began working irregular work hours, I got a job and began working irregular hours, and to this day, we only eat together on Mondays.
This is the point Fed Up never brings up when questioning why Americans continue to buy into the cheap, alternative food that is heavily processed and infused with sugar when there are obviously healthy options. Few have time to cook when jobs demand so much of us today. It's far too difficult, especially when we can head down to the local fast food place, get a bag of food impersonally thrown at us at the drive-thru window, and get home with money in our wallets and time to spare.
Fed Up really hits its stride at the documentary's conclusion, when it compares the food industry's peddling of garbage to the manipulative and cloyingly false advertisements of the tobacco industry about four decades ago, which almost seem like farcical parodies today. Could you believe we bought their lie that smoking was sexy? Could you believe we thought it was okay to suck anything other than oxygen into our lungs and believed that it wasn't quietly hurting us? The filmmakers behind Fed Up believe (or hope) we'll be saying the same about the food industry in a short time. All I can say is if we continue getting "wakeup calls" like this documentary, we should learn to make their impact last before being greeted with a fairly similar product in relative short notice.
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