“Fed Up” – A Galvanizing Look at the Obesity Crisis

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Advocacy documentaries on American food system have been aplenty in the past few years. It has rather become a tired subject, as more and more documentaries conjure up various kinds of horrifying statistics to the audience. But, Stephanie Soechtig’s take on ‘Big Food’ is a bit different from the regular, glossy statistical reports. Narrated by Kate Couric and directed by Stephanie, “Fed Up” (2014) is a scary documentary about the American food and health crisis. If left unchecked these American giant foods industries might consume the globe as well. Yes, there is vast no. of statistics in this film too: for example, it says that the world has reached a point where more people die due to obesity than hunger. However, the effectiveness of “Fed Up” lies in its novel way of showing us, how we have been swindled by the food products that is displayed on aisles of grocery store.

One of the established wisdom about obesity is that eat less and exercise more. But, the documentary argues that an individual effort to curb the obesity is doomed to fail, because the food they consume daily in their life only puts them at more risk. The documentary’s first, in its series of questions, is that why have waistlines of American teenagers continued to grow in tandem with the rise of the fitness revolution? And why even six month old child are obese? The film perfectly knocks down the idea that has been repeatedly told by nutritionists for the past decade: counting calories and ramping up exercise, according to amount of calories consumed isn’t going to help at all.

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It shows how a handful of almonds and a can of soda, which have same amount of calories (160 calories), work inside our body in an entirely different manner. Not all calories are the same. From then on, we are given an insight into the less identified giant sugar industry, which seems to lace every food item with sugar and saddles consumers with addictions and misleads them by printing all those calorie bullshits. The sweeteners added in the food take various forms. They are from the lab (maltodextrin), or natural sugar, or extracted from corn (high fructose corn syrup), and definitely has many unmemorable chemical names. The sugar that has doubled in US in the past three decades has heavily increased Type 2 diabetes among teenagers (even 10 years old).

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The sugar’s addictive nature is compared with cocaine. A study shows that 40 cocaine-addicted lab rats out of 43 have chosen sugar water over cocaine when given the option. So, lack of will power doesn’t seem to be the problem with obese teens as they are only given the same sugar additive food in schools, home, and everywhere. We get to see the food industry’s gargantuan power to influence policies, from forcing World Health Organization to suppress its report (which recommends high reduction in sugar intake) and making pizza to qualify as a vegetable, in order to serve it in the lunches in all American schools.

The best part of “Fed Up” is the way it even questions the efforts to Michelle Obama and her ‘Let’s Move’ campaign. Initially campaign (to fight against childhood obesity) from America’s First Lady, seems to insist on freshly prepared vegetables than the processes food varieties. But, when the alarmed food corporate talked with her and donated millions of dollars, the campaign asked the children move around more, promoting exercise as the only remedy to obesity. In short her campaign transformed from being “Let’s move away from processed foods” to “Let’s move our bodies”.

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The documentary is more affecting when it takes a break away from the talking heads and statistics to concentrate on the human stories. The film drops in on four smart, but heartbreakingly obese teenagers, who struggle hard to reduce their weight, only to be undermined by the offerings in school cafeteria. Eventually, Couric and director Stephanie Seochtig argues that sugar should be demonized the same way tobacco has been, if America’s obesity and diabetes rates are to be curbed.

“Fed Up” is a powerful documentary that showcases the devious ways of food corporate to sell the addictive, unhealthy processed and junk foods. After watching it, we would definitely look at the aisle in the super market from a wholly new perspective.

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