Writer/director Stephanie Soechtig has combined forces with executive producers Katie Couric and Laurie David to give us a heaping helping of dynamic documentary filmmaking with Fed Up. When the filmmakers used the phrase “the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see” to market the movie, it sounds like typical hyperbole. It isn’t. Using a combination of startling facts and poignant anecdotes, Fed Up takes the crisis in food consumption beyond Supersize Me.
Facts such as the fact that by 2010, two out of every three Americans was either obese or overweight. 80% of the hundreds of thousands of food products sold in the U. S. has added sugar. Hispanic-American children see 49% more television ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks than their Caucasian counterparts.
Most of this is stuff we were at least partially aware of. What Fed Up does to drive home the message about the pandemic of obesity in our country that other documentaries have not, is to challenge our basic assumptions about weight loss. After all, everyone knows that it’s a simple equation. Burn more calories than you take in and eventually the pounds melt off.
Fed Up lets us know that sugar isn’t just addictive. It is highly addictive. One test involving lab rats already addicted to cocaine gave these rats a choice between that drug and sugary water. 93% of the rats chose the sugary water over that “other white powder.”
Fed Up examines the key component to any problem like this, the profit motive. It educates its audience about who is making money from all of this added sugar being stealthily added to our food products. It also shows how blaming us as individuals and trying to assign the responsibility for our failure to lose weight is a technique that masks the actual reasons it is so damn difficult to lose weight in this day and age. How else are we to explain that the First Lady’s Let’s Move program has become less focused on healthy eating and more on exercise? All the exercise in the world can’t overcome a diet where reducing/eliminating fats can actually be made worse when they are replaced by sugars in order to make the foods tasty (and addictive).
Strong graphics, the appearance of figures like Bill Clinton, and the clear commitment of the filmmakers makes Fed Up a powerful presentation.
If you’re interested in learning more about the subject I would suggest you pick up a copy of “Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” from New York Times reporter Michael Moss.