“This is the first generation that is expected to live shorter lives than their parents,” says Katie Couric, narrator of Stephanie Soechtig's documentary, Fed Up. It's an infuriating statement, given both the preventability of that outcome and the institutional opposition to the solutions, the primary conflict that drives the film.
For the last decade, basically every public nutrition group, doctor, researcher, diet-book author and health-related entity besides the toothless U.S. Department of Agriculture has been aware that the primary culprit for the worsening obesity crisis in the United States is sugar.
Fed Up examines the history of the problem and the institutional resistance to the obvious solution: a legal regime of regulation accompanied by a public awareness campaign modeled on the war on tobacco, which began in the 1970s.
Fed Up is a workmanlike documentary, as undistinguished in style as a PowerPoint slide show. It nonetheless finds traction in its depiction of the food industry's Montgomery Burns–like practices. Industry representatives regularly partner with fitness organizations and such prominent health advocates as Michelle Obama to promote the idea that the cause of obesity is lack of exercise. Why hasn't the explosion of gym memberships stemmed the rise in obesity? Fed Up asserts, through interviews with physicians, that exercise cannot burn the number of calories consumed by the average American.
Driving the point home, director Soechtig follows the paths of four obese children in their attempts to become healthy. It's not easy, of course: Their schools' lunches are provided by fast food companies, and their districts are subsidized by soda manufacturers who install their vending machines in cafeterias.
Directly targeted by marketers, children exist in an excessively sugary milieu in which Fred Flintstone, who used to appear in advertisements for cigarettes, now sells another toxic substance directly to children. Children don't make the household shopping choices and have no alternatives at school; nutritionally abandoned by the adult world, they can only eat what's available.
FED UP | Directed by Stephanie Soechtig | Written by Mark Monroe and Soechtig | RADiUS-TWC | Landmark