Our nation's deadly epidemic of obesity is the focus of "Fed Up," an effective new activist documentary from director Stephanie Soechtig ("Tapped") and executive producer Katie Couric (also narrating the film). Sharing a producer (Laurie Lennard) with the Oscar-winning "An Inconvenient Truth," the doc clearly hopes to do for this health crisis what that film did for global warming. Soechtig, who co-wrote the film with Mark Monroe (behind another Oscar-winning documentary, 2009's "The Cove."), offers a scathing indictment of our nation's eating habits, but believes that the problem may not be entirely our fault.
For a country as diet-obsessed as we've ever been, it seems baffling that our population's obesity levels continue to rise at disturbing rates. While conventional wisdom states that the way to lose weight is to eat less and exercise more, "Fed Up" argues that these efforts to fight the epidemic have been misguided, and that it's not how much we eat, but what we're eating that's doing damage to our health. The fault lies within the food industry's peddling of processed foods. Companies have answered the increasing demand for less fat, low calorie food options by pumping up the sugar content to add flavor, making products that are equally as unhealthy and highly addictive to boot.
To back up these claims, Soechtig interviews politicians, researchers, physicians, lobbyists, and most heartbreakingly, the overweight youths affected by these practices. It's blatantly manipulative to watch those children sob into the camera, frustrated that their constant dieting and exercising aren't yielding any results, but it's impossible not to be moved by their plight.
The film draws a direct correlation between the strategies used by Big Tobacco and those the food industry employs, specifically the aggressive marketing of their products to children, brainwashing us from an early age to crave, say, a Happy Meal. The problem is a systemic one, caused by the deep pockets of the food industry, which gain it the ability to lobby and prevent governmental regulation. As we export our food to other countries, the health crisis is rapidly becoming not just America's problem, but a global one as well. Soechtig's film suggests that, as the country did with the tobacco companies, the solution is outright demonization of the industry's tactics and making a rallying cry around the need for strict regulations.
In presenting its case, "Fed Up" has a tendency to oversimplify things for the sake of its argument, at a certain point seemingly making the claim that exercise won't really do you any good. Despite the flaws, it's not hard to get behind the film's ultimate goal of making healthy eating as much of a habit and as easy for the average person as picking up a Big Mac.