Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Fed Up

This eye-opening doc takes a long look into the sugar bowl. It’s not a pretty sight—but everyone needs to see it.

May 8, 2014

-By Michael Sauter


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1399848-Fed_Up_Md.jpg
At this point in our evolution, most of us get that too much fat in our daily diet is a bad thing—and that too much sugar is, if anything, worse. But after watching Fed Up, even the most science-friendly viewers will become aware that they haven’t known the half of it. This film doesn’t just deluge us with potentially life-saving information. It gives us a whole new understanding of what we eat and the way we eat it—and how we’ve been going about it all wrong.

For decades, the accepted wisdom has been that consuming fewer calories, and burning more off through regular exercise, was the plain and simple formula for a longer, healthier, less overweight life. With that tenet in mind, this film asks: So why, over the past three decades—a period during which fitness clubs have flourished and different diet crazes have sprung up one after another—have more and more Americans become obese? That turns out to be a complicated question, one to which Fed Up supplies a number of simple answers and doable solutions. The answers should be easy enough for a sixth-grader to understand. The solutions, this film concludes, will be harder to come by.

Flashing back to the early 1980s, Fed Up recalls the cultural epiphany whereupon we all decided that yes, we were ingesting too much fat, and that this was not a good thing. Cue the dawning of the age of health and fitness, of Richard Simmons becoming a household name as a multimedia workout guru, and Jane Fonda finding a second career as the unofficial queen of aerobics. Not so coincidentally, the mega-corporations of the food industry were flooding the marketplace with new, ostensibly improved versions of old products, all of them ranging from “low-fat” to “fat-free.” Health-and-fitness-wise, it was like morning in America.

All of which would have been a boon to the nation’s per-capita weight loss, if not for the fact that the collective food industry was compensating for its reduced fat content by adding a whole lot of sugar, to everything from yogurt to spaghetti sauce. The sad fact: Fat makes food taste better. So does sugar. The bottom line: The food biz had found a quick, easy way to keep the customer satisfied and business booming. And the nation’s obesity problem wasn’t abating. It was just getting started.

Trotting out some truly alarming statistics, Fed Up shows us just how ubiquitous sugar has become on the supermarket shelves. Soft drinks and sweetened cereals should need no introduction—but when the film points out that our morning glass of orange juice just naturally contains all the sugar we should consume in one day, we begin to understand how big our health problem has become. As Senator Tom Harkin, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, puts it, “the deck is stacked” against us.

Marching forward from the early ’80s, Fed Up sheds a harsh light on key developments that helped set the stage for where we are today. Let’s start with the Big Sugar lobby, which has become so powerful that it can shout down damaging government-funded research, and maintain its status as the sole key ingredient on food labels that is represented in terms of grams rather than percentage of recommended daily dose. Now let’s move on to the Reagan administration’s sweeping 1980s budget cuts which forced most of the nation’s schools to eliminate fully equipped kitchens that prepared a full menu of daily lunches, and replaced them with fast food brought in from local drive-through restaurants. To hear one student describe her weekly lunch lineup in terms of “Papa John” Mondays and “McDonald’s” Fridays is to cringe in horror.

One’s horror turns to disbelief as we view footage of a McDonald’s spokesperson who declares with an utterly straight face that Ronald McDonald has never been deployed as an agent to influence children’s mealtime preferences. This is just the most stunning moment in the film’s sobering look at how the junk-food business aims its marketing approach point blank at junior consumers who don’t know any better.

Which leads us to the personal stories of several kids whose struggles to overcome obesity are woven into this narrative. Fourteen-year-old Maggie can’t lose weight no matter how much swimming and canoeing she does. Sixteen-year-old Brady joins his family on a strictly observed diet, loses 50 pounds, then gains it all back again. There are others in this film; there are literally millions in this country. Within two decades, the filmmakers predict, 95% of Americans will be overweight or obese.

Fed Up
has plenty of such frightening facts and figures. It explains why our bodies don’t even try to process sugar before almost instantly storing it as fat. It floors us with the lab-rat-proven evidence that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. It examines how the marketing of sugary cereals and salty snack foods not only impacts how and what children eat, but shapes their very perception of what food is. That’s when Fed Up is telling us things most of us didn’t know. And if you don’t run home after seeing this film and start scrutinizing the labels of the foods on your shelves, you weren’t paying enough attention.

But it’s when the focus is on kids like Maggie and Brady that Fed Up shows us what it’s really about. When Maggie laments her “ongoing struggle,” she may come across a bit dialogue-coached—but the tears streaking down her face are all hers. This is all too real to her. She and the other featured kids are the faces of this film. They’re the faces of America—an America whose youngest generation is the first whose average lifespan is projected to be shorter than that of their parents.

The film’s final message is that the powers-that-be either can’t or won’t change things. Without being preachy about it, Fed Up flat-out tells us that it is indeed past time to be fed up—to insist that action be taken, and take it ourselves. This film is a bracing wake-up call. In a more perfect world, it would wake all of us up.

Click here for cast & crew information.


Film Review: Fed Up

This eye-opening doc takes a long look into the sugar bowl. It’s not a pretty sight—but everyone needs to see it.

May 8, 2014

-By Michael Sauter


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1399848-Fed_Up_Md.jpg

At this point in our evolution, most of us get that too much fat in our daily diet is a bad thing—and that too much sugar is, if anything, worse. But after watching Fed Up, even the most science-friendly viewers will become aware that they haven’t known the half of it. This film doesn’t just deluge us with potentially life-saving information. It gives us a whole new understanding of what we eat and the way we eat it—and how we’ve been going about it all wrong.

For decades, the accepted wisdom has been that consuming fewer calories, and burning more off through regular exercise, was the plain and simple formula for a longer, healthier, less overweight life. With that tenet in mind, this film asks: So why, over the past three decades—a period during which fitness clubs have flourished and different diet crazes have sprung up one after another—have more and more Americans become obese? That turns out to be a complicated question, one to which Fed Up supplies a number of simple answers and doable solutions. The answers should be easy enough for a sixth-grader to understand. The solutions, this film concludes, will be harder to come by.

Flashing back to the early 1980s, Fed Up recalls the cultural epiphany whereupon we all decided that yes, we were ingesting too much fat, and that this was not a good thing. Cue the dawning of the age of health and fitness, of Richard Simmons becoming a household name as a multimedia workout guru, and Jane Fonda finding a second career as the unofficial queen of aerobics. Not so coincidentally, the mega-corporations of the food industry were flooding the marketplace with new, ostensibly improved versions of old products, all of them ranging from “low-fat” to “fat-free.” Health-and-fitness-wise, it was like morning in America.

All of which would have been a boon to the nation’s per-capita weight loss, if not for the fact that the collective food industry was compensating for its reduced fat content by adding a whole lot of sugar, to everything from yogurt to spaghetti sauce. The sad fact: Fat makes food taste better. So does sugar. The bottom line: The food biz had found a quick, easy way to keep the customer satisfied and business booming. And the nation’s obesity problem wasn’t abating. It was just getting started.

Trotting out some truly alarming statistics, Fed Up shows us just how ubiquitous sugar has become on the supermarket shelves. Soft drinks and sweetened cereals should need no introduction—but when the film points out that our morning glass of orange juice just naturally contains all the sugar we should consume in one day, we begin to understand how big our health problem has become. As Senator Tom Harkin, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, puts it, “the deck is stacked” against us.

Marching forward from the early ’80s, Fed Up sheds a harsh light on key developments that helped set the stage for where we are today. Let’s start with the Big Sugar lobby, which has become so powerful that it can shout down damaging government-funded research, and maintain its status as the sole key ingredient on food labels that is represented in terms of grams rather than percentage of recommended daily dose. Now let’s move on to the Reagan administration’s sweeping 1980s budget cuts which forced most of the nation’s schools to eliminate fully equipped kitchens that prepared a full menu of daily lunches, and replaced them with fast food brought in from local drive-through restaurants. To hear one student describe her weekly lunch lineup in terms of “Papa John” Mondays and “McDonald’s” Fridays is to cringe in horror.

One’s horror turns to disbelief as we view footage of a McDonald’s spokesperson who declares with an utterly straight face that Ronald McDonald has never been deployed as an agent to influence children’s mealtime preferences. This is just the most stunning moment in the film’s sobering look at how the junk-food business aims its marketing approach point blank at junior consumers who don’t know any better.

Which leads us to the personal stories of several kids whose struggles to overcome obesity are woven into this narrative. Fourteen-year-old Maggie can’t lose weight no matter how much swimming and canoeing she does. Sixteen-year-old Brady joins his family on a strictly observed diet, loses 50 pounds, then gains it all back again. There are others in this film; there are literally millions in this country. Within two decades, the filmmakers predict, 95% of Americans will be overweight or obese.

Fed Up
has plenty of such frightening facts and figures. It explains why our bodies don’t even try to process sugar before almost instantly storing it as fat. It floors us with the lab-rat-proven evidence that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. It examines how the marketing of sugary cereals and salty snack foods not only impacts how and what children eat, but shapes their very perception of what food is. That’s when Fed Up is telling us things most of us didn’t know. And if you don’t run home after seeing this film and start scrutinizing the labels of the foods on your shelves, you weren’t paying enough attention.

But it’s when the focus is on kids like Maggie and Brady that Fed Up shows us what it’s really about. When Maggie laments her “ongoing struggle,” she may come across a bit dialogue-coached—but the tears streaking down her face are all hers. This is all too real to her. She and the other featured kids are the faces of this film. They’re the faces of America—an America whose youngest generation is the first whose average lifespan is projected to be shorter than that of their parents.

The film’s final message is that the powers-that-be either can’t or won’t change things. Without being preachy about it, Fed Up flat-out tells us that it is indeed past time to be fed up—to insist that action be taken, and take it ourselves. This film is a bracing wake-up call. In a more perfect world, it would wake all of us up.

Click here for cast & crew information.
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