There’s no question the challenge of unhealthy weight and rising obesity rates in America present a complex problem for children, their parents, and their doctors. No wonder I cycled through so many emotions while watching the new movie Fed Up. As Fed Up premiers all over the United States today it’s provoking a fiery, national conversation about the threats of obesity on our nation’s children. I loved the power behind the film.
Instead of pointing the finger at children for poor choices or limited activity, filmmakers Katie Couric and Laurie David take a deep dive into the mechanics of how food is being made in America, how food companies have contaminated our culture, and how with a changing food source we’re obligated to return to a menu of primarily fresh foods to heal our children.
This movie is guaranteed to cause you to re-evaluate the number of processed foods you bring into your home.
Fed Up is constructed out of powerful interviews and activist-like thinking as national experts illuminate the fallacy that eating less and exercising more will singularly improve the health of our nation and curb the obesity epidemic. It feels a little like a get-out-the-vote campaign blended with a whole new kind of math. In fact there’s lots of new thinking challenging the simplicity of previously held beliefs about energy gap. With overweight and obesity threatening our longevity and our national bank account, Fed Up assures us that we’ll have to take on one big sugar cube, the food industry, to lean-up our nation.
This is a wake-up call for many of us. I would suspect this will cause pediatricians everywhere to change how we counsel families who struggle with overweight, at least a bit.
The movie caused me to flip-flop between various emotions. Predominately, I felt sadness for the children who graciously shared their journeys and challenges in the film. But I also felt a sense of failure as a pediatrician. I thought about patients and families who I’ve been unable to help support getting to better weights. And I questioned myself and the data/tools I’ve provided them. More, I felt a sense of frustration for children, and those who love them, who face the enormous physical and psychological challenge of an unhealthy weight. I also felt outrage.
The documentary takes us through new thinking behind why changing an unhealthy weight has become such a challenge (the ingredients in the food we offer our children) over the past 3 decades. The narrative also personalizes the gravity of the challenge via the lens of a handful of children as they attempt to lose weight via calorie reduction, exercise, and even bariatric surgery. At the end you find out each of their results.
So often the toll of obesity during childhood is not just an unhealthy liver, or sore, achy knees, or a redundant waistline. The enormous first toll that obesity presents in a child’s life is the torment of bullying, isolation, and a sense of failure or overwhelm that come as they gain weight and can’t stop. No wonder this can feel so overwhelming for us all…this kind of failure is an unfortunate and undesirable lesson for any child.
Fed Up is a must-see movie. If it doesn’t propel you to think differently about how you fill your shopping cart, I don’t know what will.
Justin Barton says
Although I am sure that the food industry is a mess here in the USA, is “sugar” the biggest culprit? Or is the bigger culprit the artificial sweeteners (High Fructose Corn Syrup, Aspartame, etc) that seem to be in more and more foods?
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE says
Justin, I suggest you watch the movie — but yes, the argument that it is indeed all the forms of sugar — cane sugar, sugar in raw, high fructose corn syrup — that are to blame for at least a part of the obesity crisis. And in particular, it’s the “hidden sugars” in so many processed foods that are really mucking things up for our children.
Did you mean counsel, instead of Council?
Would you interview many a slender person and let us know how they
could be slender without having to try any specific diets…could that
be some kinds of cuisine that had been handed down from great grand
parents , grand parents, to parents. and how to raise a consistently
slender child? which foods does a child eat or not eat to make him/her
slender? white bread, cheese, red meat, nuts, beans, oranges, sugar,
pastries, legumes, yogurt? How many meals or snacks one , child /and ,
or adult could eat per day and could still be thin, slender, slim?
Thank you and Best Wishes.
We must pray as if everything depended on God and work as if
everything depended upon us.
St. Ignatius of Loyola
Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE says
I did mean “counsel” — thank you! This was typed quickly. Thx for the help
Here’s a nice resources/guides to meals/snacks (as a general guide)
Jameelah Melton says
Thank you for writing this post! It was very well thought out, and raised a lot of good points. I am a Pediatrician in NC where we recently ranked 5th in the nation in childhood obesity. This is an extremely challenging condition to treat, and so many times the burden is placed on the child or the parents when they really are doing the best they can. Having struggled with my own weight when I was a teen has given me a unique perspective on the situation. I remember how much hungrier I felt after eating certain foods, in particular sugary foods and diet foods with artificial sweeteners. As I’ve seen my overweight or obese patients, I’ve drawn upon these experiences to help guide them a little. It’s hard though because by the time we start working together, the habits (and those sugar/pleasure seeking pathways) have already been set not only in their brains but in their parents minds as well. So, you really have to guide the entire family on what to eat which can be complicated. They find it easy to understand when I tell them to look at a box and avoid high fructose corn syrup, but delivering on it is difficult because the habits have formed. Hopefully, if we as health care providers encourage more organic foods and farmers markets, we can make some headway,
Tami Bradford says
I haven’t seen the movie, but I understand the gist of what is being reported in it. I guess my quandary is if modeling good eating habits at home is the best I can do? I tend to be quite controlling over what my children eat or don’t eat. I feel strongly enough about it that I had my pediatrician write me a doctors note so I could send my son food to daycare that had whole fruits, veggies, whole grains, and was minimally processed. I often get comments that the other food(McDonalds, Panda Express, candies, etc) will become the “forbidden fruit” if I don’t offer it to him. I don’t want this to be the case. I really want my children to value healthy foods, but with other kids, friends, and family eating a more typical American diet I wonder if I’m fighting a loosing battle? How do you handle this with your two boys?