June 01, 2015

Annoyed, but Not Fed Up:
the Only Person Who Isn't Nuts About Netflix's Recent Film

This weekend, I finally watched Fed Up, the Netflix documentary about obesity in the U.S.

And if I had one word to describe my feelings about the film, it'd be "annoyed."

Annoyed that, as a whole, the food industry seems to be generally uninterested in our health. Annoyed that we live in a world dictated by money. But also, just as much, annoyed with the documentary itself.

Now, not all of the film annoyed me; a lot of what was being said seemed completely legitimate. I mean, I think most of the food sold in grocery stores is crap. The fact that there are teenagers in need of bariatric surgery means that something has gone horribly wrong. And I agree with Fed Up's producers that the solution includes information and education.

I just don't think that the information Fed Up gave us was it.

First, the "facts" and "data" the film used to convince me that "everything we've been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong" actually did the opposite. For example, one of the first pieces of evidence they used to introduce the idea that our sedentary lifestyle isn't the problem is the correlation between gym memberships and obesity in the last few decades.

Because, I mean, if exercise could help you lose weight, how could both gym memberships and obesity be rising in tandem?

And the answer seems obvious... until you think about it. And realize that maybe gym memberships are on the rise because we no longer get exercise doing our daily activities, and are hoping an hour of farting around on the elliptical in front of "Say Yes to the Dress" will make up for it. Or maybe people are buying gym memberships and are just not going.

Basically, there are a lot of reasons why gym memberships and obesity could be rising that don't mean that exercise can't help effectively manage weight.

But my biggest problem with the film wasn't its questionable logic; the most annoying thing about Fed Up was the underlying message it left us with: that we are powerless in controlling our weight, and are at the mercy of the lying, ruthless, sugar pushing food industry.

The message I got from Fed Up was that we are essentially incapable of limiting our own sugar intake, and that without the government stepping in, we are all doomed to 200 pound twelve year olds.

And I don't like that message.

Now, I'd never argue that the food industry values people more than profits. And I'd never argue that it's okay to serve kids pizza every day at school. But I'll also never argue that we can take personal responsibility completely out of this. I mean, Frosted Flakes are terrible for us, but we can choose not to buy them.

I like the idea of Fed Up because I think education about nutrition is what we need; I honestly believe many Americans just don't know that Special K bars aren't actually a health food. But I don't think the solution to this problem should be having the government step in and control what goes into our junk food; I think the solution should be that we know enough to stop buying the junk food.

Because giving us better gym memberships isn't enough; we need to make the decision to use them.