Diet and exercise—it’s the end-all solution to obesity that is prescribed time and time again. But if that’s the truth, why is it that while the rate of Americans who exercise is climbing and grocery stores are increasingly packed with so-called “healthy options”, US obesity rates are still skyrocketing? We’re dieting! We’re exercising! How are we still so fat?
This is the question that Katie Couric and co. set up to address in the new documentary “Fed Up”. The answer, in a nutshell, is processed food that is packed with sugar.
The movie has drawn its critics (such as Baylen Linnekin, who is—not surprisingly—the executive director of a pro-food industry lobbying group), but by and large it’s been heralded as a startling look behind the curtain that food manufacturers have Oz’ed over our eating choices.
I’m not going to go point by point, because the movie does a better job of explaining it than I can in 500 or so words, but the message of “Fed Up” is focused on three things:
- Sugar is the central force driving our obesity epidemic.
- Individuals should not be blamed for falling into what is literally a trap (and a deadly one at that) that has been set by processed food companies.
- Our government is not only looking the other way, it is complicit.
While for many these points won’t come as a surprise, “Fed Up” draws much of its power due to the fact that it reveals—very explicitly—that the food industry and the government’s behavior isn’t just immoral, it is in many ways downright criminal. Think of the days when the government and big tobacco were washing each other’s hands in a dimly-lit bathroom, and you have some idea of what’s going on.
And some of you may be saying, “Wait! But Michelle Obama is hard at work with her health programs!” Whelp, the unfortunate truth is that her health initiatives have been flattened by the food and drink lobby, which was effective in directing her attention away from healthy food and toward exercise.
Exercise! But that’s still good, right? Well, as we discussed at the top, lack of exercise isn’t the key problem—it’s the abundance of sugar. It’s in everything, even the supposedly “healthy” food options that are “low-fat” and “natural”.
Let’s take a quick look at an example from the movie of how the food industry pulls the wool over our eyes:
One of the lobbyists who so effectively charmed the guts out of the First Lady’s initiative was Lisa Gable of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, which is actually just a front for big processed food producers. After talks with Michelle Obama, this organization agreed to eliminate 1.5 trillion calories from the marketplace. Sounds like a success, doesn’t it? But when Gable is interviewed in the film, she is unable to explain what had been pulled from the shelves in order to cut out the calories (spoiler: nothing was). Gable actually launches into an explanation of how the companies put more things on the shelves that are “healthy options”. So in reality, it was all just a scam to get more products out there, a way of selling chips and cereal. The truth is that that 1.5 trillion calories wouldn’t have mattered anyways. That would have been the equivalent of cutting just 14 calories a day from everyone in the country.
Basically, they flapped one hand over here so that you wouldn’t see what the other was up to.
Tomato sauce and ketchup are considered vegetables in our school lunches, and Dominoes and McDonalds have already set up shop in our school cafeterias. Soda and candy machines are ubiquitous. Overconsumption of junk-food is applauded and reinforced (“You can’t have just one”, “Once you pop the fun doesn’t stop”).
Let’s face it—our country doesn’t understand what it’s eating, and it’s killing us.
The solution to all of this is radically, almost face-palmingly simple. We have to start making our own food, out of real ingredients. That’s all there is to it.
A lot of people complain that it costs more money, or that it takes too much time, but that’s simply not true. In one scene, “Fed Up” illustrates quite clearly the savings in making one’s own food from scratch. David Cain of the blog Raptitude experimented and discovered that he can bake his own bread for less than a dollar per loaf, and found that it could be done in less time than it takes to go to the grocery store.
And beyond the health benefits, there are a number of positive things that happen when you take the time to make your own food. You’re more aware and present in the moment. You have complete control over the taste and aesthetics of what you’re eating. Cooking is a useful and attractive skill to possess. Finally, there may be no activity that brings you closer to friends and family that the age-old process of baking then breaking bread, or whatever you happen to be eating.
In the end, it’s all about priorities. What do we value more? Our health, the health of our children, and the economic stability of our country (remember—all those sick people translate into a massive burden on our healthcare system), or is the illusion of convenience all we care about?
Because it is an illusion. You’re taught that they grab-on-the-go food is convenient, but how convenient is it when it gives you gastric problems (translation: painful poops), obesity, diabetes, and a million other issues? You’re taught that it tastes better, when all you’re reacting to is the massive quantities of sugar, salt, and additives that are specifically designed to make you addicted (literally) to eating a particular item. And in the case of so-called “healthy options”, you’re taught that it’s good for you, when that’s just a bald-faced lie.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Well, junk food by any other name will still make you just as obese.