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'Fed Up' review: A tad repetitive yet throws down a serious gauntlet

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Fed Up

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"Fed Up" is like one of those “good news/bad news” jokes: The good news is, we can stop blaming ourselves, we’ve been operating from food and fitness information that’s just patently wrong. The bad news is, the truth is even worse.

When it comes to America’s obesity crisis (and it most definitely is a crisis), as one particularly illustrious interview subject said, “people aren’t sufficiently alert” to what’s going on.

Hold that thought.

On the one hand, "Fed Up" arguably doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground; for example, most of us are already pretty incredulous (if not downright despondent) that the food industry finagled the federal government into declaring ketchup a vegetable.

Rather than a failing of the film, however, I suspect this is a natural result of its being borne of executive producer Katie Couric’s segments on the subject over time. When she [and others] covered such news as it broke, the conversation ignited, thus we’ve been hearing this data for some years.

On the other hand, however, "Fed Up" offers a chapter and verse march through the ugly reality as to why the fitness enthusiasm of the past generation hasn’t even put a dent in the problem, and how First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative has been summarily bogarted by the fox in the henhouse.

It would be easy to think that the fitness craze is working, it’s just that the fat people aren’t working it. It would be easy to say, “Duh, don’t take in so many sweets.”

There’s actually much more to the story, and that’s where "Fed Up" comes in.

For example, did you know that you can enjoy the coveted 32” waist and still be in the same pre-diabetic condition as the obese person seated next to you? Yeah, who knew. (Well, the food industry knew, and that’s why we have "Fed Up".) It’s the equivalent of a model who smokes: looks great, gonna die early. Unless you’re Jim Morrison, that’s not really a sound life strategy.

"Fed Up" is terrific for two purposes: First, if you’ve never really had a conversation with yourself about the food you eat. Independent of any weight management or bioethical sustainability issues, have you ever just considered the food that goes into your mouth? If not, then "Fed Up" is must-see viewing.

Second, "Fed Up" clarifies and upends the way in which exercise fits into the obesity conversation. It lays out how everything got started way back with Jack LaLanne and Jane Fonda, and why it’s a huge distraction when it comes to addressing obesity. If you’re operating under the assumption that fitness initiatives are what’s needed, then "Fed Up" is must-see viewing.

Now, "Fed Up" isn’t saying that fitness isn’t a worthy goal or that we don’t need exercise; of course we need it – it serves all manner of beneficial functions, and without it, we do risk carrying extra weight. But that ain’t the conversation behind the obesity epidemic, and what "Fed Up" demonstrates is that just like the phrase, “Diets don’t work!” … neither will exercise.

So then, what?

What can possibly avert the coming catastrophe wherein most of the people who will comprise our military are too fat to fight? Wherein the ones who comprise our workforce and take care of the elder and younger generations are themselves disabled?

Watch "Fed Up" and you’ll see.

Now, a word of caution: you might walk out of "Fed Up" feeling either disdainful or hopeless. Easy to do when hearing accounts of obesity in infants. Denial and despair are customary reactions to the overwhelming.

But here’s a little film festival to pick up where "Fed Up" leaves off:

  • "The Corporation" – This documentary will clarify why large corporations are, in fact, “evil.” It’s not paranoia to sense that they actually do prey upon the consumer. This film explains why they do it, and thus helps to silence the brainwashing and restore freedom of thought when having conversations like the one "Fed Up" engages.
  • "Thank You for Smoking" – This hilarious and brilliant satire from Jason Reitman will have you laughing even as you’re realizing that your perceptions are being shaped without your knowledge. Once you see it, you can see it, and it can no longer influence you.
  • "The Weight of the Nation" – HBO’s marvelous series on this subject, with much more detail than "Fed Up" can cover in a single sitting. With "Fed Up" under your belt as an introductory course, The Weight of the Nation will give you a detailed education.
  • "Forks Over Knives" – Countermeasures, aka what to do instead. Which is the natural question when watching any/all of the above: “Well that’s great, but what the hell am I supposed to eat?” Inspiring, fun, enlightening, and actionable.

So remember the answer of that illustrious person I mentioned earlier? Those were the words of former President Bill Clinton.

"Fed Up" sounds a clarion call. It's time to become "sufficiently alert." That is all.

Story: Documentary revealing the simultaneously liberating and demoralizing reality behind America's obesity epidemic.

Genre: Documentary

Directed by: Stephanie Soechtig

MPAA: PG

Website: Official Site | Official Facebook

Running time: 92 minutes

Houston release date: May 16, 2014 at the AMC Studio 30 theater

Tickets: Check IMDb.com or your local listings

Screened Apr 29th 2014 at the Landmark River Oaks theater in Houston TX

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