Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 32 min.
Our content ratings: Violence 0; Language 3; Sex/Nudity 0.
Our star rating (1-5): 4.5
For there is no truth in their mouths;
their hearts are destruction;
their throats are open graves;
they flatter with their tongues.
Your wealthy are full of violence;
your inhabitants speak lies,
with tongues of deceit in their mouths.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
1 Corinthians 1:16-17
Stephanie Soechtig’s documentary might be the most disturbing film you see this year—even if you are a horror film fan. Her exposé hits us right in the stomach, asserting that the food industry is insuring that our children probably will be the first generation to live, on the average, shorter lives than their parents. Host Katie Couric and the various experts interviewed make the bold assertion that virtually everything we have learned about obesity and the way to lose weight is wrong—and even that Michelle Obama, both praised and criticized for her anti-obesity campaign, is barking up the wrong tree by only urging children to get up and move about more. The director is calling for us to rise up and campaign against the food industry in the same way that we did with the tobacco manufacturers, an industry that also had been lying to the public for so many years about the adverse effect on the health of those who used their products.
Most of us believe that the way to reduce our weight is to reduce the amount of calories we consume, but this has not worked, the film demonstrates. Despite all of the various weight reduction programs and reduced-fat products of the past 30 years, the rate of obesity among Americans has grown, with at least 93 million Americans now affected by obesity. The excessive use of sugar is the problem, the film claims. When food companies several decades ago rushed to take fat out of their products, the food either had little taste or a terrible one, so sugar was added to make the products palpable (and thus salable—makes me think of the song “Just a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down”). The result is that we become addicted to the sugar—one graphic in the film shows the same areas of the brain are lighted up equally by sugar and cocaine—and we consume more of it. Thus we cannot exercise enough to reduce our weight: the film states that a test shows, “It will take a 110-pound child 75 minutes of bike riding to burn off the calories in one 20-ounce bottle of soda.”
Here are some other facts in the film and also found on the film’s “Official Site:”
- There is overwhelming evidence of the link between obesity and the consumption of sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, energy drinks, sweet teas, and sports drinks.
- A 20 oz. Soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar.
- One soda a day increases a child’s chance of obesity by 60%.
- Individuals who drink one to two sugar-sweetened beverages per day have a 26 percent higher risk for developing type II diabetes.
- Kids watch an average of 4000 food-related ads every year (10/day).
- 98% of food related ads that children view (3920/year) are for products high in fat, sugar, sodium
- More than 9 Million adolescents (children and teens 6-19 years old) are considered overweight
The film points out that there also are racial/cultural/economic ramifications for the above:
- One in five Black children ages 2 to 19 is obese, compared with approximately one in seven White children.
- Latino children see 49 percent more television ads on Spanish- language television for sugary drinks and energy drinks compared with their White counterparts.
- Almost 45 percent of overweight or obese children ages 10 to 17 are poor.
The film puts a human face on the problem by following several adolescents, two boys and a girl, as they and their families fight a losing battle against obesity. 15-year-old Brady and 12-year-old Maggie weigh in at over 200 pounds, and 13-year-old Wesley at almost 180 pounds shows the warning signs of type 2 diabetes. Their tears as they struggle unsuccessfully to reduce their eight will bring a lump to your throat, and the film does not suggest that there is an easy solution for any of them.
The filmmaker even dares to suggest that Michelle Obama and her well-intentioned anti-obesity campaign are largely ineffective. We see and hear the First Lady say that she does not want to demonize the food industry, that the answer is just to have our children move around more in exercises and games. But as we see by a host of brand names displayed alongside her image, the food industry by joining up with her in advocating a reduced intake coupled with exercise, has co-opted her campaign, reducing it effectively to window dressing. The film points out that her once-heralded vegetable garden and suggestions that vegetables and fruits be substituted for snacks have faded away.
We definitely must see, various experts in the film assert, that it is the food industry that is the enemy of good health, with 80% of the approximately 600,000 food items sold in U.S. grocery stores containing added sugar. Just as much as the tobacco industry was at long last stigmatized by those concerned for the health of the nation, so must we regard those who seduce us with celebrities and icons like Ronald MacDonald and Tony Tiger as well as such slogans that “things go better” with their product. The film points out how the food industry managed to suppress an important report of the World Health Organization that proclaimed that sugar was a killer by convincing our government to threaten to withdraw funding from the organization.
Graphics show the famous photo of the tobacco executives lying under oath juxtaposed with one of food industry heads claiming that their sugar-saturated products (sodas and kids’ cereals) are not harmful. Because the profit motive is ever so much greater than a sense of morality among food industry leaders (and politicians bought by them), it will be necessary to show them up as the villains that they are, the moviemakers assert.
The film ought to be a “must see,” especially for parents, grandparents and others concerned for children’s health, and the future of our country. The array of experts and celebrities (Bill Clinton appears several times) make convincing arguments and demonstrations that we are in a state of crisis. Both the film and its official website offer plenty of ways that viewers can join the campaign to change our eating habits (and thus to fight against the food industry). It would be great if the upcoming DVD version could be shown and discussed at PTAs and religious groups. (The Official site includes a downloadable discussion guide.) People of faith, especially those who believe that the ancient prophet’s concern for right living and justice are still relevant, should embrace this movie and cajole their friends into seeing it. The apostle Paul was dealing with another issue in the quote above, but his insight that the human body is special and God given is also relevant. It is no exaggeration to say that Stephanie Soechtig’s documentary is truly a movie that matters!