"Fed Up": The forces that make us fat

I saw the new documentary “Fed Up” in a special showing at the Harvard School for Public Health in Boston Wednesday, and it was as though my life passed before my eyes.

Among the film’s techniques was to give Flip cameras to 13 teens who live with persistent, significant overweight, and I can only hope I would have been as articulate, perceptive, and emotionally present as some of these kids were.

IMO, Brady Kluge of Easley, S.C., is the star, not only of the kiddie corps but the whole film, though that may owe to the fact that I am familiar with so many of the grown-ups. In one clip, he makes the direct allusion to alcoholism: “All this stuff in your house. You think an alcoholic could make it with a bottle of gin right next to him?” Booya!

In another, his tearful mom says, “I know I have to choose between giving Brady healthy food and giving him chocolate,” which I took to be a symbol of sharing love, for her (though I must disclaim: Taking notes in a darkened theater has not always led to excellent legibility). Regardless of why that’s a tough choice for her, I completely agree: Parents have to make choices like that, if kids like Brady are going to escape this path.

Although: A parent of Joe Lopez, 14, laments the impossibility of controlling what kids eat, because so much is consumed out of their view. Elsewhere in the film, Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest observes that America’s food environment is a powerful influence on what everyone eats, never mind youngsters who might be more susceptible to such influences than adults. “It is like swimming upstream if one wants to be healthy.”

The dad was a great movie subject too: Obese himself, he acknowledges his role as a model for Joe; he both shows and states his sadness, such as when Joe is going in for bariatric surgery. "He's tougher than I am," he says. Of bariatrics, Harvard School of Public Health nutrition professor David Ludwig poignantly asks in the film, “What does it say about our society that we’d send our children to such mutilating experiences” as bariatric surgery, but we won’t protect them by curbing the marketing of junk to them?”

”Fed Up” spends most of its time on the problem, but does offer a raft of solutions near the end. Another part of the outro gives updates on how some of the kids and the family members were progressing as film production was climaxing. Brady had lost a bunch of weight, and so had his mom, Tinna.

Alas, we learned from producer Laurie David (Academy Award winner in 2006 for “An Inconvenient Truth”) in a panel afterward that while Tinna has now dropped 90 pounds, the environment had dragged Brady back into its folds: He got a job at the fast-foodery Bojangles, sold candy for a school fundraiser, and has gained his weight back.

That’s what I did too, several times, but I found a way out, and that means he can, too.

Brady, call me, dude, we’ll do lunch! No, wait: We'll do a walk instead.

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