It’s pretty shocking to think that in 2010, there were nearly 58,000 cases of Type 2 diabetes diagnosed in adolescents–while in 1980 there were zero. Zero. In fact, it used to be called Adult Onset Diabetes, which isn’t even accurate anymore. It’s equally shocking that we’re now at a point where more people in the world will die of obesity than starvation. And that’s what the Fed Up Movie, which opens in theaters tonight, explores and explains if uncomfortably at times.

If you have ever had trouble losing weight, if you have ever read a nutrition label, if you have ever talked disparagingly about someone overweight, then this movie is for you. Especially if you have children.

The movie is a fairly damning exposé that goes beyond  what’s in the foods we eat; but rather offers a complete dissection of why obesity rates around the world have climbed at the same rate as the fitness craze–two seemingly incongruous statistics. The conclusions they draw are a little horrifying and a lot enlightening, and the resulting film is surprisingly emotional. Especially when we hear from 12 and 15-year-olds struggling with obesity themselves. Oof.

Fed Up Movie facts about fast food

Produced by Laurie David and Katie Couric (who also narrates it beautifully) and directed by Stephanie Soechtig with the help of a remarkable advisory board, this movie will completely make you rethink the past 30 years of “givens” about diet and exercise. Among the ideas challenged by a whole lot of experts and scientists in the documentary:

-Counting calories is a smart way to control weight.
-Juice is better than soda.
-Fast food is cheaper than healthy food.
-Light foods or low-fat foods are better for you.
-Thin children are healthier.
-If overweight people worked out more they’d lose weight.

I mean, wow. Those are some major mindset shifts that this movie is going for.

It’s amazingly produced with some serious heavy hitters in this film, from Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle to Senator Tom Harkin and Bill Clinton, and their opinions and revelations are absolutely mindblowing.

Health insurance companies buying stock in fast food companies? Think about that one for a minute.

Of course there’s a lot about the politics of food and the food lobby, and the impossible task our government has of both advocating for better health for our children, while protecting the profits of big agro. But overall, it’s not a movie about politics; it’s a human story about children struggling with obesity in the most heartbreaking ways and what we can do to stop it.

Mostly, it’s about being an informed consumer so we can make better decisions, especially as parents.

Fed Up Movie facts |

From now on, I know I will think more about how much sugar is hidden in processed foods that we eat, from bread and cereal to peanut butter to pizza–which, you may know, has been classified as a vegetable, for the sake of our national school lunch program. (What you may not know is that was thanks to lobbying on behalf of the pizza manufacturer who supplies 75% of pizzas to the schools and didn’t want to take the hit. Too bad for you, kids!) From now on, I will know that even when I tell my kids “no dessert,” that doesn’t mean they haven’t already had more than their share of sugar for the day.

I will say there were a  few vaguely conspiratorial references that made me raise an eyebrow (are formula companies really adding sugar to intentionally get babies addicted to it?) but a lot of the evidence is disturbingly sound. I also think that high-fructose corn syrup got off pretty easy here but that’s another story. And while there’s a slight partisan slant as you can imagine when you’re talking public health vs big business, they really do give it to both sides equally.

You get the distinct feeling that the filmmakers aren’t advocating for any one political stance, but for our children overall, and I really appreciate that. 

Look, I’m not going to completely stop baking cookies or giving my kids snacks they love, or drinking the occasional soft drink. I’ve always been an advocate of “everything in moderation,” and frankly, a life without black-and-white milkshakes would be a sad one. But I am glad I can be better aware of how much sugar is in the other things I eat, so that when I tell myself, I’ve been good today, I’m not lying to myself.

I’d say this is even a film you can bring kids to, to open up some great discussions yourself. (No Food Inc. style slaughterhouses here.) My own  six and eight-year olds were reluctant to watch the screener with me at first, but eventually they were begging me not to turn it off at bedtime. It’s really that compelling and easy to watch.

Perhaps the best part:  This morning, my eight-year-old said, “now I understand why you tell us to have milk instead of juice at dinner.” And I wanted to cry.

If my own typically American, mac-n-cheese loving children end up making better choices for themselves when it comes to food,  especially when I’m not around, well then, thank you Fed Up. You’ll have made a huge difference for me, at least.

Learn more about the Fed Up Movie at their website, and in theaters across the country starting today.