Interview with Laurie David and Stephanie Soechtig of "Fed Up"JBF Editors
May 08, 2014
Eat a balanced diet. Get plenty of exercise. The tenets of achieving a healthy body and life are so ingrained in American culture that kindergartners can recite them. But, as the alarming rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes prove, this long-accepted formula is failing. The culprit? It’s the widespread presence of sugar in processed food, or so says Fed Up, the new documentary produced by Laurie David and Katie Couric. In anticipation of the film’s release on May 9, we got in touch with David and Fed Up director Stephanie Soechtig to discuss how this epidemic became so dire, what can be done, and their new campaign to get Americans to cut down on the sweet stuff.
JBF: Your documentary follows the lives of a group of American families as they try to make a healthier and more active lifestyle for themselves. How did you find your participants?
SS: Our goal was to find families that would reflect and articulate how the many tentacles of the food crisis in America, like marketing, legislation and agricultural policies, are playing out in everyday life. Finding these incredible kids was a very long and somewhat exhausting process. We were so fortunate to find such articulate and open families that were so generous about sharing such intimate details of their lives. At one point we were following roughly ten families all over the country. Then we had the heartbreaking task of having to select which ones would be in the final cut of the film. We are still in touch with them today. In fact, Brady and I text pretty regularly!
JBF: What are your thoughts on the responsibilities of the parents in those families?
SS: Parental responsibility has a big role to play, but people can only make responsible choices based on truthful information.
LD: The truth is that it isn’t a level playing field. On the one hand you have parents trying to keep their families healthy, and, on the other hand, you have multi-million dollar marketing campaigns targeted directly to children, which infiltrate every aspect of their lives: at school, in video games, and in television. The product is addictive and placed in front of you everywhere you go, sending cues to your brain to eat, eat, eat. In a lot of cases, the parents have grown up in this food culture themselves and aren’t healthy. It’s very hard to raise healthy kids when you are suffering from this toxic food environment yourself.
JBF: What do you think we can do to combat this epidemic? What can we do to help future generations be healthier?
LD: This is the exciting thing about this issue. Its completely preventable! Our hope is that Fed Up can be a catalyst for honest discussion and change. We can’t change just one we have to change a lot of things. If we, as a society, can wake up from this sugar rush we’re in then we can make eating and living healthy the easier path to choose. We have to because this problem will bury this country in healthcare costs. It should be completely unacceptable to everyone that this generation of kids is going to lead shorter lives than their parents.
JBF: Why do you think it took so long for people to understand the seriousness of this issue?
SS: I think we tend to believe someone else will take care of the problem. We hear about the industry self-regulating or new school lunch standards, and it sounds like steps are being taken to combat the problem. But it’s too little, too late.
LD: It’s never easy to acknowledge an addiction. There also is denial about the fact that people have been purposely misinformed. We tend to be a trusting : we think that something else—the legislator, regulations—will take care of problems like mass amounts of sugar in our food. But huge amounts of lobbying dollars are spent to and complicate our government processes. Fed Up actually does a great job of laying this out.
JBF: What was the most shocking fact you learned while filming this documentary?
LD: When we started working on Fed Up, we all thought we knew a lot about food, but we were surprised by how much we learned. For example, we discovered that the food industry has perpetuated the myth that exercise will solve our weight issues. Exercise is crucial for good health, but it’s not a solution for this epidemic. We learned that a calorie is not just a calorie!
JBF: What message do you want people to take away from this project?
SS: There’s hope! As a group, if we unite and demand more from our government, schools and ourselves, we can reverse this tide of sugar.
LD: The solution is right there in everyone’s kitchen! Learning to cook good food for yourself is not only best for your famils health, but it can also be fun, joyful and a bonding experience.
JBF: We heard that you have launched a ten-day no-sugar challenge. Can you talk about that?
LD: For days we’ll be cutting out all added sugar. Giving up sugar will be tough because it’s everywhere and we all crave it, but it can be done if we take it on together. None of us can do this alone. To join, just go to FedUpMovie.com, sign up, and on May 12 you’ll get the first of ten tips for going sugar free! Follow us on Twitter and Instagram with #FedUpChallenge to stay up to date and share how the challenge is going for you.