A new documentary produced by Katie Couric examines America's obesity epidemic and comes to some conclusions that might surprise you.
The first and perfectly understandable instinct is to cringe in anticipation of the inevitable tide of fat-shaming and stupid, unhelpful bullshit that accompanies seemingly every single one of these documentaries. That's where this story takes an unexpected turn, though:
The filmmakers also talk to a number of doctors, scientists, writers and others who argue against many of the fat tropes, including that weight is a personal responsibility and that a calorie is a calorie. The history of diet advice — low-fat, low-carb, high-protein dieting; the U.S. government's food pyramid for "healthful" eating — all come under scrutiny.
Wait, what? Someone is actually forwarding the notion that there are other factors influencing Americans' weight gain aside from the idea that "hurr hurr dem fatties love nachos"? Tell me more:
From 1977 to 2000, Americans doubled their average daily intake of sweeteners, including high fructose corn syrup, in part because it was used as a replacement when foods were reformulated to remove fat. And at a certain level, sugar is toxic, Dr. Robert Lustig says in the film. Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist at UC San Francisco.
Huh. Well, that's interesting. It's almost as if there are factors that affect a person's weight that exist outside our control. IMAGINE THAT.
Predictably, certain individuals are already taking aim at the "lack of attention to physical activity" in the film (insert a mental image of me rolling my eyes and making an air jack-off motion here). The food industry itself has pushed back hard; the Grocery Manufacturer's Association called the documentary "short-sighted, confrontational, and misleading." It's worth noting that the food industry refused to even take part in the documentary — a fascinating factoid since Couric isn't exactly Ms. Activism.
The idea that artificial sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup are solely responsible for the rise in obesity isn't one to which I lend a lot of credence — but neither is the idiotic and mindlessly repeated notion that Americans have gained weight simply because we don't exercise any more, as anyone who has devoted a lot of gym time with minimal results could tell you. Given the level of artificial products we consume now compared to what we did a hundred years ago, it's difficult to believe changes to our food itself don't have something to do with it. Regardless, though, it's nice to at least see a documentary that doesn't trip and fall flat on its face into "tubbos be lazy."
Image via Nixx Photography/Shutterstock.