There’s no question the challenge of unhealthy weight and rising obesity rates in America present a complex problem for children, their parents, and their doctors. No wonder I cycled through so many emotions while watching the new movie Fed Up. As Fed Up premiers all over the United States today it’s provoking a fiery, national conversation about the threats of obesity on our nation’s children. I loved the power behind the film.

Instead of pointing the finger at children for poor choices or limited activity, filmmakers Katie Couric and Laurie David take a deep dive into the mechanics of how food is being made in America, how food companies have contaminated our culture, and how with a changing food source we’re obligated to return to a menu of primarily fresh foods to heal our children.

This movie is guaranteed to cause you to re-evaluate the number of processed foods you bring into your home.

Fed Up is constructed out of powerful interviews and activist-like thinking as national experts illuminate the fallacy that eating less and exercising more will singularly improve the health of our nation and curb the obesity epidemic. It feels a little like a get-out-the-vote campaign blended with a whole new kind of math. In fact there’s lots of new thinking challenging the simplicity of previously held beliefs about energy gap. With overweight and obesity threatening our longevity and our national bank account, Fed Up assures us that we’ll have to take on one big sugar cube, the food industry, to lean-up our nation.

This is a wake-up call for many of us. I would suspect this will cause pediatricians everywhere to change how we counsel families who struggle with overweight, at least a bit.

The movie caused me to flip-flop between various emotions. Predominately, I felt sadness for the children who graciously shared their journeys and challenges in the film. But I also felt a sense of failure as a pediatrician. I thought about patients and families who I’ve been unable to help support getting to better weights. And I questioned myself and the data/tools I’ve provided them.  More, I felt a sense of frustration for children, and those who love them, who face the enormous physical and psychological challenge of an unhealthy weight. I also felt outrage.

The documentary takes us through new thinking behind why changing an unhealthy weight has become such a challenge (the ingredients in the food we offer our children) over the past 3 decades. The narrative also personalizes the gravity of the challenge via the lens of a handful of children as they attempt to lose weight via calorie reduction, exercise, and even bariatric surgery. At the end you find out each of their results.

So often the toll of obesity during childhood is not just an unhealthy liver, or sore, achy knees, or a redundant waistline. The enormous first toll that obesity presents in a child’s life is the torment of bullying, isolation, and a sense of failure or overwhelm that come as they gain weight and can’t stop. No wonder this can feel so overwhelming for us all…this kind of failure is an unfortunate and undesirable lesson for any child.

Fed Up is a must-see movie. If it doesn’t propel you to think differently about how you fill your shopping cart, I don’t know what will.