I read all the comments on here and I think that there are too many people who are seating in judgement of these parents and their families. Instead of judging them and calling them names try and see things from their perspective, if only for a moment, and try and understand where they are comming from. Now I am not saying that they are feeding their children good food, because they are obviously not. But they are not child abusers either! Child abuse is what some peolpe here suggested, I think, like slapping and spanking and shouting at children and/or starving them into eating what is on their plate or forcing them to eat against their will. I have no children of my own, as yet, but have worked with and looked after kids of various ages for over twelve years, and have never had to resort to any of these suggested tactics. To get them to do anything! I always managed to get them to eat and do other things by getting them to want to do it, and so enjoying it in the process. Spanking and slapping only makes children afraid, and hurts them physically and emotionally, it teaches them nothing, except fear! The parent who said, in a comment below that they slapped their boys only once to make them respect him/her, only got that result because those boys did not want to be slapped again, not because they suddenly got respect for their slapping parent. Starving children into eating, is neglect, kids shouldn't, must not, go without food for a day or two, just because they won't eat what has been put in front of them. And yes! It going without food for more than the time between meals DOES hurt them health wise! And don't let anyone tell you any different! Forcing kids to eat would only lead to the opposite reaction, and make food and eating a negative and frightening experiencing experience instead of being a fun, tasty and enjoyable one, as it should be. Shouting at kids or letting them scream their hearts out damages them emotionally and hurts their feelings more than you know. Children are a lot smarter and capable of understanding a lot more than some people here are suggesting, and far from being primitive, their minds are very perceptive and adaptable. There are always ways to get children to eat, and one of the best ways is to make it interesting, like the parents of Michael are thought to do. Eating should be enjoyable and pleasant, children should love meal times, but some of the things suggested in a number of posts below would turn it into a punishment and that should never be the case.
I agree, it is scary that a tot, Cuba, drinks six cans of pop a day and the other one, Michael, won't eat anything but junk and the teenaged mom's son (forgot his name) eats as bad as him mom, herself a child. But that is what the doc is about! Each one of them getting the help that they need. I make no excuses for the parents, either, one too young to be a mom in the first place and needing to learn a lot herself before having become a mom, the others afraid to say no to Michael because of his bout with meningitis (my parents went through the same with me, by the way, after I had an acutely severe concussion at the age of four and came close to dying.) and Cuba's parents who are afraid to make a mess in the kitchen and the dad who is a junk food addict himself, but I allow them the benefit of the doubt. We are all human, and no one, and I mean NO ONE, is perfect. I do find it atrocious that children are eating all this junk, and it does make me very concerned what it does to their young, growing bodies and that they get more addicted to it all more every year, childhood obesity is an acute problem which needs a good remedy. But let us not forget that there is advertising to children allover the place, of foods so chocked full of sugar, fat, chemicals and other inedible food like substances, which undermines parents and fills children's heads with these bright cartoon clad no-foods, and younger kids follow the example of older siblings, like Cuba and his older sisters. In the case of the teenaged mom, we must take into account her financial circumstances, as well. Fastfood is cheap, fruit and veg are not.
Cuba's family all ate junkfood, and so he ate it too, it is not as though they ate healthy and made him eat the junk alone. Family eating habits influence and affect the whole families from the oldest to the youngest, though Michael's mom and dad do eat healthy and try hard to get him to do the same. Yes, laziness is a factor in two of these families, not wanting to bother with cooking and all, but once again one of these is a teen, and wants to be one, social life and all, so she acts as one, not an excuse, but at least an explanation. And the other does not like to cook and doesn't seem to be very good at it at least in the beginning of the doc, when she makes the spaghetti, but she does learn by the doc's end, and lets her husband cook as well, which in the long run/term might be just what is needed to help him get over his junkfood addiction as well. And that is what matters in the end, that they want to change and did so in the end.
Don't criticize and pass judgement, the next time you see a parent in similar circumstances think of how you can help them, not of what name or names to call them. Every situation is different, and every family too, and there is always room for change and improvement. As for junkfood, it should be trashed all together...
and if it was me, I would tax this whole rubbish and make cost of it in the "restaurants' and shops which sell it, so prohibitive that even the thought of it would stick in people's throats. While making veg and fruit and whole grains and other healthy and delicious foods cheep and affordable for everyone.
P.S. Love your comment Andrew! Good on you for making all that good and healthy food, eating well and exercising. Keep up the good work, my friend, and you will go far. I wish there were more teens like you, then perhaps the rubbish food companies would have less of a hold over what everyone eats. :)
First came An Inconvenient Truth. Then Fast Food Nation. Then Blackfish. Each showed the power of critically acclaimed, successful documentaries to alter perceptions about controversial issues ranging from global warming to mistreatment of animals in captivity and the behaviour of food industry giants.
Now comesFed Up, a film that looks at the global problem of surging human obesity rates and obesity-related diseases. The film, produced by Laurie David, former wife of Seinfeld creator Larry David, and narrated by TV journalist Katie Couric, seeks to challenge decades of misconception and food industry-sponsored misinformation about diet and exercise, good and bad calories, fat genes and lifestyle. When it comes to obesity, fat may not be our friend but it's not the enemy that sugar is, says the film's scientific consultant Robert Lustig, a neuroendocrinologist, author and president of the Institute for Responsible Nutrition. It is a view that is gathering support from doctors.
A US government study recently found that 17% of children and young people aged between two and 19 are considered obese. Another predicted that today's American children will lead shorter lives than their parents. Laurie David, who made the climate change film An Inconvenient Truth, calls that statistic "sobering and tragic".
According to Lustig, however, neither obesity nor fat is the issue. "The food industry wants you to focus on three falsehoods that keep it from facing issues of culpability. One, it's about obesity. Two, a calorie is a calorie. Three, it's about personal responsibility."
If obesity was the issue, metabolic illnesses that typically show up in the obese would not be showing up at rates found in the normal-weight population. More than half the populations of the US and UK are experiencing effects normally associated with obesity. If more than half the population has problems, it can't be a behaviour issue. It must be an exposure problem. And that exposure is to sugar."
The film claims that fast-food chains and the makers of processed foods have added more sugar to "low fat" foods to make them more palatable.
The sugar surge adds up to a problem not only for low-income groups that are often associated with diet-related health issues, but for all levels of society, say the film-makers. The film says big business is poisoning us with food marketed under the guise of health benefits.
Early-onset type 2 diabetes, a condition associated with exposure to cane sugar and corn syrup, was virtually unknown a few years ago. If current rates continue, one in three Americans will have type 2 diabetes by 2050. "Obesity costs very little and is not dangerous in and of itself," says Lustig, who works with the UK's Action on Sugar campaign. "But diabetes costs a whole lot in terms of social evolution, decreased productivity, medical and pharmaceutical costs, and death."
But while the fight against obesity is championed by first lady Michelle Obama, efforts to curb the sugar industry have largely failed. In 2003 the Bush administration threatened to withhold US funding to the World Health Organisation if it published nutritional guidelines advocating that no more than 10% of calories in a daily diet should come from sugar. Moreover, Washington has sweetened the profits of the manufacturers of corn-based sweeteners by awarding billions of dollars in trade subsidies.
The film-makers say it is not in the interest of food, beverage or pharmaceutical companies to reduce sugar content. "It's too profitable," says Lustig. The pharmaceutical industry talks of diabetes treatment, not prevention. "The food industry makes a disease and the pharmaceutical industry treats it. They make out like bandits while the rest of us are being taken to the cleaners."
Lustig says laws are needed. The model for regulation is alcohol since alcohol metabolises as sugar and produces many of the same chronic diseases while fat metabolises differently.
But Lustig believes that education or government guidelines alone are inadequate to address substance abuse problems. "What's necessary is to limit availability to reduce consumption and reduce alcohol-related health problems," he says.
Proposals include putting health warnings on soft-drinks cans, giving equal advertising time to marketing fresh fruit and vegetables and voluntary agreements to reduce sugar content.
Lustig says: "If the food industry continues to obfuscate, we will never solve this and by 2026 we will not have healthcare because we will be broke. Food producers are going to have to be forced. There's only one group that can force them, and that's the government. There's one group that can force the government, and that's the people."
• This article was amended on 16 May 2014. An earlier version referred simply to "diabetes", rather than make the distinction that type 2 diabetes was meant. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition, not triggered by lifestyle, primarily affecting young children and adolescents.