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Super Size Me

The movie starred and was directed by independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock[1]. Spurlock undertakes to explain the rampant obesity in America as a function largely of overdependence on convenience food and dining in quick-service restaurant chains.

Spurlock strove to make his point by undertaking to consume only McDonald’s products for a whole month. His stated goal was to investigate the impact of fast food, of which McDonald’s is the archetype, on the epidemic of obesity (and associated diseases such as hypertension and diabetes) plaguing America.

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Prior to starting the experiment, Spurlock was physically fit but in the end, he had gained considerable weight and was showing early signs of health problems.  The film presented its thesis in stark fashion: eat excessive fast food, get sick.

“Super Size Me” employs the documentary format that “The Blair Witch Project” and “March of the Penguins” made famous. Basically, a camera followed Spurlock around wherever he went, chronicling his activities and feelings every so often. The film followed a chronological format that showed Spurlock’s descent from fit and bright-eyed to miserable and overweight. Also included were interviews with nutritionists, doctors and other people who helped shed light on the question; “Why is America obese?”

The device of eating nothing but fast food may seem unrealistic.  Or perhaps not; how many of us would rationally avoid convenience foods if there was no one to cook breakfast or dinner?  Do parents know what children eat all day long when they are away at college?

Spoofing the fast food habit this way does serve to compress the timeframe, create shock value and teach by entertaining.  One doubts that the audience would be as attentive if a physician had delivered a lecture on video about the ill effects of eating fast food for 20 or 30 years.

Spurlock essentially consumed over 5,000 calories per day of nothing but obviously fattening McDonald’s staples: Big Mac’s, French fries and soda. In his defense, Spurlock[2] said he was mimicking the diet of a “super-heavy user”, Marketing lingo for an avid patron. At the same time, Spurlock satirized the slothful habits of many Americans who do not care to exercise. Even if they did not consume McDonald’s foods in the amounts he did, it is unlikely that they eat a balanced, nutrition-dense diet anyway.

Despite the criticism level against it, “Super Size Me” remains shocking and relevant. Millions of Americans are undoubtedly ‘addicted’ to a diet of fast food that contains unhealthy levels of sugar and cholesterol. As shown by Spurlock’s own transformation, such relaxed eating compounds the problem by lowering the desire to exercise and be active.

Naturally, the most shocking scene in the movie is when a complete physical examination reveals the extent of his physical deterioration.

The domino effect does not stop there. Obesity and lack of activity causes numerous health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. Already, a largely overweight generation of “baby boomers” has begun to overwhelm the health care system. For a nation built on the industry and creativity of its people this truly bodes ill.
[1] Super Size me Directed by Morgan Spurlock

Spurlock, in audio commentary track
[2] Spurlock, in the movie, and again on the DVD commentary track

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