The great majority of people eat fast food. However, it’s obvious from the growing amount of obese Americans that perhaps we don’t merely enjoy it; it’s become a way of life. Morgan Spurlock takes this thesis and runs with it, with his documentary Super Size Me.
Spurlock’s idea was to eat nothing but McDonald’s for thirty days, three meals a day. Everything he ate had to come from McDonald’s, even the water he drank. Spurlock even consults with a specialist who recommends he gauge his steps so he takes no more calories than the average American per day, approximately five thousand. The results are more drastic than anyone would’ve expected. He keeps a count and resorts to taking cabs, ordering delivery, or using the drive-thru so as not to exceed his walking limit, trying to model his month as closely to the typical American as possible.
Super Size Me also contains interviews with officials from elementary and middle schools around the country about the meals that are set up for the nation’s youth. Theorizing if children learn at a young age to eat an unbalanced diet based upon what is offered to them, this behavior will follow throughout their lives. He films a few different school cafeterias, observing that most of the kids only eat the greasy, salty, sweet foods. One girl is eating only fries and a soda for lunch. Many of them do bring lunches, but any spare change is spent buying snacks from the vending machine or the cafeteria. The actual meals served come freeze dried and pre-packaged. Very little is actually cooked in the cafeteria, most meals are nuked in the microwave or reheated over a stove. (Spurlock did find one lunch meal that was made with no preservatives, chemicals or any other additives. Fresh fruit and vegetables were served daily (no meat) and pasta and other meals were made in the kitchen. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, this was the school lunch program for delinquents and troubled kids. Go figure.) Spurlock also interviews other experts on the phenomena that is obesity. An interesting point is made comparing obesity to smoking. Both are deadly and disgusting, but smokers are bereated for their habit while obesity is largely ignored, even tolerated.
As the days march on, Spurlock travels the country to different McDonald’s in order to sample the specialties served in different areas. He visits Texas, home of four of the fattest cities in the US. There, he meets a man who literally eats nothing but Big Macs. In fact, he was celebrating his 19,000th Big Mac at the time Spurlock arrived, putting a nail in the coffin of the argument that no one really eats this stuff daily.
Meanwhile, Spurlock is running into far more obstacles than expected. In fact, on the third day of the experiment, he throws up his entire lunch. It gets worse. He begins having chest pains and trouble sleeping. He cannot walk up the two flights of stairs it takes to reach his apartment without gasping for breath. He gains eight pounds in the first five days. He begins to feel depressed whenever he doesn’t eat. Slowly, he is becoming addicted to McDonald’s.
Lots of little interesting facts pop up in the film. For instance, there are only seven things on the McDonald’s menu that do not contain sugar. Also, one of their salads contains just as many calories as their Big Mac. So, the “healthy” choices McDonald’s claims to offer are really far from true.
I didn’t leave this film entirely surprised. Most of the facts presented I had already read about in the book The McDonaldization of Society by George Ritzer. In any case,Super Size Me is informative, if not a little bit scary. Be careful. You are what you eat.
Four out of Five Super-Sized Fries.