Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Super Size Me? Nah...

Say hello to my little friend.
In 2004, Morgan Spurlock embarked on a 30-day McDonald's-only diet, filmed his endeavor, and called it "Super Size Me." A couple of days ago, I had to watch this in my Self Defense class. We'd been covering health, nutrition, etc., and I suppose my professor felt this was just as educational as her own lectures. I'd heard of this movie before, but never had any interest in seeing it. 

Turns out, I wasn't missing much.

First of all, I learned nothing I didn’t know. I’m not trying to argue that fast food is good for you. It’s not. I know this. I think most people know this, really, even if they don’t want to admit it. Yes, a Big Mac is very high calorie, and very NOT nutritious. Yes, a lot of people eat it—probably too often. Yes, a lot of Americans are overweight. Yes, eating only fast food is detrimental to your health. Please, tell me something I don’t know. Don’t insult my intelligence.

Morgan Spurlock is charming, funny, yes. I don’t have any problems with him as a person.  He’s likeable, he’s relatable, and he knows how to be on camera.

But his blatant demonization of the fast food industry really rubbed me the wrong way. Of course fast food contributes to the “obesity epidemic” in America. But guess what, fast food doesn’t put itself in your mouth. You go, you order the food, you pay for it, you eat it. Last I checked, this is a free country. Food is not regulated—that is to say, people can pick where they go. They can go out to eat, they can drive through, they can cook. So why is it that with all of these choices, people still feel justified blaming their weight gain or health issues on food establishments that were optional to go to in the first place? It’s not as if the CEO of Mickey D’s walks around force-feeding people 1,000 calorie burgers.

"As a professional nutritionist, I think this movie does a disservice to the American people. Obesity is a serious issue in this country and the movie is not a serious attempt to answer it. It misleads people into thinking that eating a particular type of food or at a particular restaurant is the cause for a weight problem. That certainly is not the case." — Dr. Ruth Kava, Director of Nutrition at the American Council on Science and Health (ASCH)**

Think he drove himself there?
Me either.
And saying McDonald’s lures children in? Give me a break. Yes, McDonald’s wants to appeal to kids. And yes, it succeeds in doing so. But let’s be real. It’s not little kids who are driving to the nearest McDonald’s and putting down their hard-earned money for a Happy Meal. Parents should be the people held responsible for telling their children no, they can’t eat fast food every day. At some point, people need to stop pointing the finger at corporations and take responsibility for the fact that they are the only ones choosing what they put into their bodies. Suing McDonald’s for making you fat? Oh please. I have some extra weight because of me. Nobody told me I had to eat high-calorie foods and nobody held me down and shoved burgers or pizza or cake down my throat.

I felt it insulting the way that this film depicted “fat” people; as always shoveling Big Macs, fries, and sodas into their unhealthy, carb-starved mouths. It just hit me as encouraging a stereotype that I think is very negative and hurtful. Not all overweight people are overweight because they do nothing but sit around eating buckets full of fast food. Although that tends to be the assumption shared by the general public. Thanks, “Super Size Me,” for mocking people who most likely already have body image issues. Good job.

Some of the meals that Morgan ate during his 30-day Mickey D’s diet I’ve never seen anyone actually eat—I noticed a couple of times that it looked like he had two sodas or two burgers, or both! That’s outrageous. Sure, I believe that there are some people out there who would order that much food. But probably not for every meal. I know one of the conditions of the 30-Day McDonald’s diet was that Morgan eat everything on the menu, at least once, but was it really necessary to order as much as he did every time he ate? I think he went out of his way to prove his point, and I think his ‘experiment’ was a little exaggerated.

How many burgers do you need, Morgan?
"…so you ate more food than the average person, and you exercised less. With all due respect, what the heck did you think would happen to your body?"— D. Parvaz, Seattle Post-Intelligencer**

However, I do agree that it was ridiculous how many locations Morgan visited  that didn’t have nutrition information available. People should be able to educate themselves about what they are putting into their bodies. As one of those people who’s started counting calories, I can attest to the fact that it’s very frustrating to be unable to find nutrition facts about the things I eat. Instead of filing frivolous lawsuits (something that we in America are experts at doing) why not push for readily available nutrition guides in fast food restaurants? That would be far more productive.

I’m concerned that blaming McDonald’s, blaming the fast food industry only encourages people to reject personal accountability. People don’t need to be babied; they don’t need to be told that they can eat whatever they want because someone else will be there to take the blame. If they don’t realize it’s themselves who put those extra pounds on by eating the wrong foods, how can anyone expect them to realize that they’re the only ones who can change their eating habits and pursue a healthier lifestyle?

It is what it is.

**"Super Size Me and Morgan Spurlock". December 2004. © 2000 Center For Individual Freedom


Natasha said...

wow. i totally agree. i haven't seen this documentary as yet, but it looks pretty self-explanatory. the one thing that bugs me the most is when i see children that are overweight. now, in part there is a genetic thing..but at such a young age, parents should definitely start controlling their children's eating habits better. example, the other day, i was on my way into the city, and i see a mother opening up some starburst candy for her little boy. at 10am. i'm sorry...but whatever happened to a real breakfast--or a fastfood breakfast even! but candy? that was too much...good to know that others agree with me! =]

Sarah Thomas said...

Really, it makes me sad to see overweight kids. I know what it's like to feel fat, and kids can be so mean. I just feel bad that I know they're going to have to deal with body image issues and that they'll most likely be made fun of. Which is why I hated that this film more or less encourages judging people based on weight. But yes, parents need to monitor what their children eat. Kids learn good (or bad) habits from their parents, so they really need to set a good example.

Thanks for the comment! :-)

Jess said...

I watched this movie on day on cable when it was on OnDemand. I pretty much felt the exact same way you did about the film...not to mention the fact that I am a fat woman...and I never eat fast food. I exercise and watch my calories and fat content etc and I've always been over weight my entire life...we're not all Big Mac eating fatty fatties shoveling double stack McFish sandwichs down our throats like he generalized...

Good blog. I totally agree with you.

Sarah Thomas said...

Amen, girl! I’ve struggled with weight, too, but it’s not like I sit around eating whole pizzas, cakes, four hamburgers in one sitting. Sure, I eat fast food, but not by the barrel-full. And in the movie, Morgan’s health is TERRIBLE after 30 days. Blood sugar, cholesterol, liver all weren’t looking good. I have high cholesterol, but that’s about it. I mean, he went from being a very healthy dude to WAY more unhealthy than most people are. He ate 30 pounds of sugar in 30 days, 12 pounds of fat in 30 days. That’s not normal. It was just ridiculous.

I appreciate you sharing your two cents! Thanks!

MissWoodhouse said...

Okay, well you already know that I *love* Super Size Me, so we'll start from there. I think that you make some very valid points, and your assessment is absolutely valid and correct. However...well, I'm of a slightly different mind! What I loved about the documentary is that Spurlock proved that fast food really is detrimental to your health. True, no one is forced to eat this food, but some of their practises make the food unnecessarily unhealthy.

For example, I remember looking at the nutrition information when Wendy's first brought out their salads. Due to all the added sugars in every ingredients, I was horrified to discover that it really was healthier to eat a hamburger there than a salad! That's where the fast food industry fails the public; by taking food that the public assumes is "safe" to eat, and making it detrimental to their health.

However, I totally agree that we do have a choice. I, for one, have chosen not to eat fast food since Super Size Me came out. I know that I'm all the healthier for it, so in this respect I think that the movie is worth while. It raised awareness, and for that I'm grateful for the movie.

Sarah Thomas said...

I know you love it. I appreciate you taking the time to read my side of things and comment anyway! :-)

I won’t argue that he proved that fast food is detrimental to your health. What I would argue is that, while fast food certainly is not nutritious or healthy, did he really prove that in small doses it is detrimental? I don’t think so, because he didn’t substitute one meal a day with fast food, or even a meal or two a week—he went from a very healthy, very nutritious diet to the complete opposite, and began to consume twice as many calories as he had been and also stopped exercising. I know a lot of people eat fast food, but I think it’s a stretch to say that his results after 30 days of nothing but McDonald’s in extremely large quantity is representative of the effects fast food has on the health of normal, everyday people who may only eat out a few times a week.

However, I ONE HUNDRED PERCENT AGREE with you about fast food’s attempt at providing “healthier options.” It really is laughable that a salad could be just as bad as a burger. Adding all that sugar is totally unnecessary, and I think it’s also deceptive to the everyday consumer who walks in, sees “salad” and thinks, “That’ll be good for me!” We see eye to eye on that, for sure.

I’m proud of you for saying no to fast food! That’s not an easy feat, considering how prevalent it is in our society. I think it’s fine for a movie to point out the pit-falls of a diet consisting largely of fast food. People should be aware of that anyway. My problem with the film, besides all the ones I already mentioned (I’ll avoid beating a dead horse, or at least I’ll try!) is that his end argument that fast food is really bad for you is based on an experiment that even he admits is pretty extreme. It’s like he’s saying, because I got these results, it’s true for everyone. I think that’s stretching the truth to serve an agenda.

I also didn't agree with his ending comment, something to the effect of, "I guess it just depends on who you want to go first. Them, or you." To me, this insinuates that there is no middle ground. You either eat fast food and die, or say no and get rid of the entire fast food industry, which, really, is just providing a product that people can either buy or not buy. I don't approve of almost any argument that seems to favor total regulation over freedom of choice. But that's just me.

I hope this makes sense. It's really past my bedtime. Ha!

The Reading Bear said...

I can say, as a "bigger girl" that I know exactly what you mean. First glance, sure I am bit on the chubby side. There is no doubt about that. Yes, it sometimes is difficult to find clothes that I would like to wear in my size, but what people don't know is that I am a collegiate athlete with an athletic scholarship some people could only dream of. Due to the short genes that run in my family, every woman is shaped like me. Short, curvy, and a bit "big boned". Obviously, I am athletic if I made it to a varsity college sport. Just because I don't look it, doesn't mean I can't kick your ass. ;)

Thank you for posting this article! =)

Sarah Thomas said...

See, and that’s the stereotype that I think is harmful to people in our society! As soon as people see someone who isn’t “thin,” the automatic assumption tends to be “over-eater,” “pig,” etc. Which may or may not be true. Yes, there are people who are overweight because they eat way too much. But there are others genetically predisposed, or with medical conditions, or some other reason and unfortunately they get judged wrongly. Society says it’s wrong to judge based on race or gender, so why is it okay to judge based on appearance? I don’t like anything that perpetuates negative stereotypes.

I have that same problem—half the time, the clothes I like either don’t fit, or don’t look like what I want them to look like on me. I always end up thinking, “Sure, that’d look great…if I was smaller.” It’s such a pain. Although I can’t claim any sort of athleticism. ;-)

Thanks for sharing! And I totally believe in your ability to kick my ass.

What sport do you play? If you don’t mind me asking. :-)

And you’re welcome for writing this!

toni said...

That was a great argument, and I agree with you. I'm paranoid about what my little brother eats, he's not even my kid and I take more responsibility for his health than many parents.

Well written, well thought out. I'm glad I came across your blog!

John said...

Hello there. I did enjoy watching the movie. I did not agree with everything they had to say but it opened my eyes on a few things I never thought of before. I agree with you that it is not just the fault of Mcdonalds or for that matter, the fast food industry-to a point. They do advertise towards children (tv advertising, happy meals and free toys), air conditioned playgrounds on the premises and cartoons. If they can convince a child-children to want to eat there and they in turn convince (cry, beg, etc) the parent, now they have 2 customers. Their selection of food could be better – less fat, less calories and such. Imagine a quarter pounder (substitute for any fast food chain burger or sandwich), large fries and a large coke. That is a lot of fat and calories just in 1 meal. Parents do need to make good decisions for themselves and their children.

Now to be fair, I do enjoy going to a fast food restaurant on occasion. Like most people, we look at the order board and decide based on what looks good not how good it is for you. We all make these decisions on impulse or previous satisfaction on something we had before. Before that movie, I was not aware of other fast food restaurants showing their nutritional info. I guess I never worried about that because I would only go a few times a week or every other week. I learned something new. I have just started reading a book called “Fast food nation: the dark side of the all-american meal” and it gives a very interesting view of how all of these huge restaurants have started out and about how they advertise. I picked mine up at a used book store.

Sarah Thomas said...

Thanks so much! I’m glad you came across my blog, too! Thank you for the comment. :-)

Sarah Thomas said...

@John—It’s very true that their selection of food could be better. Or at least have more options available for people who are looking for something a little healthier. Really it just comes down to everything in moderation. I had Happy Meals as a child, but not for every meal. And I’m sure I pitched a fit about it, but my parents weren’t push-overs so they told me no. I just hate to see parents who don’t want to be the bad guy. Sure, it’s not fun. But it’s parenting. If you can’t tell your kid no to a meal, how are you going to be able to tell them no to something more serious? I wonder if some of the reason parents are having trouble making responsible decisions for their kids could have something to do with the fact that in America, people are having kids younger and younger. It’s hard to be a responsible parent when you’re hardly even a responsible adult yet. But now I’m babbling…

I’m with you on that, I like to go eat out. And yeah, definitely my orders tend to be based on what looks good or sounds good, rather than what IS good FOR me.

Sounds like an interesting book! I think I’ll keep an eye out for it next time I head to Half Price Books. :-)

Thanks for the comment and for reading the post!

TC said...

How true!! Thanks for following my animals blog.
It's our fault we are obese, also I'm thinking the additives may have something to do with it too and now they think plastics contribute...go figure, if our ancestors had known that they would have eaten out of plastic to avoid starvation...not funny huh?

Sarah Thomas said...

You’re very welcome! :-) Thanks for following my blog, too!
And for the comment!

Loryn said...

There's nothing more I can say, I think people have covered it all haha. I totally agree with you especially in the whole blaming McDonalds thing and parents not taking enough responsibility over what their kids eat.

Sarah Thomas said...

Haha! Yes, the comments could be a post all on their own! Thanks for dropping by!

Jenna C. said...

I completely agree with you! Let's take the focus off one specific corporation and redirect it on the real problem: parents who don't want to put the effort into making sure their children eat properly. It wouldn't even be an issue if people could learn the meaning of the word "moderation".

Great post and I love your blog! :)

Sarah Thomas said...

Thanks! Yes, that’s exactly what I think. Moderation is key. It’s not horrible to enjoy some delicious, albeit terrible-for-you foods sometimes, but if you overdo it you can’t blame anybody but yourself.

I know this from experience. HA! Thanks for the comment and the love!