Morgan Spurlock’s book is an outstanding indictment on people’s eating habits and a marginally effective indictment of the big food industry. The reason for this “half and half” success is that while Spurlock does properly show that people are guilty of making poor decision that lead to obesity, he falters when he tries to place a large volume of the blame of the “Big Food” industry.
While Big Food is definitely not the friend to people looking to lose weight as the Big Food industry places an amoral desire to boost profits at the risks of health, the bottom line is (and always will be) Big Food loses all its power when people cease to consume and people simply refuse to cease consuming.
Spurlock does point out that there is only one method designed to lose weight: reduce calorie consumption either by reducing the amount that is eaten (a decent idea), increasing exercise (better idea), reducing food consumption and replace the bad food that is consumed with high quality food while increasing one’s activity level (the best plan of action). Spurlock confronts people with their decided lack of exercise and challenges people to get up and move! He also confronts people with their food choices.
Where Spurlock succeeds magnificently is he enlightens people who may be somewhat confused as to why they cannot lose weight even though they follow fad diets and cut back on their consumption. By pointing out to people that most fad diets are designed to drop water weight and fool people into thinking they lost fat as well as pointing out that eating food high in sugar and fat means higher calories, Spurlock shifts people’s focus on where it belongs when it comes to diet. Their focus belongs on the basics: proper diet and exercise is the cure.
Spurlock also successfully points out the reason why fast food is a surefire path to obesity because the processed nature of such food is a “recipe” for disaster. In a very interesting sidebar, Spurlock shows the sociological reasons why Big Food became as powerful as it is and how deceptive marketing leads to consumption. However, where Spurlock falters is in the silly belief that my regulating Big Food will yield results. To support his philosophy on this, he compares big tobacco to big food. On the surface, the comparison makes sense because emotionally we wish to see Big Food punished.
When we think about the situation logically, we realize that the fault lies not in big food but in ourselves. The comparisons between Big Tobacco and Big Food are compelling on an emotional level, but there are some flaws in terms of the logic. Big tobacco was far more complicit in perpetrating a deadly fraud on the population as opposed to Big Food that merely cut corners that yield a higher fat and sugar content. That is, Big Tobacco knew full well that cigarettes were addictive and the tobacco companies also knew that cigarettes caused cancer, heart disease, etc.
To make a bad situation worse, Big Tobacco companies increased and manipulated the levels of addictive nicotine in cigarettes in order to “hook” smokers. Eventually, the lie was exposed and the number of cigarette smokers in the United States has dropped from 54% of the population in 1964 to less than 25% today. When the truth about cigarettes was discovered, the sales of cigarettes declined dramatically. With Big Food, the truth was never hidden and when confronted with the truth, no one cared and the consumption continued.
When it comes to Big Food, the problem of obesity not only lies in the fact that refined and artificial sugars, flavors and fats, all of which were designed to lower costs and increasing profits. The ancillary result of this is that calories will dramatically increase when natural products are replaced with refined products. This DOES NOT mean that the natural products are safe! Brown sugar and saturated fat are high in calories and will lead to obesity much in the same was as refined sugar and trans fat will.
Furthermore, no one is so naive to believe that McDonald’s food will not make a person fat nor is anyone naive enough to believe it is healthy. Spurlock attempts to use the case of the two overweight girls in NYC as an example of how big food should be sued in the same way that big tobacco was sued due to complicity in the health problems of smokers. The case of the overweight girls was thrown out of court and for good reason: the girls were STILL overweight when the case was filed. They had never reeled in their food consumption habits and were looking to blame someone for their problems.
Spurlock attempted to portray these girls as martyrs and it simply doesn’t work. As a sociological look at the over consumption of food and as a common sense approach to diet and weight loss, Spurlock’s tome is outstanding. As an indictment of the Big Food industry, it is only partially successful. Overall, it is a classic study of human nature that only comes along one in a generation. SPEECH There is an inherent problem that is part of human nature. That problem is the concept that if something brings pleasure, then it must be consumed. There is also another item that is part of human nature.
That item is logic and reasoning. By logic and reasoning, we understand that something feels good because in our own minds, we make it feel good. We also understand that within our own minds, we define certain feelings as negative. The problem is that we accept things that feel good for the moment that lead to much misery and pain in the long run. Over consumption of food will make a person feel good for the 15 minutes that it takes to consume an abominable meal at a McDonald’s. When we over consume like this three times a day, seven days a week, we derive a combined amount of pleasure that equals less than four hours.
The remaining hours in the weeks, months, years are left with the pain that comes from the obesity derived limitations on our social lives, our physical well being and our mental health. When a person stops to think about it, that isn’t pleasure at all. The consumed food is a mere diversion from a life that is ultimately limited and a limited life is a miserable one. What Mr. Spurlock points out is that if we stay away from the diet pills, stay away from the fad diets, refrain from feeding the Big Food machine with out dollars and cents, we can ultimately live a life that is free from the shackles of obesity.
However, what we ask here is something that only a mature adult will understand and children are not mature adults. When a child grows up ingesting food that will ultimately make them sick, the adults who allow such things must be held accountable. Whether it is parents or school officials, there needs to be an external pressure designed to be sure that they place the welfare of the children taking the easy way out. As adults, as Mr.
Spurlock shows, it is our responsibility to make the younger generation understand that the pleasure they receive from sugar rushes or the effect laboratory engineered trans fat has on the tastes buds is not real pleasure as it is a transitory gateway to a very limited and miserable life. We must educate and we must pressure and we must be successful at this or the negative cycle that has enveloped young children since the early 1970’s will be an unbroken cycle. Work Cited Morgan Spurlock, Don’t Eat This Book, New York: Putnam’s Sons, 2005.