“Everything’s bigger in America… the biggest people, America has become the fattest nation in the world nearly 100 million Americans are overweight or obese.” Melvin Spurlock announces in his opening scene of the documentary Super Size Me. (youtube.com) Morgan Spurlock’s documentary focuses on the premise that Americans are addicted to fast food, and this is proven by the excess amount of fast food restaurants present in the US, especially by McDonalds in New York City.
His goal was to eat fast food three times a day at McDonald’s for thirty days. And during these thirty days his only rule is that he only drinks and eats food from McDonald’s restaurant. He had to eat everything on the menu at least once. During that time, McDonald’s promoted “Supersize” your meal for a couple cents. Spurlock would only “Supersize” his meal if the cashier asked him.
Spurlock was curious about what where the effects to the body if one ate McDonald’s for thirty days and the recommended three meals a day. His rule was to try everything at least once, ranging from Big Mac’s to yogurt parfaits, salads, and fish filets. Spurlock uses extreme measures in order to make his argument. Eating at a restaurant should not be unhealthy; however, it has become an epidemic in our culture to eat food that is processed, injected with hormones, and cheap which is the main ingredient used at fast food restaurants.
Before he took the challenge he was in very good shape, according to three doctors he visited, including a registered dietician. According to the Body Mass Index (BMI), the standard system used by doctors in the US to determine a person’s health, Spurlock ranked as “normal” and not obese and unhealthy. “Normal” of course depends on your body and height it is not always what BMI specifies, but nevertheless, it is the common standard. Before the challenge, Spurlock ate the recommended 2500 calories and more than the average (80 grams a day).
According to his doctor, his saturated fat is supposed to be less than 25 grams a day. In addition to seeing his doctors he also saw a specialist, an exercise physiologist to be exact and assessed his cardiovascular health only to give him the good news that his heart was in good shape. At only 11% body fat, he is in above average fitness for his age group, but nothing to be alarmed about. More than 60% of Americans do not exercise regularly, only walking 2000 steps a day or an equivalent to a mile a day.
However, this is not the average for certain cities, in New York the average New Yorker walks approximately four to five miles a day. As a New Yorker, Morgan walks that average and during his walks he passes three McDonald’s restaurants on his way to work on a regular basis. He resides in Manhattan, New York, in which 83 McDonald’s restaurants also reside. According to Morgan, there are more McDonald’s in that island than anywhere else in the world.
Manhattan is an island which is 13 miles long, two miles wide, and 22.4 square miles, there are nearly four McDonald’s restaurants per square mile. (vivavegie.org) That number is extremely high and ranks as the most saturated with fast food in the world. During the documentary, his girlfriend, who is a vegan chef and eats organic and fresh vegetables daily, calls his food genetically modified. She compares McDonald’s food to hockey pucks. His first day began with an Egg McMuffin value meal which includes an egg muffin with ham, hash brown, and a choice of coffee or milk.
Morgan discovers that McDonald’s restaurant also delivers for free, only solidifying his argument about fast food, the power of advertising, and convenience in the United States. He walked 1272 steps to the first restaurant from his apartment. In order to walk his average 2000 steps a day challenge he is forced to take a cab in order to stay under the national average. As a side note, this is not the average for other countries both the amount one walks and the type of food that is served in McDonald’s.
Morgan talked to tourists from other countries, such as a woman from France to use as his comparison in the documentary on how people view fast food and demonstrate how McDonald’s operates in these countries. While he interviewed the woman from France, she said our small size soft drink is an equivalent to a large soft drink in France, and she added, that she cannot finish the small size soda. “McDonald’s in the U.S. accounts for 43% of the entire fast food market.
They’re everywhere, even in hospitals.” Morgan interviewed a lawyer, Samuel Hersh, who represented two women who were suing McDonald’s, and says in terms of being the big guns McDonald’s is the worst corporation to sue. How can one go after the happy meals, the Playplace areas for parties and children, and the “family atmosphere.” Their main advertising targets children. They make them avid consumers of fast food. At the end of the thirty days, Spurlock gained 18 pounds, and during that time he suffered from depression. During his three visits to his doctor, he complained about constant headaches, and even mood swings, something he never experienced before in a frequent manner. In addition to these pains, he experienced acute chest palpitations.
After the thirty days, Spurlock visited his doctor for the final diagnosis only to find out that he tested for liver failure. The doctor recommended him to stop his project or else he would die. He made the comparison to an alcoholic binge drinking for thirty days. Food should not be equivalent to a person suffering from alcoholism. Food should be considered to be wholesome and healthy, today it is filled with chemicals that hurt our bodies. Other companies that are known for these tactics are tobacco companies they use “brand implanting” from a young age to make believe that they are “healthy.”
One of the most well-known “brand-implanting” tactics was to sell gum cigarettes to children from the ice cream man. The theory behind this “brand-implanting,” is not to realize you are bombarded with advertising that says and implants statements like “it is cool to smoke,” “it is sexy to smoke,” and “you are a man if you smoke”. The theory specifies that when you are a child you will not realize the tobacco companies are targeting you in a capitalist society. The child only sees the gum cigarette that when you inhale it simulates real cigarettes, it is cool and “adult like”. Of course the parents are burdened with having to pay the price both from a young and mature age.
The parents only think it is a “toy”, but in reality they are being programmed to smoke when they are the legal age. The feelings the young adult will feel when smoking real cigarettes is that experience the warm feeling of getting the toy and being with mom and dad. McDonald’s aggressively advertises this way, and gets kids to buy their food as adults by “brand implanting” them with a clown (Ronald McDonald), giving them toys in Happy Meals, etc. The most disappointing statistic is that one out of three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime, and about one out of twenty people today have diabetes, according to Spurlock. (cdc.gov)
This documentary demonstrated, in an extreme manner that eating fast food is unhealthy but it also looked at the effects of aggressive advertising. Supersize came out in 2004, and it still resonates in 2013. To the point that the First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama, has taken an approach to decrease diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity among young children in her “Get Up and Move” campaign. Unhealthy eating is a serious problem and Americans are leading in the polls. We have to recognize that fast food does not equate to healthy eating.
We are so caught up in our way of life that we do not make time to eat healthy and exercise, and McDonald’s figured this out with their million dollar advertising accounts. Spurlock’s points were extreme, yet poignant about where we stand in our fight with food, and overall advertising. Works Cited
“Diabetes.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 01 Aug. 2011. Web. 08 Oct. 2013. . Spurlock, Morgan. “Super Size Me.” YouTube. YouTube, 29 July 2013. Web. 08 Oct. 2013. . “Fast Food Facts from the Super Size Me Web Site.” Fast Food Facts from the Super Size Me Web Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2013. .
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