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Super Size Me (Documentary on McDonald's)

Discussion in 'Documentaries & Movies' started by ungovernable, May 10, 2010.

  1. ungovernable

    ungovernableAutonome Staff Member Uploader Admin Team Experienced member




    Aug 21, 2009
    Male, 34 years old
    Canada United States


    Super Size Me is a 2004 American documentary film directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock, an American independent filmmaker. Spurlock's film follows a 30-day time period (February to beginning of March 2003) during which he eats only McDonald's food. The film documents this lifestyle's drastic effects on Spurlock's physical and psychological well-being, and explores the fast food industry's corporate influence, including how it encourages poor nutrition for its own profit. Spurlock dined at McDonald's restaurants three times per day, eating every item on the chain's menu. He also always "super-sized" his meal—but only if it was offered. Spurlock consumed an average of 20.92 megajoules or 5,000 kcal (the equivalent of 9.26 Big Macs) per day during the experiment. As a result, the then-32-year-old Spurlock gained 24½ lbs. (11.1 kg), a 13% body mass increase, a cholesterol level of 230, and experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and fat accumulation to his liver. It took Spurlock fourteen months to lose the weight gained from his experiment.

    The reason for Spurlock's investigation was the increasing spread of obesity throughout U.S. society, which the Surgeon General has declared "epidemic", and the corresponding lawsuit brought against McDonald's on behalf of two overweight girls, who, it was alleged, became obese as a result of eating McDonald's food [Pelman v. McDonald's Corp., [237 F. Supp. 2d 512 [1]. Spurlock points out that although the lawsuit against McDonald's failed (and subsequently many state legislatures have legislated against product liability actions against producers and distributors of "fast food"), much of the same criticism leveled against the tobacco companies applies to fast food franchises whose product is both physiologically addictive and physically harmful.[1][2]

    The documentary was nominated for an Academy Award for Documentary Feature.[3]

    It has been reported that a comic book version of the movie is in the works with Dark Horse as the publisher.[4]


    As the film begins, Spurlock is in physically above average shape according to his personal trainer. He is seen by three doctors (a cardiologist, a gastroenterologist, and a general practitioner), as well as a nutritionist and a personal trainer. All of the health professionals predict the "McDiet" will have unwelcome effects on his body, but none expects anything too drastic, one citing the human body as being "extremely adaptable." Prior to the experiment, Spurlock ate a varied diet but always had vegan evening meals to appease his then-girlfriend (now wife), Alexandra, a vegan chef. At the beginning of the experiment, Spurlock, who stands 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) tall, had a body weight of 185.5 lb (84.1 kg).

    Spurlock starts the month with breakfast near his home in Manhattan, where there are an average of four McDonald's (and 66,950 residents, and twice as many commuters) per square mile (2.6 km²). He aims to keep the distances he walks in line with the 5,000 steps (approximately two miles) walked per day by the average American. Spurlock has specific rules governing his eating habits:

    * He must fully eat three McDonald's meals per day (at breakfast, lunch, and dinner time).
    * He must try every item on the McDonald's menu at least once over the course of the 30 days (he managed this in nine days).
    * He must only ingest items that are offered on the McDonald's menu. This includes bottled water. Any and all outside consumption of food is prohibited.
    * He must SuperSize the meal when asked, but only when asked. He is not able to SuperSize by his own accord.
    * He will attempt to walk about as much as a typical U.S citizen, based on a suggested figure of 5,000 standardized distance steps per day,[5] but he did not closely adhere to this, as he walked more while in New York than Houston.

    Day 2 brings Spurlock's first Super Size meal, at the McDonald's on 34th Street and Tenth Avenue, which happens to be a meal made of a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Super Size french fries, and a 42 ounce Coke, which takes 22 minutes to eat. He experiences steadily increasing stomach aches during the process, and promptly vomits in the McDonald's parking lot.

    After five days Spurlock has gained 9.5 pounds (4.5 kg) (from 185.5 to about 195 pounds). It is not long before he finds himself with a feeling of depression, and he claims that his bouts of depression, lethargy, and headaches are relieved by a McDonald's. His general practitioner describes him as being "addicted." He has soon gained another 8 pounds (3.5 kg), putting his weight at 203.5 lb (92 kg). By the end of the month he weighs about 210 pounds (95.5 kg), an increase of about 24.5 pounds (about 11 kg). Because he could only eat McDonald's food for a month, Spurlock refused to take any medication at all. At one weigh-in Morgan lost 1 lb. from the previous weigh-in, but it was hypothesized by a nutritionist that he had lost muscle mass, which weighs more than an identical volume of fat.

    Spurlock's girlfriend, Alexandra Jamieson, attests to the fact that Spurlock has lost much of his energy and sex drive during his experiment. It was not clear at the time if Spurlock would be able to complete the full month of the high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, and friends and family began to express concern.

    In Day 21, Spurlock has heart palpitations. An appointment with his internist Dr. Daryl Isaacs, advises him to stop what he is doing immediately to avoid any serious health problems. He compares Spurlock with the protagonist played by Nicolas Cage in the movie Leaving Las Vegas who intentionally drinks himself to death in a matter of weeks. Despite this warning, Spurlock decides to continue the experiment.

    Spurlock makes it to day 30 and achieves his goal. In thirty days, he "Supersized" his meals nine times along the way (five of which were in Texas, three in New York City). His doctors are surprised at the degree of deterioration in Spurlock's health. He notes that he has eaten as many McDonald's meals as most nutritionists say the ordinary person should eat in 8 years (he ate 90 meals, which is close to 8 years of eating it once a month).
    [edit] Findings

    Text at the end of the movie states that it took Spurlock 5 months to lose 20 pounds (9 kg) and another 9 months to lose the last 4.5 pounds. His girlfriend Alexandra, a vegan chef, began supervising his recovery with her "detox diet," which became the basis for her book, The Great American Detox Diet.[6]

    "The bottom line, they're a business, no matter what they say, and by selling you unhealthy food, they make millions, and no company wants to stop doing that." Spurlock uses quotes such as this to emphasize his points regarding the fast food industry.

    The movie ends with a rhetorical question, "Who do you want to see go first, you or them?" with a cartoon tombstone for Ronald McDonald ("1954-2012"). The cartoon of the tombstone originated in The Economist where it appeared in an article addressing the ethics of marketing toward children.[7]

    In the DVD release of the movie, a short epilogue was added about McDonald's discontinuation of the Super Size option six weeks after the movie's premiere, as well as its recent emphasis on healthier menu items such as salads, and the release of the new adult happy meal. However, it is shown that the salads can contain even more calories than hamburgers, if the customer adds liberal amounts of cheese and dressing onto them prior to consumption. It is claimed by McDonald's that these changes had nothing to do with the film.

    Paying close attention to the way McDonalds targets children with ads before the kids themselves realize how harmful the food is seen numerous times. In the movie, Spurlock jokes that he will battle the socialization of his children by punching them in the face every time they pass a McDonald's so that the golden arches do not elicit happy memories.
    [edit] Reaction

    The film opened in the U.S. on May 7, 2004, and grossed a total of $20,641,054 worldwide, making it the 11th highest-grossing documentary film of all time.[8] It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary but lost to the film Born into Brothels. "Super Size Me" received two thumbs up on At the Movies with Ebert and Roeper.
    [edit] Criticism and statistical notes

    Critics of the film, including McDonald's, argue that the author intentionally consumed an average of 5,000 calories per day and did not exercise, and that the results would have been the same regardless of the source of overeating.[9] He was eating solely McDonald's food in keeping with the terms of a potential judgment against McDonald's in court documents highlighted at the beginning of the film. However, in the comedic documentary reply Fat Head,[10] Tom Naughton "suggests that Spurlock's calorie and fat counts don't add up" and criticizes Spurlock's refusal to publish the Super Size Me food log; The Houston Chronicle reports: "Unlike Spurlock, Naughton has a page on his Web site that lists every item (including nutritional information) he ate during his fast-food month."[11]

    The film addresses such objections by highlighting that a part of the reason for Spurlock's deteriorating health was not just the high calorie intake but also the high quantity of fat relative to vitamins and minerals in the McDonald's menu, which is similar in that regard to the nutritional content of the menus of most other U.S. fast-food chains.

    About 1/3 of Spurlock's calories came from sugar. His nutritionist, Bridget Bennett RD, cited him about his excess intake of sugar from "milkshakes and cokes". It is revealed toward the end of the movie that over the course of the diet, he consumed "over 30 pounds of sugar, and over 12 lbs. of fat from their food."[12] The nutritional side of the diet was not fully explored in the film because of the closure of the clinic which monitored this aspect during the filming of the movie.

    Spurlock claimed he was trying to imitate what an average diet for a regular eater at McDonald's—a person who would get little to no exercise—would do to them. Spurlock's intake of 3,000 calories per day was well over twice the recommended daily intake for a sedentary adult male, which would amount to only about 1,300 calories.[13] A typical man consuming as many calories as Spurlock did would gain nearly two pound a day (which is roughly how much Spurlock gained), a rate of weight gain that could not be sustained for long periods. Additionally, Spurlock did not demonstrate or claim that anyone, let alone a substantial number of people, eats at McDonald's three times per day. In fact McDonald's is mentioned during the movie to have two classes of users of their restaurants: There are the "Heavy Users" (about 72% of customers, who eat at their restaurants once or twice a week), and the "SUPER Heavy Users" (about 22% of customers, who eat McDonald's three or more times a week). But no one was found who ate at McDonald's three times a day. Spurlock said that he was eating in thirty days the amount of fast food most nutritionists suggest someone should eat in eight years.[14]
    [edit] Impact

    In the United Kingdom, McDonald's placed a brief ad in the trailers of showings of the film, pointing to the website [www.supersizeme-thedebate.co.uk] (archive). The ads simply stated, "See what we disagree with. See what we agree with."

    The film was the inspiration for the BBC television series The Supersizers... in which the presenters dine on historical meals and take medical tests to ascertain the impact on their health.[15]
    [edit] Alternative experiments

    Various similar experiments were made in response to Super Size Me, in an effort to provide alternative scenarios or refute the impressions made by the film. These experiments, however, were mainly balanced diets and healthy eating programs, capable of demonstrating that it is possible to eat from the McDonald's menu without upsetting one's health. At the same time, Super Size Me and similar experiments fall short of illustrating the healthiness of a typical McDonald's consumer's choice (the quintessential "burger, Coke and fries" meal). Alternate studies do not address the alterations that occurred to Spurlock's blood chemistry, but Super Size Me did not show that this was a special characteristic of fast-food diets, and not high-calorie diets in general or the lack of exercise. Note that Spurlock's original intention was to show that a typical American's food intake at McDonald's was unhealthy, not whether if it was possible to have a healthy meal at McDonald's.

    * At Linköping University Swedish scientist Fredrik Nyström repeated the experiment under laboratory conditions, raising the calorie intake by fast food to 6000 kcal per day for seven of his students. Physical exercise was discouraged; participants in the study were even issued free bus passes in the hopes that they would not walk even short distances. The calories also did not have to come exclusively from fast food per se, as long as most of the calories still came in the form of saturated fats. Students who fell short of their intake were given high-calorie shakes at bedtime. The results of the experiment were different than those in Spurlock's film. While the participants gained 5-15% extra weight during the study, and complained of feeling "tired and bloated", no mood swings were observed. "Significant" changes in the participants' livers were observed: "Eleven of the 18 volunteers persistently showed ALT above reference limits indicating liver damage".[16] However, Nyström noted that these changes were "never even close to dangerous". Nyström ultimately decided that individual variations in metabolism could have a massive effect on a subject's response to such a diet. He also conjectured that Spurlock's apparently extreme reaction to his own experiment might have been due to undiagnosed liver problems, or his partially vegan diet, which rendered his metabolism ill-suited to deal with a diet high in animal protein, cholesterol and saturated fat.[17]
    * In New Jersey, documentary filmmaker Scott Caswell also performed a pro-McDonald's experiment. The results of his diet can be seen in his movie, Bowling for Morgan. It can be seen for free at his website.[18] Like Spurlock, Caswell consumed only McDonald's food but generally opted for the healthier choices and did not gorge himself - a fact that Caswell often compares to the overeating done by Spurlock, who was often seen forcing himself to eat when he was not hungry. Over the course of the experiment, he lost 20 pounds and his cholesterol fell sharply. However, Caswell's film depicted him eating many Premium Salads from McDonald's that were not available during the making of Super Size Me. Caswell does not reveal the details of his experiment, such as what meals he eats or their nutritional content.
    * Professor James Painter, chair of Eastern Illinois University's School of Family and Consumer Sciences, made the documentary Portion Size Me. The film follows two graduate students, one a 254-pound male and the other a 108-pound female, as they ate a fast-food diet for a month but in portions appropriate for their size. Both students lost weight and their cholesterol improved by the end of the experiment.[19]
    * Keiji Matsumoto, a civilian in Urayasu, Japan, tried to live with McDonald's food for 30 days. However, his experiment was conducted using modified version of Super Size Me rules. In particular, there was no supersizing rule since Japanese McDonald's restaurants did not offer such an option. The experiment was held twice, in 2004 and 2006, both describing his experiences in blogs, with no changes in weight and health.[20] The first McDonald experiment was made into a book (ISBN 4-3966-1268-0),[21] which also includes details of a 30-day experiment of healthy eating with cup noodle, and a 10-day experiment of eating and surviving during an earthquake.
    * Sweden, 2007 - Johan Groundstroem decided to go on a diet consisting exclusively of hamburgers. He was sponsored with free hamburgers from the Swedish fast food chain Max. In 90 days, he lost weight steadily from 127.7 kg at the start of the diet to approximately 90 kg. His blog (named Minimize Me), detailing his diet and weight loss, is available in Swedish and English.

  2. Vegetarian Barbarian

    Vegetarian BarbarianExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Oct 19, 2009
    Loved this documentary. The filmmaker started a show called 30 days where he did other things of society for 30 days. The film makes me super hungry though!

    P.S., i will be getting that shirt sometime today!
  3. Lunadimae

    LunadimaeExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Mar 1, 2010
    Nice documentary, watched that one when I was a kid, the wife says that her husband's penis takes longer to erect due to the blood circulation being affected by fat and whatnot. And he hurls while eating a burger.
  4. Bunny

    BunnyExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Mar 13, 2010
    I haven't seen this in so long, I loved that after this movie came out Mc Donalds stopped advertising the super size. We don't have Mc Libel on here yet do we?
  5. SurgeryXdisaster

    SurgeryXdisasterExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Oct 8, 2009
    Funny story...
    The middle school shown in this documentary with the terrible food is the junior high i was going to at the time, i remember the camera men in their during lunch and i know some of the kids that made it in the shot.
  6. Anxiety69

    Anxiety69Experienced Member Uploader Experienced member Forum Member




    Oct 18, 2009
    Male, 43 years old
    Long Beach CA United States
    hmmm so it is ok to upload major hollywood movies here now?
  7. Probe

    ProbeExperienced Member Uploader Experienced member Forum Member




    Jan 30, 2010
    yup...they made me watch this movie 6 times in a week at school!! I'm not even gonna watch the first 5 minutes...im that sick of it...
  8. nodz

    nodzExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Apr 4, 2010
    Yeah I saw this. It took him almost twelve months to lose the weight that he put on in 30 days.
  9. Protspecd

    ProtspecdExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Mar 3, 2010
    Props to the skinhead wearing a Dead Kennedys shirt at 56:25 =P

    Thanks for the embed btw.
  10. Vegetarian Barbarian

    Vegetarian BarbarianExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Oct 19, 2009

    fuck yea, if their good quality!
  11. Bentheanarchist

    BentheanarchistExperienced Member Uploader Experienced member




    Dec 10, 2010
    I noticed that also. He was in the school for juveniles. I watched that movie for 4 days in science class in Middle School. I enjoyed it because Middle School in Texas is really boring, and the movie helped pass the time.
  12. danzigmcfly

    danzigmcflyActive Member Forum Member




    Sep 29, 2010
    has anyone seen the documentary 1% its a good movie to get you're rage on against the super rich
  13. skulldrix

    skulldrixExperienced Member Experienced member Forum Member




    Jul 9, 2011
    They made us watch this is middle school.