We all know that fast food isn’t the healthiest thing to eat on a regular basis, if at all. But if you are like me, you do it anyway, heading to McDonalds, Wendys or Burger King to ingest copious amounts of burgers, fries and soft drinks. Fast and cheap, we eat it, forget about it and continue on our merry little ways.
But do we ever stop and think about what this consumption may actually be doing to our bodies over time? Not just restaurant fast food, but also the soft drinks, cookies, ice cream, potato chips and other items we pick up every week for home consumption from the supermarket. These items, and a whole lot more, are making the United States the fattest nation on Earth at an alarming rate. Morgan Spurlock’s funny and occasionally unsettling documentary Super Size Me takes a look at this current epidemic.
Inspired by a lawsuit filed by two girls that claimed that McDonalds’ food was a major cause of their obesity (which was later dismissed), Spurlock wanted to find out if America’s current obesity epidemic was our fault for lacking self-control, or whether the corporations that make the great tasting, but nutritionally deficient, swill were to blame.
He set out on a cross-country, high-calorie journey to 20 cities in the United States for his answer. In addition to interviewing people such as Surgeon Generals, gym teachers, cooks, kids, lawmakers and legislators on the cause and effects of obesity, Spurlock decided to make himself a test subject by living on nothing but food from McDonalds for an entire month. He set three simple rules that he had to live by:
1) He could only eat what was available over the counter
2) No ‘super sizing’ unless offered
3) He had to eat every item on the menu at least once
When he began, Spurlock was in top physical shape, getting a clean bill of health from a trio of doctors. Barely a month later, the doctors were pleading with him to stop. Thanks to his little experiment, Spurlock had raised his cholesterol levels up dramatically, turned his liver into a fatty mess and gained a whopping 25-30 pounds in the process.
It is quite clear that controversial filmmaker Michael Moore was an influence on Spurlock, as Super Size Me is reminiscent of Moore’s 1989 film, Roger and Me. He takes his subject matter seriously, but also finds the time for some levity along the way. Spurlock, like Moore, also has a tendency to preach to the converted. Finding out that fast food is generally bad for you should only be a news flash to those living in caves.
Even if the topic may be familiar to you, Spurlock does know how to put a fresh, creative and entertaining spin on the film’s subject matter. McDonalds may be the documentary’s main target, but there are plenty of other factors of the obesity epidemic covered: the sorry state of school lunches and the lack of physical education classes found in said schools, food and diet addictions as well as our society’s declining level of health. These are all examined in a clear, straightforward manner that will hopefully give the viewer, pardon the pun, food for thought.
Of all the various forms of media that saturate our daily lives, motion pictures, following television, may be the one that makes the most impact on an individual. Nightly news broadcasts report on the war on obesity almost as much as they do the war on terrorism, but judging from recent reports that the epidemic seems to be only getting worse, these 60-90 second sound bites don’t seem to be making much of an impact.
Perhaps if people are told about the ills of unhealthy eating for a little longer than in two-minute bursts of information, they may get the message. Will Super Size Me make them completely change their eating habits altogether? I doubt it. It didn’t for me. But it may start to slowly change it, bit by bit, for the better.