Review: Super Size Me

Published 10 years ago by

By Vic Holtreman

The short version: You REALLY need to watch this movie before you go through another fast food drive-thru: It’ll cure you of “Mac Attacks”, guaranteed.

super size me Review: Super Size MeSuper Size Me is the brainchild of Morgan Spurlock and it’s a heck of a concept: Eat nothing but McDonald’s food for 30 days straight… breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If it ain’t on the menu, he won’t eat it. He sparked to this idea one Thanksgiving as he was lying on the sofa post-dinner and happened to see a news item about the two teenaged girls whose parents were suing McDonald’s for making them obese.

In light of today’s 60% obesity rate in the United States 😯 this is an extremely important documentary. It’s an eye opening and shocking look at the effects of fast food on the body.

Spurlock lays the groundwork for gathering some good empirical data: Before he starts his experiment, he visits not one, but three doctors (each practicing a different specialty) and has each of them conduct a battery of tests and get baseline measurements of his overall and specific health status. He also consults a dietician and a personal trainer.

He starts out as a healthy guy, actually above average. He is 6′ 2″ and weighs approximately 185 lbs. His cholesterol is well under 200, and his body fat is a well below average 11%. Each of the doctors he informs about his upcoming experiment predicts minor effects: Triglyceride levels will increase along with cholesterol.

Another thing he decides to do is emulate the exercise levels of the average American, which is to say that he won’t do any exercise.

Oh, I forgot to mention his girlfriend is a vegan chef. simple smile Review: Super Size Me

On Day 1 he has a McDonald’s breakfast, followed by lunch in his car later in the day. He has established a few rules:

1. If McDonald’s doesn’t serve it, he can’t eat or drink it (this includes water).

2. He can only Super-Size his meal if asked.

3. He has to eat every item on the menu at least once during his 30 days.

During the aforementioned lunch, he ends up with a Super-Sized Double Quarter Pounder meal. He is shown at 5 minute intervals attempting to complete his meal, which includes a 44 ounce Coke. He’s having a hard time, and at minute 22, loses it and heaves through the window and onto the parking lot.

It was not a pretty sight.

We come back to him on Day 3, and he’s happy as a clam, apparently his body having adjusted to the high fat/high sugar food. He likens it to quitting smoking: “If you make it Day 3, you’re home free.”

The film tracks his progress over the 30 days, and he stops in for check-ups along the way… the nutritionist is stunned when he puts on about 10 lbs in one week. As time progresses he literally goes through ups and downs: Feeling depressed for no reason, until he has a McDonald’s meal and then feels fine mood-wise, displaying the signs of addiction.

At points during the film he feels palpitations, has trouble breathing, and feels constriction in his chest. By about Week 3, the doctors are getting alarmed as tests indicate side effects far beyond what they predicted: His liver is showing signs of toxicity similar to that of someone who goes on a drinking binge, and he is warned to look out for signs of gout, a heart attack, and other nasty things.

There are interviews scattered throughout with the representative of a large food lobbying group, a former Surgeon General, the lawyer who sued McDonald’s on behalf of the obese teenagers, and various “man on the street” interviews as well. Many (and I mean MANY) of the diseases related to obesity are listed, as well as the fact that the second leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. is obesity. I’m emphasizing that for all the folks out there who think that being obese doesn’t hurt anyone. Of course a side effect of this is also increased insurance rates for all of us due to the treatment of these preventable diseases.

By the end of the 30 days, Spurlock’s cholesterol has passed 200 by a wide margin, he’s put on almost 25 lbs, his body fat has increased from 11% to 18% and his liver is on red alert. In the closing credits it’s mentioned that it took him 8 weeks to get his liver back to normal and over one year to get down to his previous weight.

Coincidentally (not) shortly after Super Size Me was released, McDonald’s announced it was going to discontinue it’s Super Size menu. They of course denied it had anything to do with the film.

On the DVD, there are also some great extras including an interview with Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation“, who describes the history of fast food. His description of how that food is processed was enough to put me off from ever wanting to visit a fast food chain restaurant again. Another amazing extra was an experiment demonstrating what happened to different foods when they are left for weeks at a time in glass jars. What happens with the McDonald’s french fries will blow your mind.

The film doesn’t lay all the blame of obesity on fast food companies… at one point Spurlock interviews a lawyer who is made to look as if his only reason for suing is money and nothing else. People do have free choice, but the point he makes is that these companies go out of their way to make the food pretty much addictive through the use of sugar, fat, and caffeine and that they go out of their way to hide how unhealthy this stuff really is.

Another thing he spends quite a bit of time on is the connection between obesity, fast food, and children. Childhood obesity is one of my hot button subjects… it really makes me angry. Spurlock covers three different school lunch programs:

1. One where the meals come from a fast food-type supplier.

Here he indicates that the school staff’s logic is to turn a blind eye and hope for the best. When a students’ self-selected meal consists of nothing but candy and chips, the cafeteria worker rationalizes that the child also brought a bag lunch: wrong.

2. One where the meals come from a gov’t sponsored program.

We’re all familiar with this: Everything comes out of a box or can. Real healthy.

3. One school stumbled across a supplier (Natural Ovens) that actually delivers fresh, healthy food for about the same cost as the junk offered by the above two.

The third school above is actually a school for “troublemaker” kids. Once the school meals were switched from fat and sugar infested junk to the healthy, fresh food the dean stated that behavior problems went down to almost zero.

I consider myself pretty well educated when it comes to nutrition… I actually read the nutrition labels of food I buy, but I was really taken aback at the information in this documentary. I can imagine most people who don’t take the time to educate themselves would really be stunned if they realized what they are doing to their bodies over time by eating this food regularly.

In summary, I don’t recommend that you rent this movie, I highly recommend that you buy it and as a public service to the ones you love, you loan it out once you’ve watched it to everyone you know.

Our Rating:

5 out of 5

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  1. Yep, people can easily lose sight of the fact that their health is in their own hands. What amazes me is that people tend to do nothing until someone famous dies of a heart attack or has bypass surgery (like former president Clinton recently), then they’ll flock to their doctors in droves for a few weeks, then it dies down again.

    Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, you have shows like The Biggest Loser, where people who lose only five pounds in a week are considered failures. Now that’s a great message to send…

    What cured me of my “Mac Attacks” was when I heard about a typical day at a slaughterhouse. 😯 That was in the early 90’s; I have been mostly vegetarian ever since. Another fun topic for discussion is how just because you’re vegetarian (or even vegan for that matter) doesn’t prevent you from becoming obese. This is an “instant gratification” society. The sheer number of “magic pill” weight loss commercials on the air speaks for itself, as does the intense media coverage of weight loss surgery. Apparently, the old-fashioned way is too much work for most people. I will agree that losing weight and getting in shape isn’t easy (believe me I know), but considering the alternative, how is it even a choice?


  2. I rented this movie recently too, and was similarly blown away. What grossed me out the most was his experiment with different McDonalds products – leaving them in covered jars for about 3 weeks. That and the part where they show how mcnuggets are made.

    I was never a big fast food fan before (Mickey d’s being my LEAST fave), but this movie will definately make me think twice. And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat fries again!

    Good review!

  3. See, after having read Fast Food Nation, this seemed like yet another “mission” documentary – like Farenheit 9/11 or Control Room, the movie wasn’t about getting a series of facts across, about balance like I would hope to see at least a little of in a documentary. It was about proving the point that McDonald’s sucks.

    His “empirical data”, as you put it is fairly idiotic. Are there ANY Americans who eat McDonald’s 3 meals a day all the time? If I eat nothing but fresh sliced ham for 30 days, I’ll probably have problems of some sort. The real problem isn’t that people are eating McDonald’s, it’s that they have no discipline across the board. It’s our hardcore consumerism of everything being BIG … like the 64 ounce QuikTrip cola. I thought it was interesting that while he was trying to “prove” that the super sizing was running rampant, he was only offered it 9 times total.

    This movie is best when he’s presenting facts, not his stupid ass expirement. The scenes about the schools and improvement in behavior being tied to diet were brillant… but much more in line with Fast Food Nation’s factual story telling.

    Spurlock does a great job of storytelling with facts… should have made the entire movie that way. Would have been much better than trying to add a veneer of reality TV to it.

  4. It’s funny you say his methods are invalid when that’s exactly how the governement determines whether certain foods cause cancer with laboratory rats. 8)

    I would agree with you more if fast food restaurants weren’t always busy and I didn’t see so many people (barely) walking around that can’t walk more than a few paces without getting winded.

    You make valid points, but I think his point was to bring attention to the obesity problem and where it stems from, and he did that quite well.


  5. What i really think that is good about this movie is that they review the diets that kids have in school lunches and if their meal is actually as good as it should be. They also interview some strange McDonalds fanatics. An old couple who has collected decades of merchandise in their garage and a man who is known for eating two or three BigMacs every day of his life! The person who eats for 30 days is still relatively healthy though.The movie makes you think twice about eating fastfood.
    This is definitely an interesting film that you should check out when you have some time.