These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. We are thankful of their contributions and encourage you to make your own.
The film “Super Size Me” is a 2004 part documentary film, part health experiment directed by and featuring American Indie filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock. In the film, he records the effects of a 30-day period of time (Feb. 1 – March 2, 2003) in which he ate only McDonald’s food. In the process of documenting the results of the “McDonald’s diet” or “McDiet” upon the director’s physical and psychological health, Spurlock is both surprised and appalled as he discovers not only the detrimental effects of the fast food giant’s products upon himself but also the vast influence that the fast food industry has over the lives of it’s customers---including how it promotes poor nutrition for the sake of profit. Spurlock initiates this documentary as a response to the “epidemic of obesity” as declared by the US Surgeon General as well a careful study on his opinion that fast food franchises, much like tobacco companies, fail to properly label and categorize their products as they are both physiologically addictive and physically harmful---in much the same way as cigarettes are.
During the start of the movie, Spurlock subjects himself for evaluation by a team of professionals, including a personal trainer, cardiologist, gastroenterologist, nutritionist, and a general practitioner. This is done to establish his physical condition and to provide them with a baseline “before” measurement. The teams give their inputs and unanimously agree that Spurlock is in above average shape and in generally good health for a man measuring 6’2 weighing 185 lbs. They also predict that the “diet” would have some detrimental effects, such as weight gain at worst, but nothing too dangerous, stating that the human body would cope well as it is “extremely adaptable.”
The experiment would be carried out with the following guidelines:
1. All three main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and all food to be eaten must come from McDonald’s only.
2. Every menu item at McDonald’s must be eaten at least once over the course of 30 days.
3. He must SUPER SIZE MEALS only when offered by McDonald’s staff and if offered the option he must always take it.
4. He will must not engage in any exercise beyond that which the typical US citizen engages in, pegged at approximately 5,000 standardized distance steps per day.
The experiment officially began on February 1, and on the second day of the experiment Spurlock was offered the first of a total of nine super sized meals. He is given a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Super Size French Fries and a 42-ounce soft drink. Unaccustomed to eating that much food in one go, he undergoes stomach pains then proceeds to throw up in the parking lot. In five days Spurlock manages to gain a total of 9.5 lbs. and begins to experience sluggishness, headaches and depression. Eating a McDonald’s meal, the director claims, could relieve these symptoms and at this point one of his doctors described him as addicted as he was showing physiological signs very similar to substance dependence.
Upon his second weigh-in Spurlock had gained another 8 lbs. and by his last weigh-in he was a total of 210 lbs. from his previous weights of 185 lbs.---an astonishing 25 lbs.---in a mere 30 days.
His girlfriend, vegan gourmet chef Alexandra Jamieson, reports that he had been extremely lethargic during the later parts of the experiment, noting a particularly pronounced decrease in his sex drive, and he even began to experience heart palpitations on day 21 of the "McDiet." Spurlock successfully completes the 30 experiment, faithfully adhering to the conditions set. He then promptly goes though a battery of medical exams to fully evaluate his health. The medical team was extremely shocked at how quickly and drastically Spurlock’s overall health worsened. Most especially since they initially made predictions that the 30-day McDonald’s diet wouldn’t have any major, negative impact upon his health.
He then begins a detox-recovery program and reports state that it took a total of 14 months to gradually lose the 25 lbs. that he had gained in one month. The film ends with a question directed to the viewers: “Who do you want to see go first, you or them?” simultaneously showing an editorial cartoon featuring a headstone of Ronald McDonald. This mirrors the first time this cartoon was used when it was featured first in an article in The Economist magazine in an issue tackling the morality of turning children into a primary market demographic. A brief coda is added to the film detailing how McDonald’s has discontinued the super sizing of their meals six weeks after the film’s release as well as in the inclusion of healthier menu offerings and a market campaign featuring a more active, sporty Ronald McDonald. McDonald’s has refuted claims that these actions were carried out as a response to the film.
Update this section!
You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.Update this section
After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.
Several legal suits have been brought against McDonald's Restaurants that they are knowingly selling food that is unhealthy. Some of the court decisions have stated that the plaintiffs would have a claim if they could prove that eating the food every day for every meal is dangerous. As such, documentarian Morgan Spurlock conducts an unscientific experiment using himself as the guinea pig: eat only McDonald's for thirty days, three meals a day. If he is asked by the clerk if he would like the meal super sized, he has to say yes. And by the end of the thirty days, he will have had to have eaten every single menu item at least once. Before starting the experiment, he is tested by three doctors - a general practitioner, a cardiologist and a gastroenterologist - who pronounce his general health to be outstanding. They will also monitor him over the thirty days to ensure that he is not placing his health into irreparable damage. He also consults with a dietitian/nutritionist and an exercise physiologist, the latter who also deems him to be above average fitness. As it mimics the lifestyle of those who eat fast food, he will also do no exercise for the thirty days, limiting himself to under 5,000 steps per day (the approximate equivalent of 2½ miles). These health and medical experts have some predictions about his general health and wellness by the end of the experiment. His vegan chef girlfriend also has some predictions about how this experiment will affect his mood and therefore their relationship. As he goes through the experiment, he speaks to a number of people - many experts in their respective fields - on the pros and cons of the fast food lifestyle. Just over halfway through the experiment, it is evident that even the experts can be wrong, and not in a good way.
Why are Americans so fat? Two words: fast food. What would happen if you ate nothing but fast food for an entire month? Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock does just that and embarks on the most perilous journey of his life. The rules? For 30 days he can't eat or drink anything that isn't on McDonald's menu; he must wolf three squares a day; he must consume everything on the menu at least once and supersize his meal if asked. Spurlock treks across the country interviewing a host of experts on fast food and an equal number of regular folk while chowing down at the Golden Arches. Spurlock's grueling drive-through diet spirals him into a physical and emotional metamorphosis that will make you think twice about picking up another Big Mac.
—Sujit R. Varma
In 2002, director Morgan Spurlock subjected himself to a diet based only in McDonald's fast food three times a day for thirty days and without working out. His objective was to prove why most of the Americans are so fat, with many cases of obesity. He began the shootings submitting himself to a complete check-up with three doctors, and along the weeks, he compared his weight and results of exams, coming through a scary conclusion.
—Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock makes himself a test subject of this documentary about the commercial food industry. Rigorously eating a diet of McDonald's fast food, three times a day for a month straight. Spurlock is out to prove the physical and mental effects of consuming fast food. While doing this, Spurlock also provides a look at the food culture in America through it's schools, corporations, and politics as seen through the eyes of regular people and health advocates. "Super Size Me" is a movie that sheds a new light on what has become one of our nation's biggest health problems: obesity.
While examining the influence of the fast food industry, Morgan Spurlock personally explores the consequences on his health of a diet of solely McDonald's food for one month.
The synopsis below may give away important plot points.
- As the film begins, Spurlock, age 32 at the time the movie was filmed in 2003, is physically above average, as attested to by three doctors (a cardiologist, a gastroenterologist, and a general practitioner), as well as a nutritionist and a personal trainer. He enlists all three to track his health during the month-long binge. 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 also elects to ride in taxis more often, since 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 several stipulations which govern his eating habits:
He must fully consume three McDonald's meals per day (at breakfast, lunch, and dinner time). He must sample 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, but he did not closely adhere to this, as he walked relatively 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 52 minutes to eat. He experiences steadily increasing stomach aches during the process, and promptly throws up in the McDonald's parking lot.
After five days Spurlock has gained almost 10 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 meal. One doctor describes him as "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. Consultation with his concerned 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 deliberately drinks himself to death over a similar time period. 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). All three doctors are surprised at the degree of deterioration in Spurlock's health. One of them states that the irreversible damage done to his heart could cause a heart attack even if he lost all the weight gained during the experiment. 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).
Findings Text at the conclusion of the movie states that it took Spurlock 5 months to lose 20 pounds (9 kg) and another 9.5 months to lose the last 4.5 pounds. His girlfriend Alexandra Jamieson, a vegan chef, began supervising his recovery with her "detox diet," which became the basis for her book, The Great American Detox Diet.
"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."
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") as a backdrop. The cartoon of the tombstone originated in The Economist where it appeared in an article addressing the ethics of marketing toward children.
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.
Another issue that Spurlock focuses on is the way McDonald's targets young children with ads before the kids themselves realize how harmful the food is. 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