Super Size Me In Reverse
By Ken Walker-
It’s been almost a decade since Morgan Spurlock released his award-winning Super Size Me, which reviewed all the problems his experimental “Mickey D’s” 30-day diet caused. (You can watch a copy online here.)
I remember when news of the documentary surfaced, I scoffed, “That’s ridiculous. Nobody would eat solely fast food all day long for a month. That’s like those experiments where they give rats 300 times the dose an average person would receive.”
I made that remark before I had my first two heart stents and later underwent double bypass surgery. Before I went through a lifestyle program at the hospital where I had surgery. And before I started working on Winning the Food Fight, the book I co-authored with Steve Willis.
To get more background about the food scene—and partially as a consciousness-raising exercise—I reviewed a number of books during the research and writing phase of Steve’s book. They included Spurlock’s Don’t Eat This Book. In it, he describes the documentary project and various aspects of our nation’s rather unhealthy food system.
I came away with two primary impressions:
• Spurlock has a fantastic sense of humor.
• His experiment really wasn’t as ridiculous as I first thought. Namely because his 30-day diet symbolizes vast numbers whose diet revolves around fast food. The fatty kind laced with sodium and sugar.
After all, if one-third of the nation’s children are eating some kind of fast food daily, that means there are millions traipsing through the doors of countless establishments.
Suddenly Spurlock didn’t look so extreme. Nor did the scary scenarios laid out in Eric Schlosser’s classic Fast Food Nation.
The Other Side
Of course, with Spurlock’s film leaving such a dramatic impression years later, I knew that eventually news would surface of someone trying an opposite approach.
Which is why I wasn’t surprised to see the recent story from NBC’s Today show about the Iowa science teacher who ate nothing but McDonald’s food for 90 days and lost nearly 40 pounds.
Of course, the way teacher John Cisna went about it was light years away from Spurlock’s experiment. Showing the difference that careful food choices and exercise make, he limited his intake to 2,000 calories a day AND walked 45 minutes a day.
Given the difference these kinds of habits, I found it interesting that one author pointed to Cisna’s experience as exploding Spurlock’s experience—which is not the case. Not at all.
“Cisna’s experience provides a damning rebuttal to Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me,” commented Ross Pomeroy in an article posted at Real Clear Science and reprinted by Forbes.
“And a sumptuous anecdote to what health researchers have been saying for years: eating a sensible diet and exercising daily leads to a healthier existence. Adopting such a lifestyle brings almost immediate benefits.”
Now, the last part of that statement is true. A sensible diet and daily exercise will produce benefits. But how many fast food customers are standing in line to order oatmeal for breakfast or a salad for lunch? To pretend that Cisna’s routine in any way reflects the average customer is to engage in flights of fancy.
Sure, the science teacher may have eaten Big Macs and ice cream sundaes, but he did so while staying within a strict calorie count, as well as using the daily recommended allowances for carbohydrates, proteins, sugar and fat.
“As registered dietician and Today contributor Joy Bauer cautioned, most people wouldn’t be able to mimic Cisna’s outcome because when faced with a fast food menu, they’d be too tempted to order a huge hamburger rather than a small salad,” NBC reported.
Exactly. The other problem with making too much of Cisna’s McDonald’s diet is it can encourage people who ought to be looking for healthier alternatives to maintain their fast food routines. And that represents a bad prescription for addressing our nation’s continuing problems with obesity.