Super size me

September 15th, 2004

For our weekly visit to the flicks we decided a hard-hitting dose of reality would be just the ticket as the last ebbs of summer trickle away down the MK Xscape wind tunnel. Super size me is a documentary film in the same genre as Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. Yet the guy presenting this program isn’t anywhere near as in your face and shouty. He’s a likeable chap by the name of Morgan Spurlock. He decides he is going to eat only products sold by McDonalds for the next three months in order to discover if he can do enough damage to his body to sue the omnipresent filth chain. He also decides to accept the ‘super size’ option whenever it is offered to him.

“Super sizing” is basically the hugest US-sized portion available – big burger, big fries and gallons on soda. The idea was sparked by a recent court case whereby a couple of young McDonalds customers lose a case against McDonalds. Spurlock reads in some McDonalds paraphernalia that if an individual can prove that eating McDonalds food was the exclusive reason for the obesity and ill-health then they might have a cause for compensation. It’s a fascinating film.

We follow Spurlock as he eats his last healthy, vegan meal prepared by his vegan-chef girlfriend and then watch as he tucks into thirty days of salt and sugar rich, saturated fat burgers, fries, cokes, ice-creams, pancakes and other processed crap. He gets ill, he gets fat and his liver turns to pâté. His doctors advise him to stop. He continues.

Now I’ve been living a more healthy life for just over a month now and I guess you could say I’m pretty well-read with regard to nutrition and diet as a result. I was already aware of the dangers of fast-food before I entered the cinema. Evidently other’s watching the film whilst drinking their “super sized” cinema deal coke and popcorn were a little freaked out. When it was explained to them that a super size coke contains no less than 46 teaspoons of sugar you could sense people putting their ‘drinks’ back into the convenient cinema seat drink-holders. It was enough to convince me that I’m on the right track. I’ve eliminated processed food from my diet since the end of July and I can’t see myself buying any in the near future thanks to this film. Alcohol remained my last vice but I’m getting better at the whole ‘moderation’ thing.

My own poor diet can be traced back to 1996 when I began to eat more junk. I was at college at the time and had access to more disposable income thanks to the various jobs I was undertaking. Having grown up in a similar world to Spurlock whereby my mother cooked every single night and we didn’t often go out for dinner, I was prevented from eating in any ‘fast-food’ joints. I didn’t have a taste for this kind of food. I certainly developed a taste when I got a job in Burger King in November 1996. When you work in Burger King (and I guess the same is true for McDonalds) you get a free-meal allowance which enables you to eat a Burger King ‘meal’ (burger, fries, coke) during your lunch break. Now imagine the summer holidays when you work every-day. In this instance you are a ‘super heavy user’ of fast food. That is where my health took a decline. I never became ‘fat’ but I certainly wasn’t healthy. I hate to imagine what my liver might have been like. The thing is I was getting loads of exercise – tonnes of the stuff. I cycled everywhere – too and from work, to my girlfriend’s house – everywhere. I also frequented a gym to make use of its climbing wall. Despite the filth I was eating, I was getting above average exercise. Then I started university.

University opened even more doors than college. In fact I was now also getting a taste for curry and the drinking was out of control. Puking my guts up every Friday night in drinking contests (you could get a pint of vodka and coke for £1 in Mr. G’s!). Critically, I wasn’t getting the exercise anymore but my consumption of filth was on the up. By the third year I had a noticeable gut. I wasn’t happy with it but my brain had become conditioned to high-sugar, high-fat foods and was hungry for more. The vicious circle began. We moved to Milton Keynes – a town that models itself on suburban America, where car is king and drive-through are a common site. I started work – in front of a computer. Day in day out I was non-active, conditioned to eat junk and drink lager in the evening. Thinking about it I’m amazed I didn’t blow up like a balloon. My metabolism certainly helped me out to some degree where others are less fortunate.

Eight years on from my induction into the world of fast-food I’m getting fit. I’m getting more exercise and am eating more fresh, unprocessed food than ever. Crucially, I’m no longer addicted to the taste of the junk. I tried some chips yesterday and they did nothing for me. Knowing what’s in them actually creates a bit of a psychological barrier. I’m happy with it and feeling good. Spurlock abused his body for a mere 30 days. Granted he was only eating junk-food. However, my diet hasn’t been too great on-and-off for eight years. I’m hoping that by my wedding day the last remains of the spare tyre have left me for good. In my first month of healthy living I’ve lost enough weight to be able to wear jeans that I haven’t been comfortable wearing for at least a year. I will soon need a new belt as I’m on the last, tightest hole now. This is a good sign.

I’m hoping that if enough people see Super size me, they will think about what they’re shovelling down their throats. In the UK we’re following America’s lead in the obesity steaks. This film certainly makes you think. However, the screening I attended on a cheap Tuesday at 6:30 pm was mostly empty. To add insult to injury it was screened in the smallest cinema. People are not going to flock to Super size me. It isn’t going to be a blockbuster. A lot of people wont care to see it even when it’s on TV. But if you get the opportunity, go watch it. And then read Fast Food Nation. That’s all the knowledge you need.