October 27, 2004

Morgan Spurlock Warns of Fast Food Health Risks

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“Have you ever noticed that Ronald McDonald never actually eats the food on McDonalds’ commercials?”

“It’s because you don’t get high off your own supply,” said Morgan Spurlock, producer and director of Super Size Me, a documentary about the dangers of excessive consumption of McDonalds’ food.

Spurlock spoke to a full Statler Auditorium after a screening of the film. The Cornell University Program Board sponsored the event.

In his introduction to the film, Spurlock described his reasons for making the movie, explaining that his mother cooked dinner everyday and that she told him what was good for him and what wasn’t.

“We no longer sit around the dinner table, we sit around TVs,” Spurlock said.

In the film, Spurlock acts as his own guinea pig, eating McDonalds’ food exclusively for 30 days, following a set of strict rules: he had to “super size” when asked, he could eat only food sold from a McDonalds counter, he had to eat 3 square meals a day and he had to order everything on a standard McDonalds menu at least once.

During the 30-day period, Spurlock’s weight increased from a starting weight of 185.5 pounds to a final weight of 210 pounds, and doctors warned him of heart and liver problems, high cholesterol and high sodium levels, among other health issues.

During the course of his experiment, Spurlock described his “McGas,” and “McStomach Aches,” and ignored doctors’ recommendations for him to stop.

Viewers enjoyed watching the film, but some came away disgusted by some of the things they saw.

“We had McDonalds for dinner tonight in honor of the movie, and now I am going on a fast,” said Meghan Storms ’07, following the movie.

“I quit eating for five days and two hours after seeing the film for the first time because I was so disgusted. I went on a juice diet. It felt great,” said Paul Glover, an Ithaca resident. Others felt the film was very informative.

“It was very interesting. It opened the mind up to what people do. You usually don’t think about what will happen if you eat too much fast food,” said Jacob Bedford ’06. In his discussion after the film, Spurlock commented on many aspects of the movie, including the origin of the idea.

He said that the idea sprung from a news story he saw on Thanksgiving in 2002 about teenagers who were suing McDonalds because of their obesity.

“People ask: ‘why pick on poor, innocent McDonalds?'” he said. “I picked McDonalds for specific reasons: they’re the biggest and they have an influence on everyone else because they are the industry leader,”

In the film, Spurlock notes that McDonalds calls those who eat their food regularly, “heavy users.”

“If that’s not a clue to you guys that the ‘McCrack shack’ is open for business, I don’t know what is,” he said.

Spurlock described three major things that happened to him during the experiment that most usually use prescription drugs to treat: he became depressed, he had trouble performing sexually and he could not focus.

“What if we started to treat the cause instead of the symptoms?” he said.

He also commented on the many “coincidences” that relate to the film.

Six weeks after the movie opened, McDonalds eliminated its “super size” options, and the day before the film came out, they introduced the “Go Active! Adult Happy Meal” campaign. He said that although all of these things happened right around the time the film came out, McDonalds maintains the changes had no connection to the film.

In addition, Spurlock said that McDonalds plans to come out with a Ronald McDonald exercise video for kids.

“That’s just fucked up in so many ways,” he said. “Grimace should be making an exercise video, I want to see his big purple ass on a treadmill.”

Although most enjoyed the talk, some took exception to the experimental method and the idea of making a documentary on the matter.

One student asked why Spurlock made the movie when there are other issues going on in the world, such as the genocide in Darfur and other world health issues.

“The obesity epidemic is important … it is killing many people,” he said. “You may not care about what happens in America, but I care.”

Students distributed fliers from the Center for Individual Freedom calling Super Size Me a “Supersized Hoax.”

The fliers described other experiments done since Spurlock’s in which the subject actually lost weight after eating 30 days of McDonalds.

Spurlock countered that the experiments that try to disprove his are not necessarily legitimate because the subjects in those experiments exercised and made more intelligent choices in their food selection than the typical American does.

“If you are eating McDonalds five times a week, you aren’t going home and eating veggie tofu stir fry. You are eating shit all the time,” he said.

“People criticize Morgan Spurlock with their own 30-day experiment when they exercise a lot and eat McDonald’s salads, but neither are truly representative of what will happen. Years of experience will be more representative of what the food can do,” said Jesse Llop ’07. “I think he was really entertaining,” said Manny Prieto ’06

“He was very funny and did a great job of getting a relevant point across to the audience,” said Steve Kurz ’07.

Archived article by Eric Finkelstein
Sun News Editor