Fast-food flick is a supersize hit

Filmmaker bites off mouthful: month of McDonald's meals

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 7 2015 11:24 a.m. MDT

Morgan Spurlock, director of Morgan Spurlock, director of "SUPER SIZE ME: A Film of Epic Portions," says he hopes his eating experiment will make Americans think about the way they eat. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News)
PARK CITY — For a month last year, Morgan Spurlock's eating ritual was what he called "every 8-year-old's dream." The filmmaker got to go to McDonald's for all of his meals, three squares a day, for 30 straight days — and he didn't have to plead with his parents or swear he'd clean his room later.
And not only did Spurlock feast at Mickey D's enough to be considered "Customer of the Month" — perhaps even "Customer of the Decade" — but he also brought a camera crew along for every single bite, bellyache and, well, barfing moment.
As you find out from watching "SUPER SIZE ME: A Film of Epic Portions" at the Sundance Film Festival, boy, did he ever need the detox diet his girlfriend (a devoted vegan chef) drew up for him at the end of his fast-food frenzy.
Warning: The witty filmmakers rated the movie "F" for "fat audiences," which includes most of America. Audiences should know that "some food may not be suitable for young children" (despite what all the cute, indoctrinating commercials from the food industry may claim).
Spurlock hopes the film and his eating experiment will serve as a wake-up call for Americans who — as he, nutritionists, doctors, even a former Surgeon General he consulted with believe — are eating themselves to death.
"If there's one thing we could accomplish with the film, is that we make people think about what they put in their mouth," Spurlock said. "So the next time you do go into a fast-food restaurant and they say, 'Hey, would you like to upsize that?' You think about it and say, 'Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll stick with the medium this time.' "
He painfully found out that inhaling an insane amount of Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, Chicken McNuggets, French fries, shakes, Filet o' Fish sandwiches, Egg McMuffins, hash browns, soda pop and so on, for 90 meals in a row, wreaks havoc on one's system. Then again, he points out, so does eating out as much as most Americans do.
That's why he decided to become the anti-Jared — the "Subway Diet" dude has a role in this documentary, by the way — and participate in a month of McDonald's madness. So, much to the chagrin of his loved ones and the health advisers , Spurlock limited his exercise and gulped down about 5,000 calories a day at McDonald's across the country. All told, he ingested about 30 pounds of sugar and 12 pounds of fat from the fast food.
And after bingeing on everything Ronald's menu has to offer at least once — and supersizing when offered — the previously trim and healthy Spurlock had spent about $850, gained 24 pounds, raised his once-normal cholesterol levels by 65 points, sent his blood-fat levels out of the Playland roof and, in one of his doctor's words, turned his liver into pate.
Plus, he became emotionally and physically addicted to the grub despite repercussions of headaches, chest pain, mood swings, exhaustion, depression, etc.
"I felt depressed constantly when I was eating this food," he said. "I was a horrible person to be around most of the time."
On the bright side, at least he had enough film footage to put together a hilariously entertaining and educationally eye-opening documentary that sinks its teeth into the nation's obesity epidemic. It's been a, well, supersize hit at Sundance. Theaters showing the movie have been about as crowded as McDonald's lobbies at lunchtime on Big Mac Monday.
A few "Fat Fun Facts" he includes in the movie and on tongue-in-cheek "Unhappy Meal" sacks that his publicity crew's giving out: (1) One in four Americans visits a fast-food restaurant every day; (2) Sixty percent of all U.S. citizens are either overweight or obese; (3) Americans spent $110 billion on fast food in 2003 compared to only $3 billion in 1972 (and that's not just because burgers cost more); and (4) Each day McDonald's feeds more people worldwide than the entire population of Spain.
"McDonald's is a symbol in this movie because they are the biggest. (But) this is more a look at fast-food culture and the society that we live in," he said. "Fast food is the core of the movie, but the epidemic isn't fast food. Fast food isn't the only problem. There's a much bigger issue here."
Such as lack of exercise, portion-size control, healthy school-lunch programs and physical education. And it's taking its toll — on everything from our waistlines to our wallets to our well-being.
Yet Spurlock isn't vowing off McDonald's or fast food — he even took a bite out of a Big Mac during a photo shoot with the Deseret Morning News on Tuesday — but he is making an effort to find healthy food. Even if it takes an extra 10 minutes out of his day.
"Big Macs taste good. . . . I love fast food. Fast food is great. I love cheeseburgers, pizzas. It's not like I'm advocating stopping eating any of this stuff, because I love it myself, and I don't want to stop eating it," he said. "But what I do want people to start doing is thinking about eating it. They need to think about what they're doing and how this will affect them in the long run."
One of Spurlock's first meals was a supersized combo meal with a Double Quarter Pounder with cheese, a half-pound of fries and a 44-ounce Coke — and at first he was, as the ads say, "Lovin' it," even claiming the burger was "a little bit of heaven." Digesting it all wasn't exactly an angelic experience. After a while, he said he was suffering "McGurgles . . . McSweats . . . McTwitches" and overall "feeling a little McCrazy" from the gluttonous gorging of fatty food and sugary substances. He also McPuked.
A month later, he'd eaten more McDonald's meals than nutritionists would recommend in eight years. It took him nearly two months of his girlfriend's vegan diet to get his blood levels back to normal. And, oh yeah, he still has 4 1/2 pounds of extra girth to get rid of.
And the filmmaker's next project?
He laughed. "SUPER SIZE ME 2: Burger King Boogaloo."

E-mail: jody@desnews.com

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