Chapter I: Introduction
Morgan Spurlock the director of Super Size Me went on a daring adventure to test whether the claims made by two overweight/obese teenagers was true. Two teenagers claimed that they had received their condition as a result from the McDonalds Cooperation by eating their fast food. Seeing how McDonalds is the most populous fast food restaurant in the world. Many Americans do indeed follow a fast food diet but are unaware of the exact health results. Since America is growing in the percentage of overweight/ obese people in America there should be some data on what fast food restaurants have in this issue. Obesity has become a major health problem in the United States; with over 60% of adult Americans beingobese. Obesity can lead to an array of other diseases, an increased risk of illness and premature death.
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Chapter II: Review of Literature
The documentary, Super Size Me, was not only created to show the harmful effects of eating fast food, namely McDonald’s. Morgan created the film to show that fast food has become a fixture in our country’s culture. I learned the ongoing and fast rate obesity is growing. Diabetes is also playing a key role as well as psychological changes and side effects that can result from a high fatty diet.
Marketing campaigns by fast food markets are stronger and louder than healthy eatingmessages. Being obese has now become the second largest preventable cause of death falling behind cigarette users. Each day, one in four Americans visits a fast food restaurant. This figure shows how the fast food market has really taken a grasp on American lifestyles with eating. With McDonald’s making up of 43 percent of the fast food market today and shelling out more money in advertising alone compared to health food ads, it’s easy to see how the convenience of fast food has taken apart of American’s “culture”.
In general, children and adolescents are eating more food away from home, drinking more sugar-sweetened drinks, and snacking on food that cost generally less than their healthy counterparts. Convenience has become one of the main criteria for American’s food choices today, leading more and more people to consume quick service or restaurant meals or to buy ready-to-eat, meals to prepare at home rather than the ordinary home-style cooking by the mother due to the fact that this requires far more work. Only 21 percent of young people eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. 32 percent of adolescent girls and 52 percent of adolescent boys consume three or more eight ounce servings of soda per day. And with, schools currently decreasing the amount of free play and physical activity that children receive during school hours this does not add up to a particularly healthy lifestyle. Only about one-third of elementary children have daily physical education, in which this time of life can set the tone on how children will lead their lives as they later grow up into adolescents.
Spurlock goes on to show how our nation is becoming morbidly obese and the fast rate it is growing just by fast food in itself. In the United States alone it has reached epidemic proportions. Being overweight during childhood and adolescence increases the risk of developing high cholesterol, hypertension, respiratory ailments, orthopedic problems, depression and type two diabetes as a youth. With over 60 percent of adult Americans beingobese side effects can result from this, hypertensionbeing one of the most common side effects of obesity. Another complication associated with obesity is diabetes, with 15 million people alone in the United States being diabetic; approximately 10 percent are juvenile onset diabetics. The other 90 percent of diabetics are type two diabetics, commonly known as adult onset. Those who develop adult onset diabetes generally are diagnosed in their middle years, between 30 to 60 years old. This type of diabetes is almost always associated with obesity. The majority ofobeseindividuals with diabetes can reduce their complications by losing as little as 10 percent of their current body weight. Just being diagnosed with diabetes will automatically cut 17-27 years off a human life.
Overweight in children and adolescents are generally caused by a lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns resulting in excess energy intake, or a combination of the two. If people were to look at the long-term consequences, overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults, which increases to 80 percent if one or more parent is overweight or obese.
Within the documentary, Spurlock seems to contract the beginning stages of a severe condition calledsleep apnea. For people with this problem, it becomes more difficult to breathe at night as their weight increases. People with this condition typically snore severely and have episodes when they stop breathing completely, sometimes for up to one minute at a time. Sleep apnea although not as well known of a complication is still quite serious, and in many cases requires medical attention. The best method of treatment for any of the above side effects is weight loss.
In 2000, the total cost of obesity for children and adults in the United States was estimated to be $117 billion ($61 billion in direct medical costs). Understanding the causes of childhood obesity can provide people with the opportunity of eating right and staying healthy.
Chapter III: Methodology
Before undertaking the experiment of living every child’s dream by eating McDonald’s for thirty days, procedures needed to be taken to ensure that data would be accurately recorded and that Spurlock would be obtaining the most accurate results possible. He must eat one of everything on the menu at least once, and when asked to super size his meal he must do so. Another requirement of Morgan’s experiment is that he can only take 5,000 steps a day to replicate the exercise that most average Americans get on a daily basis. He must also eat three meals a day, no exceptions and if McDonalds doesn’t serve it Morgan can’t eat it.
To start, Morgan enlists three doctors to assist him through his thirty day documentary. A cardiologist, gastroenterologist, and a general practitioner all check him out at the beginning of the experiment. Spurlock, who stands six feet two inches tall, had a body weight of 185.5pounds, 11 percent body fat, perfect blood pressure, and cholesterol of 168, Morgan sported a very fit body before undergoing the McDiet. This is about as perfect of a body that someone can sport at the age of 32. Morgan also hires a nutritionist and dietician named Bridgett Bennet who will help track his progress.
With the hypothesis of what results that may be seen from this diet, the cardiologist says that he expects to see a change in Morgan’s triglycerides, but he says that his liver will probably be able to metabolize the excess fat. The general practitioner says that Morgan will probably gain weight and that his cholesterol will probably go up as well.
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In my own personal opinion, an experiment I would use as a follow-up to Spurlock’s would be a test to show more of a long term effect on eating at McDonalds. If I was a scientist and was studying the effects of eating fast-food, one way I would go about running this experiment would be to find two men of common age, height, weight, and healthy eating habits. Then I would have one of these men continue with their healthy eating, while the other man has McDonalds at least twice a week. The man who continued eating healthy would help provide a control for the experiment that Spurlock lacked. Even extending the period of the experiment to maybe two to three years will provide a more realistic view of the effects on McDonald’s in a diet then an unrealistic every day and every meal experiment. Whether there would be a huge difference in the two men or none at all, I have no idea but I think that it would be a way to increase the validity of the lab that Spurlock’s experiment lacked.
Chapter IV: Presentation of Findings
Even during the first few days of the McDonalds diet, Spurlock was showing signs of being visibly uncomfortable. One afternoon eating in his car after stopping at a drive-through, he was havingtrouble finishing his supersize fries, complaining that he was experiencing “a McBelly ache,” “McGas,” and “McSweats.”
The results in the 30 day McDonald’s diet is that there was change to the human body caused by fast food was in fact much worse than the three doctors had originally anticipated that occurred to his body after undertaking this experiment. Before, Spurlock was in taking about 2,500 calories per day, but when undergoing the McDiet, the calorie intake doubled to 5,000 per day. Morgan frequently pointed out that throughout his day, he felt depressed and sad, during his thirty day McDonald’s diet. Spurlock claims he was hooked on fast food during his binge, feeling happy only while eating. “I definitely went through serious withdrawal symptoms,” including headaches, sweats, and shakes, and only when he ate another McDonald’s meal did he find sanction from these symptoms.
Over time Morgan’s weight dramatically increases, his health weakens and he begins to show signs of depression. Morgan at six foot two inches, 185 pounds, and 11 percent body fat was fit and lean at the start the month. After 30 days Morgan has gained 24.5 pounds and increased his body fat by seven percent, concluding that such an extreme diet really can be hazardous to your health. His cholesterol goes up, and so does his blood pressure. His doctor describes his liver function test results as “obscene.” His liver test came back to ratify the doctors conclusion, that his liver was starting to turn to fat. His cholesterol went from 168 to 230.He went from 11 percent body fat to 18 percent body fat. This was extreme for just thirty days. During his various checkups throughout the month, his body weight slowly increased except for one exception when one pound was lost. This is theorized that the excess fat he was obtaining was weighing less than the muscle mass that was being lost.The movie presented some alarming facts.With only seven items on the McDonald’s menu were sugar free along with the case that McDonalds can be found in nearly every city across America, this doesn’t help the cause of the growing obesity pandemic in America.
Chapter V: Summary/Implication/Discussion
What else is there to be expected if you are eating fast food three times a day and getting little to no exercise?
Since Spurlock’s documentary Super Size Me argues that fast food is addictive but not in the typical way that someone would find it. It was only addictive in the case of finding a haven from the various side effects of not consuming fast food. Throughout the course of the documentary Spurlock uses humor to advance his thesis. He shows pictures of famous personalities to kids who look to be about six years in age. The children readily identify Ronald McDonald and George Washington but are stumped by a third picture. “George W. Bush?” one little boy ventures, “No, but that’s a good guess,” says Spurlock, turning the picture toward the camera. It’s a drawing of Jesus Christ. How does this help further prove that children are on a course of obesity just because they can identify the leading fast food figure? It’s not the kids to blame that Ronald McDonald spends a great deal of time on commercials of children television commercials than Jesus himself does.
As with Spurlock’s exercise in extreme eating, I’m not sure what that proves. The fact that kids know who Ronald McDonald is does not mean they will end up becoming obese. Similarly, Spurlock asks a group of tourists to stand in front of the White House and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which they have trouble doing accurately and in unison. But when he asks about the components of a Big Mac, one of them wattles off, “Two all-beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun.” I’m sure that if I went on to remember the list of what a Big Mac consists of, I can still avoid eating one.
Throughout the movie I found one particular quote that stood out to me apart from the rest. It came from the words of Jared Fogle, the man off of the Subway commercials, commenting to a obese family that “The world’s not going to change. You have to change.”
All in all, I think that this experiment was not valid. However, the effects resulting from Spurlock’s experiment were too good to be true. Supersize Me” showed me very interesting things about eating at McDonalds. For example, it helped me realize that eating at McDonald’s is a consumer’s choice. The meals provide a quick, easy, and cheap way to fill a person’s stomach which definitely attracts many customers to eat at a restaurant. There is without a doubt that fast food comes at a costly sacrifice and being absurdly unhealthy. People, if they realized the facts of what they were eating you can’t blame them for wanting a crack at the fast food industry of what it has done to their body. However the catch is, it’s your own choice to purchase the food they are selling. If people are really worried about their health, then they should take the measures of looking up exactly what it is they are consuming. Within months after the film’s release McDonald’s excluded the Supersizing option. Nutrition information was printed right on food packages, and thousands of people may have started thinking twice before considering McDonald’s for a meal. In this case of the documentary, “Supersize Me” was a hit success.
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