Subject of Super Size Me documentary eats

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 23, 2004

Subject of Super Size Me documentary eats at McDonald's for a month and almost dies. "His liver became toxic, his cholesterol shot up from a low 165 to 230, his libido flagged" and he "was vomiting out the window of his car, and doctors ... were shocked at how rapidly Spurlock's entire body deteriorated."

Reader comments

RaphyJan 23, 2004 at 1:04PM

What does this really prove? If one gorges on a kind of food(s) for 30 days straight, one is bound to get sick. Using his methods, one can get very ill by eating too much of many kinds of foods and liquids - including water. Try eating nothing but carrots for 30 days.

I'd like to see some non-smoker make a documentary in which they smoke three packs of cigarettes a day for 30 days to see what happens to their health. Do you think Hollywood would quit smoking then?

PeterJan 23, 2004 at 1:09PM

if he ate big macs, fries and shakes 3 meals a day for a month, well... duh. but if he actually tried to eat from their "array of quality offerings and range of portion sizes to meet [his] nutrition goals" and still got that bad, then there's something worth noting.

DylanJan 23, 2004 at 1:19PM

If his girlfriend is a vegan chef, I can only imagine that his regular eating habits were probably on the other end of the spectrum from McDonald's food. Subjecting yourself to a sudden and drastic change of diet will affect practically anyone. Our bodies aren't meant to handle that kind of sudden change. And as Peter pointed out, it doesn't sound like he was getting the full variety of food available.

I wouldn't eat at McDonalds anyway, but you get the idea.

dowingbaJan 23, 2004 at 3:12PM

If you eat nothing but potato chips for 30 days, similar effects will probably happen. Should potato chips stop being made? I like potato chips, but I'm not stupid enough to think that I can live off them.

padraiginJan 23, 2004 at 3:26PM

In the grand scheme of foods available at major airports, those McDonald's salads could be a lot worse.

ctm3Jan 23, 2004 at 3:29PM

Reminds me of the guy who ate big macs and cup noodles in college and wondered why his hair fell out and skin turned green. He should have eaten the Mcsalads too... Oprah was just touting them this week.

CraniacJan 23, 2004 at 3:42PM

Why in the hell are you defending McDonalds?

OneJan 23, 2004 at 4:01PM

Craniac: they're not, they're pointing out valid criticisms of the documentary.

jkottkeJan 23, 2004 at 4:51PM

Well, they're speculating about what might be some valid criticisms of a documentary they haven't seen based upon the information in the article linked above. To be fair, the article doesn't say whether he ate 20 double bacon cheeseburgers per day or only 2 McSalads per day.

RaphyJan 23, 2004 at 5:35PM

The article says he ate three meals a day for 30 days consisting of cheesburges, fries, and chocolate shakes. I assume he had each meal super-sized.

On a side note and OT, Joan Kroc, widow of Ray Kroc (founder of McDonald's Corp.) and heiress to the super-sized McDonald's fortune, left 1.5 billion in cash to The Salvation Army. This comes after a gift of 200 million dollars to NPR.

jkottkeJan 23, 2004 at 5:55PM

The article says he ate three meals a day for 30 days consisting of cheesburges, fries, and chocolate shakes.

No, it says, "Scores of cheeseburgers, hundreds of fries and dozens of chocolate shakes later, the formerly strapping 6-foot-2 New Yorker - who started out at a healthy 185 pounds - had packed on 25 pounds." It does not say he exclusively ate cheeseburgers, fries, and chocolate shakes. And if one of those three meals was breakfast, he had to eat something else because most McDonald's don't serve lunch items before 10:30/11am. And "scores of cheeseburgers" sounds like a reporter's creative license.

I assume he had each meal super-sized.

More speculation, but perhaps a good bet considering the movie's title.

RaphyJan 23, 2004 at 6:21PM

No, eh? I paraphrased, Mr. Kottke.

My assumption on the super-sizing is as I stated, an assumption.

See rule #1

garooJan 23, 2004 at 8:16PM

The article says "Within a few days of beginning his drive-through diet, Spurlock, 33, was vomiting out the window of his car". I'm pretty sure many people have already eaten McDonald's meals several times a day for a week and not been sick like this.
Dylan's comment is probably accurate: if he switched from vegan to McDonald's from one day to the next, no wonder he got sick.

That's not to defend McDonald's (nobody but them is saying their food is healthy) but just that this kind of experiment proves absolutely nothing. And is quite stupid, in my opinion. Unless he did it for the media attention, in which case... well, it's still stupid to endanger his health this way, but more understandable.

jeanineJan 23, 2004 at 8:48PM

i say a great big whatever to the documentary, what's important is his bitchin' handlebar moustache! now THAT'S a fashion trend i haven't seen lately.

muppJan 24, 2004 at 2:17PM

obviously he was weaning all that vegan toxic crap out of his body. like heroin, vegan is fine as long as you continue stuffing in, but the minute you dont you die a thousand horrible deaths. why? vegan toxic crap marketed to you by US Farm-AID Co contains enzymes that kill your lycine output and thereby forces you to keep taking their product. look at the sudanese if you dont believe me. cheers - mupp.

bicabocJan 24, 2004 at 7:25PM

erm, the article says nothing about his being vegan. it says his girlfriend is a vegan chef. i have chinese friends, yet i am not chinese. i have a vegan landlord, yet i am not vegan. i have a dog, but that does not make me a collie. get it?

and honestly, of all the vegans i know, they would likely rather die than suddenly eat mcdonald's for a month, for whatever the reason. i say it's much more likely that he was not vegan to begin with.

i am neither defending mcdonald's nor condemning it, but consider this: a guy eats nothing but mcdonald's food and his liver becomes toxic. a guy eats nothing but subway, and he gets healthier, thinner, and an advertising deal. so while the details of this little experiment may be extreme, i think it would be foolish to discount it completely.

and no, i'm not affiliated with subway in any way.

jotterJan 24, 2004 at 8:26PM

"Vegan toxic crap" like vegetables, bread, rice, and beans? Yeah, better stay away from that dangerous stuff before you get hooked...

Apparently this guy's never had much in the way of fast food. In college, it's pretty normal to eat on the go for a few days in a row during exam week, and I don't remember any of my friends vomiting after a few days of Taco Bell and Big Macs. Not from dinner, anyway.

shaunJan 24, 2004 at 8:31PM

He "ate at McDonald's only sporadically before his total immersion " so he most definitely wasn't a vegan--besides, they'd have mentioned if he was.

ChicagoTex!Jan 24, 2004 at 9:05PM

I've gone on a "straight diet" of food like this and nothing's happened to me before (and yes, because of college). In fact, people say I'm extraordinarily healthy despite my diet. Heh. Of course, I went to Wendy's, not McDonald's. But I have certainly never "gorged" myself.

BobbyJan 25, 2004 at 6:49AM

Wow. I'm convinced, it's possible to argue about anything.

Anyway, if you need to watch a documentary to understand that McDonald's is bad for you, you're already in trouble. Anyway, I don't discredit the guy's symptoms -- every meal in that place has like 80-120% of your daily fat allowance.

DevinJan 25, 2004 at 3:17PM

Alright kids I live in Park City. I didn't get to see the documentary, but my wife did. Here are a few of the things she told me about the film.

1. He was not a vegan before starting this experiment. Granted he probly had a better diet than most of us because of his girlfriend.

2. He only super sized meals when asked to do so.

3. He also included McSalads in his diet.

In general McDonalds puts additive in everything, including the salads and beef, to enhance the taste. It ended up winning an award, I believe it was a jury prize. Another documentry to look for is "the Corporation" http://thecorporation.tv/ . It got a sanding ovation.

BobbyJan 25, 2004 at 3:42PM

They also add animal fat in their fries to enhance the taste. This got a lot of vegans irate a few years back... however, McDonalds doesn't say that they don't contain animal biproducts, it's merely an assumption.

m80Jan 26, 2004 at 11:37PM

mcdonald's adds a "natural flavoring" to their fries, not animal fat... they switched from using almost all beef tallow to using vegetable oil to fry the fries in the 90s... here's a great excerpt from "fast food nation" that discusses the history of mcdonald's fries and a lot about the "flavor" industry... ... the place is still disgusting and if you haven't read "fast food nation", it is required reading for everybody.... notmilk.com is also enough to make you never eat an animal or by-product again, at this point i can only drink milk with my kahlua... i am not vegan (spent one summer eating vegan because i was on a tour with a strict vegan and could tell the difference), was a very unstrict vegitarian (venison and salmon my uncle caught himself) for years and pretty much only eat chicken and fish anymore (which as of late, isn't much better!)

m80Jan 26, 2004 at 11:38PM

fast food nation excerpt link didn't post: http://www.rense.com/general7/whyy.htm

CraniacJan 26, 2004 at 11:42PM

I put this documentary in the same category as Bowling for Columbine. The point is not to be incredibly exacting, but to make a useful and entertaining statement. Performance art, of a sort.

Alex Valdez IIIJan 27, 2004 at 11:07AM

I think you have to remember that when you can eat fast food for days and not get sick it depends a lot on the restaurant. I work at Wendy's so I eat basically nothing but Wendy's and have been for the past few months. Meanwhile I've lost ten pounds since I've started working there and I seem to have gotten a bit healthier, I haven't gotten sick once for any reason. Wendy's burgers are 100% beef as far as the meat is concerned, and everything is made fresh. I've never seen any shady practices or things that raise an eyebrow at Wendy's, yet some of my co-workers who have worked at McDonald's have vowed never to eat there again. Dave Thomas owns that murdering clown.

producer109Jan 27, 2004 at 1:42PM

HEY EVERYONE - He had to eat everthing on the menu at least once during the month; ie; chicken salad, nuggets... NOT JUST BURGERS! Try seeing the movie or researching it better before making half-assed comments.

ForteyJan 27, 2004 at 5:04PM

Seems that too many people are missing the point. Obviously no one eats this volume of fast food this fast, but look at the McD's sign. Billions and Billions served. Many people will eat many times more than what he eats in the course of just a year. Over their whole lives, they'll down literal tons of this garbage. The filmmakers example is an acclerated one but no less noteworthy of what disgusting things people do to themselves. By having his diet be so extreme, it makes the point clearer is all.

ShelleyJan 28, 2004 at 12:32PM

Wait until you see the film! I just returned from the Sundance Festival where I was one of the lucky few to see Super Size Me. The film was entertaining but all the facts interspersed throughout were impressive and verified the fast food-obesity connection. Once you see it you will want to change your eating habits. Devin, thank your wife for calrifying the three main points. She was entirely correct.

IanDJan 28, 2004 at 5:01PM

Since the teachings of 'Low fat' obesity rates have skyrocketted. If you look at what nutritionists are saying weight management is more related to the impact of carbohydrates. High glycemic foods (which have high glucose content, including white potatoes etc) raise the blood sugar level and that causes the insulin to kick in which blocks the body's ability to convert sugars to energy so it gets stored as fat. 300,000 people a year die of obesity related diseases each year in the US so the truth is still not known by many. Also many people couldn't care a fig about what they eat. 'Eat drink and be merry for tommorrow we die" is true for most. 95% of people die of heart disease, cancer or diabetes (that's if the pharmaceutical drugs don't get you! (no 1 killer in the US now!) There are good and bad sugars (see four of last eight Nobel prizes in medicine - glycoscience, glycobiology- glyconutrients- glycomics-) If you are serious about taking responsibility for your health and doing what you can about health, listen to the Lancet (British Medical Journal) and the WHO (World Health Organisation) they say you can't even get all the nutrition you need even of you eat a 'balanced diet' because of depleted soils and food processing and the green harvest etc. So steer clear of the Golden Arches or you'll be pushing up daisies earlier than you want. I can't wait to see this film. My children used to love McDs until we learn't about nutrition and now they avoid it like the plague. McD and the likes will probably be added to the attorneys lists of companies to get rich on when the tobacco companies are bankrupt and the Fixxy drinks industry finally meets it's timely end. If the government wanted to empty the prisons they could feed inmates with McDs night and day and then they may not re-offend. (It would be a serious contravention of human rights though) lol

colemanJan 31, 2004 at 7:48PM

Hey...No matter what stipulations or critisisms, or different ways he could have gone about his...Point is this is still a P.R. nightmare for the Place. especially if this documentary gets big like Bowling for columbine.

cole kid

RandyFeb 04, 2004 at 10:50AM

McDonald's represents the absolute worst in repugnant corporate greed. I welcome any discussion whose outcome could (should) result in more and more people becoming aware of the repulsive, non-human behaviour that is regularly seen from them. "They should all be destroyed!"

CrystalFeb 04, 2004 at 2:12PM

I just wanted to say that I worked at a McDonald's for over 4 years during high school and the beginning of college. Employees could have a free meal after each shift they worked. I maintained my weight (5'7", 120 lbs) during my time there. I just chose the right things to eat and worked out. Yes, I did eat french fries and drink shakes here and there, but those foods will only harm you if you consume them often and in great quantities. If a person chooses to include those foods in their regular diet, they are asking for trouble. McDonald's does not claim that they are good for you or that they will make you lose weight (like the Subway diet). If fact, the nutrition information can be accessed online or in most restaurants. Fast food is a form of pleasure to be experienced on occasion, like watching t.v. or eating candy. If you eat too much candy, you get a stomach ache and cavities (but who wants to go after a candy corporation, when McDonald's is so much fun, right?). Everything is relative to the situation. A smoker chooses to smoke, an alcoholic chooses to drink, an obese person chooses fast food rather than balanced meals. Yes, they are all addictions, but there is help out there; stop blaming others and get it. If McDonald's can be blamed, then so should every other fast food place. Why shouldn't the people be held responsible for their own actions? No one wants to point blame in their own direction. If you don't want to gain weight, and be unhealthy, simply don't visit McDonald's daily and "Super Size" yourself.

Alex Valdez IIIFeb 05, 2004 at 1:39AM

Crystal, we're not saying that McDonald's has the only bad fast food or that the diet is simply murderous, this simply points out by exxageration that they have by far the worst food of all the fast food chains. Like I said, I worked at Wendy's, and at the time I was really poor, all I could afford was to eat the half off meals and whatever we were going to throw out at the end of the night. That's pretty much all I ate for four months straight. I had no variance, mainly just burgers, meat, meat, fat, more meat, some grease, fat, meat, heart attack, but I still lost weight and felt generally better about myself physically after that period. When two people get such staggeringly different results from eating at two restaurants, then something is amiss, and McDonald's needs to do something to make its food at least somewhat healthy.

aFeb 25, 2004 at 6:33AM

trying again...


Ronald McDonaldMar 04, 2004 at 4:30AM

Hello Everyone-
I've worked for Mickey D's for QUITE SOME TIME now, and I can attest to the fact that the food is A-OK. Chasing The Hamburgler all day long can make a clown work up quite a hunger - NOTHING satisfies that hunger like some good ole golden arch nourishment. But from time to time we will get an employee in our McDonalds family that used to work at another establishment, say Wendy's for example, and they tell me how much they love McDonald's food, and how it makes them feel better about themselves. Then they would recount the horrible stories about when they used to occasionally sneak a Wendy's Frosty, and the next thing they would remember is finding themselves mastrubating in public and raping small children and animals. I'm just saying yo, when you see a discrepancy like that in the behavior from employees of two different resturaunts, something's amiss. Free ODB.

AmandaMar 06, 2004 at 9:30PM

This is absolutely the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of!!! Give me a friggin break...PLEASE!!! Do we all not have freedom of choice? Does McDonald's not have 4 size options in place, ranging from kiddie to super size? I don't get it. Who exactly is being forced to eat super sized meals? Who eats McDonald's 3 times a day for a month? NO ONE DOES....except of course for this moron who sets himself up on a mission to prove some kind of point...a point that I think most normal, intelligent people are already aware of...McDonald's in not (for the most part) a healthy food option. Those of us who frequent McDonald's are fully aware of what we're getting ourselves into...is there anyplace on Earth where burgers and fries are healthy? It's fried food people....it's not meant to be healthy!!! For those of you who are trying to make an attempt to claim that we don't know what he was eatting, that it could have been salad, shut up...you know damn well that he wasn't eatting salad...that defeats the purpose of his lame ass documentary. No one forces people to eat at McDOnalds. No one stands at the counter with a gun forcing people to super size their meals. People make choices and they live with the consequences of those choices. PERIOD. This is all quite similar to what's going on right now with Howard Stern. Janet Jackson whips out her tit on nationally television and the FCC goes apeshit and starts taking disc jockeys off the air for doing nothing more or less than they've done for years. Stern has been taken off the air in 6 markets, and soon to be all markets. Why exactly? I know that when I get into my car in the morning I have a choice of what I listen to. If I am offended or dislike anything said or done, on any station, I don't listen to it....it's that simple. So now this is what we've come to...a moron with too much time on his hands making a documentary that leads to McDonald's downsizing their size options and a morning commute without a radio show that I've listened to and enjoyed for years. Everyone needs to relax and realize that the great thing about this country is our freedom...freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and God damn it, the freedom to listen to Stern in the morning and super size my Big Mac Value Meal!!!! In closing, change the friggin station and keep walking/driving past the McDonald's...if you don't like it, don't bother with it and let the rest of us live our lives the way we so choose.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.