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mcdonalds supersizeme
January 23, 2004 10:00 AM   Subscribe

His mission: To eat three meals a day for 30 days at McDonald's and document the impact on his health. "It was really crazy - my body basically fell apart". Spurlock charted his journey from fit to flab in a tongue-in-cheek documentary which he has taken to the Sundance Film Festival.
posted by stbalbach (63 comments total)

 
As somebody who despises fast food in general I find Spurlock's claims to be absurd or there's some other underlying condition that he isn't being forthcoming with. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who exist almost entirely on McDonald's including a childhood friend of mine. She's by no means healthy (but supersizing your coke and fries for 2 meals a day will do that to you) but she never suddenly starts projectile vomiting either.

It's a bit like a person documenting their repeated allergic reaction to shellfish while carrying the message that seafood is bad.
posted by substrate at 10:07 AM on January 23, 2004


He was blowing chunks after a couple of days of the all McDonald's diet... if his girlfriend's a vegan chef, I'm guessing the switch to the diet was a shock to his system. Five Big Macs a week are likely to be far less stressful to someone raised on Happy Meals.

The liver damage is kinda scary though.
posted by Vetinari at 10:26 AM on January 23, 2004


The official website is here.

He was a meat eater before going on his McDonalds diet, so I doubt it's an allergic reaction, or a reaction to not having a built up tolerance to meat.
posted by cmonkey at 10:40 AM on January 23, 2004


I wonder how long it'll be before McDonald's sues them for libel...
posted by drstrangelove at 10:42 AM on January 23, 2004


Oh, and judging by my (long time vegan) response to accidental dairy consumption, a sudden McDonalds diet might very well kill a vegan.
posted by cmonkey at 10:44 AM on January 23, 2004


I just spent four hours this morning in the hospital because a McDonalds chiken sandwich gave me full body *hives*. And I'm not allergic to anything that I know of.
posted by stavrogin at 10:45 AM on January 23, 2004


You must have ordered the UnHappy Meal!
posted by zaelic at 10:55 AM on January 23, 2004


It could be a reaction to the fat though. I eat mostly meat with a sprinkling of vegetables but the meat I eat is very lean. Mostly buffalo, shrimp, round steak and chicken. I know if I eat at KFC I will get sick. Hence I no longer go to KFC. My body doesn't tolerate the fat at all. It would be disingenuous for me to go on an anti-fast food crusader based on this evidence though. I understand why KFC disagrees with me and I can repeat it with traditional meals as well if they have a lot more fat than I'm used to.
posted by substrate at 10:55 AM on January 23, 2004


I wonder whether the documentary addresses the financial aspect of
a McDonald diet -- that thing ain't cheap, not the mention the cost associated with the health degradation...
posted by NewBornHippy at 10:57 AM on January 23, 2004


When I stopped eating fast food - by circumstance rather than by choice - my health improved radically. I lost weight, I had more energy, and I found that I just felt happier. Can't prove anything scientifically, but that was what happened.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:59 AM on January 23, 2004


Oh, so eating fattening and unhealthy food makes you fat and unhealthy?
posted by Orange Goblin at 11:01 AM on January 23, 2004


Eating the same thing every meal every day is going to be bad for you, unless perhaps you are very careful about selecting the meal you plan to repeat. Not that McDonald's won't be worse for you than most things...

When I was in college, there was a guy who did something similar to this as a project for a class; he tried to eat only beans and rice for a month, but had to give up after about a week because of the ill effects.
posted by Mark Doner at 11:08 AM on January 23, 2004


Yeah, I gotta agree, Orange Goblin. I suppose the point is to get him publicity with this odd angle, but it kind of seems like a month-long "Jackass" stunt to me.
posted by soyjoy at 11:10 AM on January 23, 2004


zaelic's pun made me happy. brill.
posted by dabitch at 11:10 AM on January 23, 2004


I remember as a 12-year-old my family moving from Phoenix back to Iowa on a three day car ride. We had limited income and limited time, and thus ate only at McDonalds. By the beginning of the third day I started vomiting the vile stuff out. That's how bad fast food is. I'm pleased to say I haven't eaten fast food in a couple years and am the better for it.
posted by quadog at 11:15 AM on January 23, 2004


four hours this morning in the hospital because a McDonalds chiken sandwich gave me full body *hives*. And I'm not allergic to anything that I know of.

antibiotics.
chicken (and especially rabbit) is a fragile animal who end up being pumped full of antibiotics by the meat industry.
reactions to antibiotics can be nasty.
I remember a good Onion story about uninsured children getting good doses of antibiotics at McDonalds
posted by matteo at 11:15 AM on January 23, 2004


I'm seriously surprised that he gained only 25 pounds.
posted by archimago at 11:29 AM on January 23, 2004


30 lbs. in 30 days.

Is somebody channeling the Spark's Fat Project. Why, yes, I believe they are.
posted by dgaicun at 11:31 AM on January 23, 2004


Yeah, I gotta agree, Orange Goblin. I suppose the point is to get him publicity with this odd angle, but it kind of seems like a month-long "Jackass" stunt to me.

Well, no. The point seems to be to provide people with a concrete example of how a fast food diet can effect a person's health. Doing this in an entertaining way seems to have a greater educational benefit than just citing statistics from WHO. I read this article to my students today and some of them were actually stunned to hear that he put on "that much weight." Of course, some of them also said "well, duh."

Different people need different messengers to hear the same message.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:44 AM on January 23, 2004


I wonder whether the documentary addresses the financial aspect of
a McDonald diet -- that thing ain't cheap...


What!?! McDonald's is dirt cheap. What the hell are you eating, dried ramen?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:50 AM on January 23, 2004


Fair enough, Joey. But it's such a ridiculous thing to do to yourself, and makes such an obvious point it reminds me of Jackass. And as for the students who were stunned, let's hear, a year from now, whether this changed their behavior. I'd love to hear it did, but I'm very skeptical.
posted by soyjoy at 12:03 PM on January 23, 2004


What!?! McDonald's is dirt cheap. What the hell are you eating, dried ramen?

And my roommate laughs at me when I tell him I'm "treating" myself to a little fast food whenever I take a break from my prudently-priced diet of ramen. Heathens.
posted by DaShiv at 12:04 PM on January 23, 2004


or a reaction to not having a built up tolerance to meat.

heh.
posted by mcsweetie at 12:11 PM on January 23, 2004


Well, it seems that it costs $4 per meal on average. Three meals a day, that $12 a day, that's $84 a week. With $80 a week, I can go to the farmer's market and feed 3 (lunch and dinner) for a good part of the week.

Correct if I'm wrong on the cost of meals.
posted by NewBornHippy at 12:11 PM on January 23, 2004


With $80 a week, I can go to the farmer's market and feed 3 (lunch and dinner) for a good part of the week.

Sure. But I'd say it's fair to assume the vast majority of people in this country don't have access to farmer's markets on a regular basis (if ever). Compared to the cost of shopping in regular supermarkets (where prices are often much higher in poorer areas for staples -- someone with better google-fu than I have this afternoon can probably track down that study), regularly feeding a family at McDonald's is, unfortunately, often significantly cheaper and easier for millions of people.
posted by scody at 12:19 PM on January 23, 2004


McDonald's puts MSG in most of their breakfast foods and chicken.

Funny, their MSG page is gone (or moved) but I briefly mentioned it here.
posted by skallas at 12:22 PM on January 23, 2004


I think the reason he declined so quick is because there wasn't anything in the diet to offset the mcdonalds assault. Like drinking soda for a whole day with no break for water. you end up feeling really awful. Have some water in between to saturate the syrup, not so bad.

Unfortunately there are a lot of people who exist almost entirely on McDonald's including a childhood friend of mine.

But I'm sure that's not -all- they eat. To the people who exist primarily on mcdonalds, I'm sure they offset it with the occasional real vegetable, actual slice of chicken. or other shitty food like pizza or subway.

But this is a document of one poison for 30 days straight. awesome idea, I don't doubt the results for a second.
posted by Peter H at 12:25 PM on January 23, 2004


whenever I take a break from my prudently-priced diet of ramen

Hate to throw your diet off-kilter, DaShiv, but Ramen noodles are terrible for you too. They're very high in trans fats, which as a recent series in The Globe and Mail explained, are the deadliest part of processed food.
posted by gompa at 12:26 PM on January 23, 2004


regularly feeding a family at McDonald's is, unfortunately, often significantly cheaper and easier for millions of people.

I don't buy it. McDonald's, at $4/meal is expensive, considering the food (and that a felafel sandwich runs about $3). Is that cheaper than pasta? Cheaper than canned soup? Cheaper than low-quality ground beef you can buy in a store?

I typically get by on about $30-$50/week in groceries, and that's when I'm not being careful about price.

However, McD's is often significantly more convenient.
posted by deanc at 12:29 PM on January 23, 2004


With $80 a week, I can go to the farmer's market and feed 3 (lunch and dinner) for a good part of the week.

Sure. But I'd say it's fair to assume the vast majority of people in this country don't have access to farmer's markets on a regular basis (if ever).


With $80 a week, I could nutriciously feed a family of four buying everything from the local chain grocery store. I don't (I have a family of two), but I could.
posted by me3dia at 12:34 PM on January 23, 2004


Good point, Soyjoy. Indeed, one can have the knowledge that eating a pound of fat a day is bad for you and still keep eating that pound of fat.

The problem with any sort of health education is that a certain portion of the world's adolescents (well, and people) won't do anything about it no matter how many times they receive it. However, a certain portion of them is always hearing it for the first time. It is like that famous quote about publicity, "50% of all publicity doesn't work - but I can't figure out which 50%."

Heck, if Jackass is what it takes to get even a few of my teen students to think about adopting healthier lifestyles, put me in the shopping cart and push me down the hill.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:39 PM on January 23, 2004


...regularly feeding a family at McDonald's is, unfortunately, often significantly cheaper and easier for millions of people...

Easier? Maybe. Cheaper? Definitely not. And I'm not talking about ramen. You could make a week's worth of hamburgers with the price of one "super-sized" McDonalds meal.
posted by TimeFactor at 12:40 PM on January 23, 2004


McDonald's in New York is significantly more than $4 per meal -- closer to $6 if you're getting a "value meal", cheaper I suppose if you use the dollar menu options. It think it is cheaper most places, though.

Does anyone know if he ate only big macs and fries, or if he actually took advantage of McDonalds' "healthy" options (like salads and such)?
posted by sodalinda at 12:42 PM on January 23, 2004


I guess this movie is a combination of the following

1) BigCorp bashing , which is questionable and I think right on this occasion, as health is no joke
2) Parascientific investigation , which adds an icing of credibility to the movie , but will disappoint these who know
about the benefits of scientific method
3) Jackass alike stunt, which will be appreciated by these who appreciate this kind of stuff

Good stuff I guess, worth watching on DVD or tape.

On preview: the whole point of McDonald is eating quickly something you don't need to cook yourself. Too bad it tastes like s*it and I've got a kind-of-religious belief it's made out of nutritious cheap leftovers.
posted by elpapacito at 12:44 PM on January 23, 2004



With $80 a week, I could nutriciously feed a family of four buying everything from the local chain grocery store. I don't (I have a family of two), but I could.


You're probably right.

I pick organic food at the farmer's market. It's a bit more expensive, and I don't hesitate buying fancy stuff (like wine and such.)
posted by NewBornHippy at 12:48 PM on January 23, 2004


Read the information provided - he had to eat everything off the menu at least once - so he didn't eat exactly the same thing every day.
posted by agregoli at 12:48 PM on January 23, 2004


Easier? Maybe. Cheaper? Definitely not.

Again, it depends on what's actually available to you. Don't buy it from me? How about a fairly in-depth Detroit News article, illustrating that poorer neighborhoods have fewer chain supermarkets, higher prices, and worse selection of nutritious foods?

Or this one from Charlotte, showing a similar trend in low-income rural areas. And another. And another, in which a social worker in the South Bronx is unable β€œto find even a trace of a fresh tomato in the entire neighborhood.” And another from L.A., in which the 1992 riots still have an impact. And a University of Vermont study, which analyzes overall limited access to quality grocery stores in poor areas (PDF file).

So I stand by my statement: for millions of people in this country, access to fresh, nutritious, and affordable groceries is severely limited.
posted by scody at 12:57 PM on January 23, 2004


Despite everything else, I totally want the poster he is selling!!
posted by archimago at 12:58 PM on January 23, 2004


it's fair to assume the vast majority of people in this country don't have access to farmer's markets

I used to think that also but when I did some homework I discovered a vast underground food economy in this country that is working to subvert the processed food industry. It is everywhere if you honestly want to look for it. Farmers markets are just one element, co-ops are another. And people who live in the city have the best choices of all with ethnic food stores. You just need to look, it is there and it is everywhere. You don't have to use American style grocery stores, I have not for years.
posted by stbalbach at 1:15 PM on January 23, 2004


scody, I've lived in a neighborhood (Inman Heights in NY) with no supermarket - nothing but fast food and corner bodegas. I know what it's like to have to take the subway 20 blocks to buy fresh food. It sucks and it isn't easy. But it sure is cheaper. I know because when I was living in that neighborhood I couldn't afford to eat fast food or shop at the corner bodegas. For someone like me who made $12000 a year plus student loans to pay while living in Manhattan (albeit in the Manhattan boondocks), those were simply not options.

for millions of people in this country, access to fresh, nutritious, and affordable groceries is severely limited.

To paraphrase: millions of people have limited access to cheaper (and better) food. That's a statement I'll stand by as well.
posted by TimeFactor at 1:39 PM on January 23, 2004


BAH when i was in college i worked at McD sometimes 7 days a week and i usually ate my one meal a day there and i didn't 'fall apart' There is some food there that was edible. This was back in 92, before they started microwaving the shit out of everything.
posted by MrLint at 2:20 PM on January 23, 2004


Wait a minute--I thought I was eating ramen to be cheap, and now you're telling me they'll kill me too??? Heaven forbid! Heaping indignity upon indignity!

Ramen bricks are fried into that shape--of course they're terrible for you and packed with trans fatty acids just like other fried and processed foods are. And then there are the added MSG/chemical preservatives... yum!

On the bright side, no projectile vomiting of noodles yet, regardless of how much continuous consumption I engage in. I blame genetic tolerance.
posted by DaShiv at 5:26 PM on January 23, 2004


Anybody want to take a crack at the veracity of his claims? A commenter on my blog (who happens to be a registered nurse) insists that there's no way he could have had the medical problems he claimed from doing this. So far I haven't seen anyone here challenging this at all. WDYT?
posted by briank at 5:31 PM on January 23, 2004


They have salads at McDonalds, you know.
posted by delmoi at 5:56 PM on January 23, 2004


I regularly feed a family for an average of $1.25 per meal (less for breakfast, more for dinner) with no recourse to ramen. It can quite easily be done, even with a little room for the occasional junk snack, and feeding two teenagers (with guests). I seldom stop at a farmers' market, but in general in most places in the United States food is amazingly cheap and varied. Ethnic markets often have better prices than chain supermarkets. We find McDonalds food to be not only expensive, but weirdly unsatisfying.
posted by CINDERELLEN at 6:43 PM on January 23, 2004


I've got to second stbalbach. There are famer's markets all over Florida (at least), and if you are a fan of such foods as lettuce or tomatoes or bread you should really check them out. You can more veggies than you can carry for 20$, and generally pesticide free as well.
posted by ejoey at 8:03 PM on January 23, 2004


Adverse effects of McDs:
If the guy gained 25 lbs in a month, then he was eating twice as much food as he needed to each day and there are bound to be biological consequences for trying to overclock your intestines like that, no matter what you are eating.

Food costs:
Generally, if you cook from scratch rather than buy prepared foods in a box (square meals as one person I know calls them), your food bill goes way down.
posted by cardboard at 8:27 PM on January 23, 2004


They have salads at McDonalds, you know.

Made entirely out of maize.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:47 AM on January 24, 2004


Macdonalds salad: made from 100% beef
posted by triv at 4:08 AM on January 24, 2004


They have salads at McDonalds, you know.

In name only – the olive oil dressing contains more sugar than olive oil.
posted by niceness at 5:25 AM on January 24, 2004


niceness: Are you aware that McDonald's offers Newman's Own salad dressing, and has advertised that fact rather prominently at its stores? (I wasn't, until I spent much of a summer driving around a lower-income area - in working on an academic survey - where McDonald's was one of the only OK places around, sad to say.)
posted by raysmj at 7:43 AM on January 24, 2004


Why is everyone so invested in defending McDonald's?
posted by mecran01 at 8:01 AM on January 24, 2004


I'm not so interested in defending McDonald's, frankly. You mean, being fair is heretical or something? It's crappy food, for the most part, but everybody knows that - it's, food on the run, or food when you've run out of options. If it weren't for that working in a lower-income area, I would've eaten there only once in an entire year, maybe twice. (And I only ate three three times over the summer.)

Meanwhile, the only real problem I find with their salads is: a) way-too-high sodium count and b) Absence of romaine lettuce, which is healthier and my favorite besides. They can also be high in calories, depending on your order. I don't think I'd throw up if I ate them for three days straight, however.

I still wouldn't mind seeing the movie, though.
posted by raysmj at 8:38 AM on January 24, 2004


I love the Atkins ad inserted into the story, by the way. Here's to cholesterol! Sheesh.
posted by raysmj at 8:48 AM on January 24, 2004


He was blowing chunks after a couple of days of the all McDonald's diet...

Wouldn't that be "nuggets" he was blowing?

Hell, I eat this way almost all the time and I don't puke. What a tendergut.
posted by jonmc at 9:20 AM on January 24, 2004


yes, but you'll be dead by 35.
posted by quonsar at 2:12 PM on January 24, 2004


Are you aware that McDonald's offers Newman's Own salad dressing, and has advertised that fact rather prominently at its stores?

Not in the UK.
posted by niceness at 2:17 PM on January 24, 2004


Well, then what you're saying is true of some McDonald's, but not all. McDonald's UK, I just read, also features fresh fruit (at least in Happy Meals), which isn't offered in teh U.S. So a comparison with a McDonald's in one part of the world doesn't necessarily hold in all, I guess.
posted by raysmj at 2:37 PM on January 24, 2004


So a comparison with a McDonald's in one part of the world doesn't necessarily hold in all, I guess.

True...you know what they call a quarterpounder in France?

Having worked a summer job 'processing' lettuce for McDonalds (albeit a good few years ago) I would still suggest that (in the UK at least) McDonalds salads are 'salad' in name only.
posted by niceness at 3:16 PM on January 24, 2004


features fresh fruit

...also made entirely out of maize.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:29 PM on January 24, 2004


niceness: As noted, the lettuce is still not that great on salads here. Still, they've had to make some concessions to health conciousness here - some - and quality concerns. Why? Their sales were going way down. In Dec. 2002, the company announced the first quarterly loss in its history. In a sense, the filmmaker is kicking a company that has already been hobbling, and had already grown less popular. Eating McDonald's for a months till has more cachet, however, than doing same at the rapidly growing Ruby Tuesday, a fast-food place disguised as an actual restaurant, or a transitional, in-between sort of place - whose food is bound to get you far fatter than that at McDonald's, if you eat staples there all the time.

Meanwhile, here's a fairly amusing wrap-up of McDonald's int'l differences.
posted by raysmj at 4:25 PM on January 24, 2004


If I had to choose between eating at Mcdonald's or Burger King for 30 days, and chopping off my own thumbs........

I'd weigh my options carefully.
posted by troutfishing at 7:07 AM on January 25, 2004


This reminds me of a plan my friend and I made to eat at every single In-N-Out burger over the course of a summer road trip...still haven't done it, maybe we'll watch the movie first. I'd like to think that In-N-Out burger, while not neccessarily healthier, is less processed and toxic than mcdonalds, but with their limited menu it would be hard to have a balanced diet. Of course, we never planned on eating exclusively at In-N-Out.

As for international/regional differences in the McDonalds menu, a few that the epinions review missed:
-A few years ago I saw a McDonalds ad for a Lobster sandwich in Boston, I forget what it was called but I remember that it sold for only $4, which frightened me.
-I go to school in Pennsylvania, and here they have a Philly cheesesteak. Not positive it is region-specific, but I believe it is.
-My absolute favorite: In Montreal (as well as the rest of Canada I'd imagine) they have poutine, which is fries and little mozzarella cheese cubes smothered in hot gravy so the cheese melts. GOD how I love poutine, if only they sold it in America.
posted by rorycberger at 8:36 PM on January 25, 2004


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