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Thursday, October 21, 2004
Super Size Me....

...Yes, this is the continuation of yesterday's blog - if you didn't read it, you might want to.

I've had a fascination with the movie 'SuperSizeMe' since I heard the buzz about it this time last year as I was preparing for a trip to the Sundance Film Festival. I finally saw it last week, as I mentioned in yesterday's blog, and watched it again after seeing a perfect example of laziness, gluttony and fast food all rolled into one.

Anyway, I came away from that movie with so much information and a different perspective on things that I felt I had more to comment about.

As I said yesterday, obesity is on the rise - but is that the fault of the fast food franchise, or the fault of the person eating the stuff? Where, as the movie said, does corporate responsibility end and personal responsibility start? I struggle with that answer myself, but honestly, isn't it my OWN fault if I get fat on fast food that's bad for me and end up with a host of diseases, some of which are fatal? If I was smoking two packs a day since I was 20, with all the information that's out there, I'd have to say that it would be my own damn fault if I die of lung cancer when I'm 45, so I say the same thing about fast food.

One needs to take their own lives into their own hands and take responsibility for their actions. And sometimes, that involves paying consequences for those actions.

When the fast food franchises started up, they all had one size of fries and one size of drink. They still have that size of fries today - at most of the places that's the kid's meal portion of fries. The drink was a 12 oz cup - that's still there too, and it's also the kid size. When you "super size" something, you're looking at a half pound of french fries, and 32 ounces of soda. Just an aside: y'know that DoubleGulp at 7-11? That's 64 oz of soda... 48 teaspoons of sugar.

Think about that next time you upsize that soda. Yes, even the diet ones. Those fake sugar substitutes in large quantities aren't good for you either.

But how can you resist the value? It's so much more food, for just those few cents more. As someone pointed out in the comments to yesterday's blog, even the fast food places are competitive in terms of price with some restaurants. I'm not seeing that be as prevalent in my area, but I can see it with some areas or some restaurants. Everything's gotten bigger - the prices, the portions, the people eating the stuff.

The thing that's really sickening about all of this is the brand imprinting that's going on with children. Young children are more likely to recognize Ronald McDonald than they are to recognize pictures of Jesus Christ or George Washington. It's the playplaces and the toys, the idea that they're getting a treat, the warm and fuzzy feeling they have because they're going to a place that's been glamorized on television. Every year, children are exposed to 10000 food ads. Parents don't have a chance to compete with that, even if they eat every single meal for a year with their child - 1000 chances to impress what good responsible eating is.

People even get drawn in by commercials. Just last night while I was watching the Red Sox-Yankees Game 7 a commercial came on with a young black couple who were talking softly about how excited they were - they were about to find out if they were going to get a new addition. Then they peeled the little strip tab on their chicken strips box and started crying happily about the fact that they were going to get a big screen television and that they had to call Mom and tell her. That's just shameful and a slap at anyone who's ever waited for pregnancy test results. That's a commercial, in my opinion, that should be pulled. But it will probably stay on because it pulls people in - it's built a little drama, a little excitement, and curiosity to see how it all plays out.

Let's revisit that nice idea about corporate responsibility - if the company provides you with a nutrition guide on their food, is that enough? Well, some companies only have that information online, and they don't display it in their stores. If you go to McDonalds or Burger King or Jack in the Box's websites you'll find that information, but it's usually in the form of a .pdf file or pull down menus that you have to add to a cart and recalculate - which is tough if 1) you don't have a computer or 2) only have access to a slow dial up connection. It's not realistic to depend on the idea that people will go look it up online, yet sometimes that's the only option. Look around the next time you wander into a fast food restaurant and see if you can easily find the nutrition information - most of the time it's posted by the out of the way bathroom (usually far from the door or the order counter) if it's posted at all.

Fast food is a compulsion and an addiction - it makes us feel good. For some, a nice hot batch of salty french fries is a comfort food. But that compulsion, that addiction, can lead to bad health and obesity. Now, one could sue over that, but if the company decided to try and do something about that to prevent the lawsuits, then they'd get sued for NOT allowing someone to eat there. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Of course, the 'cheeseburger bill' has been passed now, and supposedly one cannot sue fast food franchises for making them fat. It's all personal responsibility now. Which, personally, I think it is.

Did you know that McDonalds has a name for the people that visit their restaurants once a week? They're 'heavy users'. 72% of people who visit McDonalds are considered heavy users. 22% are considered 'super heavy users' - these are people who visit the chain 3 times a week or more. I think if I did that, my body would hate me. Morgan Spurlock's body officially hated him. And I don't blame his body one bit for that. His girlfriend, a vegan chef, was hating him too.

Now, Morgan (who made 'SuperSizeMe') decided to take the risks with his health and eat McDonalds food, and ONLY McDonalds food, for 30 days. And he had to eat everything on the menu once, and had to super size it every time they offered it. In that 30 days he gained 24.5 pounds, he gained 65 points on his cholesterol, his liver was in danger of shutting down because he'd turned it to fat, his body fat went up 24%. He was depressed. He was addicted (he felt better when he ate the food, probably because of the sugars and fats). He had increased his probability for heart disease and diabetes. His sex life had gone into the toilet. He had consumed the equivalent of 30 pounds of sugar and 12 pounds of fat.

He spent 8 weeks on a vegan diet after it was over, and found all his blood results coming back to normal - liver functions, attitude, and sex life were returned to normal. It took him 15 months to lose all the weight he had gained. In an interview last spring, he was given a Big Mac and took one bite. And then he said he was done, and would never touch another of those again.

I don't blame him - I wouldn't want to either. Especially after knowing how some of that stuff is made. I won't go into that now, perhaps in another blog I will. There's a great book out there called "Fast Food Nation", and I highly recommend reading that, and seeing this movie. It will probably make you either think twice before considering it an option or you may never want to eat another french fry , smell another hamburger , or look at another fast food franchise ever again...

...unless it's one of the pretend ones in the game "Fast Food Franchise".