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Super Size Me

Entry 118, on 2005-01-20 at 16:19:34 (Rating 1, Comments)

I recently watched the movie "Super Size Me". Its a documentary about a person who goes on a McDonalds only diet for a month and observes the results. During the period he is supervised by a team of medical professionals who monitor the effect the diet is having on his health. The "rules" were that he had to eat 3 meals a day at McDonalds, would everything there at least once a week, and would only buy the larger versions of the meals (with more fries and soft drink) if he was asked to up size or to "super size" the meal (hence the name of the movie).

The end result was, somewhat predictably, that his weight increased by 30 pounds, his cholesterol levels rose sharply, and he suffered many medical problems including chest pains, depression, lethargy and a general feeling of sickness. He was even advised by doctors to abandon the diet before the month was up because of the serious health effects.

There seems to be little doubt - both from the evidence of this movie, and from the generally accepted facts regarding the nutritional aspects of McDonalds food - that eating a McDonalds only diet is not a sensible thing to do. Eating McDonalds in moderation is obviously a lot safer, and anyone who over-indulges maybe deserves any consequences of their actions. But there is more to the story than that.

McDonalds use a variety of marketing tricks to addict the younger generation on their food before they are capable of making a sensible decision. Just watch McDonalds advertising: the indoor playgrounds (sometimes the only play area available in US cities), the friendly clown and other characters, the kid-centric menu. Its all designed to hook kids into being McDonalds customers from an early age. In some ways McDonalds is as bad as the tobacco companies!

Maybe the most powerful demonstration of this in the movie was when some kids were asked to identify a couple of people from their portraits. The camera didn't shown the pictures initially. The first was identified by everyone: Ronald McDonald, the McDonalds clown who regularly appears in their advertising. The second, they all seemed to have trouble with. When the picture was turned to the camera we saw it was a picture of Jesus Christ! As you probably know, I am not a Christian and I doubt Christ even existed in the way he is portrayed in the Bible, but that really shocked me.

Its estimated the average child sees 10,000 food advertisements per year (mostly for fast food). That's about 30 per day. Its a hard message for parents to counter with a more healthy approach. So the problem is not so much the food, as the advertising. For many reasons (because they are so misleading, plus the fact they are so repetitive and boring) I would like to see advertising more tightly controlled - one ad per day per company should be enough for anyone!

By the way, if you think McDonalds' new "healthy menu" makes it all OK, think again. Their healthy salad (with dressing) has more fat than a Big Mac! And if you think eating a little bit of McDonalds is OK, think again: about half of nutritionists recommend you eat no junk food at all!

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Comment 4 (784) by WF99 on 2007-08-16 at 11:51:37: (view earlier comments)

I hardly see how that comment belonged here. Taking an opportunity during a discussion of a *movie* to say, "Jesus didn't exist" is really beating the proverbial dead horse.

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Comment 5 (786) by OJB on 2007-08-16 at 11:58:21:

OK OK I just couldn't help it. I'm very naughty and going straight to Hell!

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Comment 6 (791) by WF99 on 2007-08-17 at 08:56:08:

I'm not even talking about it as a moral issue. It's a social issue. I'd like to have a discussion with you without bashing or debating religion.

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Comment 7 (793) by OJB on 2007-08-17 at 16:34:58:

OK. I'll forget about the snide comments about religion. The issue here is people's familiarity with pop culture and ignorance of more substantive issues right? There was a documentary here (New Zealand) recently which showed that kids could recognise Paris Hilton but not our prime minister. Now, I fully agree that documentaries are totally dumbed down too, and their research methods tend to be junk, but I think this is a real trend. What do you think?

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Comment 8 (794) by WF99 on 2007-08-18 at 09:58:59:

Yes, important matters often give way to entertainment. I fully agree with that.

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