Sunday, December 26, 2004

Super Size Me!

Warning: potential movie spoilers below.

This year's Christmas Eve, post-near-mugging involved a delightful, if gross, movie called Super Size Me. I'm sure you've heard of it. It's a documentary by a healthy guy who wants to see what will happen if he eats McDonalds for three meals a day over 30 days. His purpose is to test McDonald's claim that it is indeed possible to eat their food as part of a healthy diet. He also bases the 30 day timeframe on surveys that show some Americans eat at McDonalds upwards of 3 and 4 times per WEEK. No kidding.

The catch is this: he can't exercise more than the average American (which is a maximum of about 2500 steps per day), he must eat every item on the McD's menu at least once over the 30 days, and he must say Yes if asked by the server if he would like to "supersize it" (to test their claim that they do not induce people to overeat their high fat foods).

He starts out with visits to three doctors and a nutritionist to get his benchmarks. By all accounts he has fantastic cholesterol, triglycerides, weight, liver function, you name it. He is the epitome of a healthy young man. I'll let you see the movie for the full, hilarious, scary, gross experience, but the gist goes like this: 21 days in, his doctors tell him that he is "pickling" his liver, his liver enzymes are off the charts with his fat intake in the same way they would be if he was an alcoholic, he has gained almost 25 pounds, and they are imploring him to stop the experiment as of that moment.

One of the best scenes involves McDonald's efforts to market themselves to children, even though they seem aghast at the accusation. He meets with a bunch of kids, maybe 3rd graders?, and shows them a series of photos: George Washington, Jesus and Ronald McDonald. Guess which photo is the ONLY one all of the kids can identify? One knew GWashington and none knew Jesus. His point: this is how deep into your 7 year-old's psyche McDonald's has burrowed in an effort to create very young consumer loyalty. Scary!

Another horrific scene is a description of how they make McNuggets, those "kid-friendly" chunks of chicken that so many people eat because they think they are healthier than burgers. Brace yourself darlings. It ain't pretty: The good people at MickeyD's take old chickens, grind them up whole, add in a bunch of preservatives and flavorings and binding ingredients, shape them into "nuggets," batter them and fry them and serve them to your kid with delicious corn syrup sauces. YUMMY! I laughed through my gag reflex as I watched that because I used to always joke for dramatic grotesque effect that the texture of McNuggets made me think they were made of chicken skin, gizzards, penises and beaks. I was laughingly horrified to learn that I was not far from the truth! Bleeaaaahhhh.

Anyway, I'll let you watch the movie for the ending, but you have to promise that you will go and rent it ASAP. It is hilarious and horrifying in equal measure, and it completely put me off fast food forever. If you eat fast food and want to drop a few pounds in the new year, Super Size Me is the movie for you!

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