Super Size Me

THREE MEALS A DAY AT McDonald’s may sound like a child’s fantasy. But do it for 30 days, says filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, and it’s lethal. The athletic 33-year-old turned cranky and depressed, and by Day 21 his physicians begged him to quit. From a lean 185 pounds, Spurlock gained 25 pounds and suffered chest pains, liver problems, and rising cholesterol and blood pressure.

In this eye-opening, entertaining, and partially hydrogenated—uh, partially animated—documentary, Spurlock travels 20 cities interviewing nutrition experts, school kids, and fast-food diehards while inhaling Big Macs and shakes, Egg McMuffins, and, of course, fries. Spurlock tries everything on the menu, Super Sizing when asked—even spewing up a Happy Meal—while putting his daily exercise on pause. Not because he’s a fast food junkie but to prove a point.

With obesity a public health emergency, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caution that Americans are eating themselves to death. To illustrate, Spurlock films himself turning blotchy and lethargic from his month of excess while he investigates the popularity of the fast food habit. He interviews school kids living on cookies and fries, skinny Don Gorske eating his 10,000th Big Mac (a daily ritual), and a surgeon performing a gastric bypass on an obese patient. And an animation of the making of Chicken McNuggets inspires us to seek food elsewhere.

With 30,000 restaurants worldwide feeding 46 million people daily, McDonald’s was an obvious choice. The global icon sets dietary trends for kids, adults, and the food industry, and is also in a position to change them. Recently, the fast food giant announced it is downsizing portions and even rethinking its ingredients. And not a moment too soon. Currently two bills before Congress would require restaurants to provide nutritional information, and the FDA may soon require disclosure of trans fatty acids.

Like filmmaker Michael Moore, Spurlock is bringing the documentary into mainstream Cineplex entertainment. Super Size Me scooped the Sundance Documentary Director award, and the high-calorie motion picture will be broadcast on the A&E channel sometime after its limited release in theaters this month.

Even Don Gorske limits himself to one Happy Meal per day. So is Spurlock’s experiment extreme? A New Hampshire woman thinks so. Following an equally unusual 30-day McDiet, she intends to lose weight by sticking with healthier McDonald entrées like salads and chicken sandwiches, to prove that diet and health are a choice.

But whatever your take—or takeout—Super Size Me offers plenty of food for thought.