Super Size Me Movie: Facts & Summary

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  • 0:00 Super Size Me
  • 0:50 Plot Summary
  • 2:04 Medical Controversy
  • 3:38 Patient Takeaway
  • 4:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ian Lord

Ian has an MBA and is a real estate investor, former health professions educator, and Air Force veteran.

The 2004 movie 'Super Size Me' shows the results of one man's attempt to eat nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days. In this video, we'll take look at the facts shown in the film and the controversy associated with considering the film in a scientific context.

Super Size Me

Meet Cathy. She's a nurse who works with a lot of patients. When discussing diet and nutrition with her patients, Cathy often hears them talk about or reference the 2004 movie Super Size Me. The film shows the health effects of eating only food from McDonald's restaurants for 30 days, and also makes numerous criticisms of the fast food industry, such as its marketing of incredibly large serving sizes.

As a nurse, Cathy is aware that overindulgence in fast food is a major health concern for many of her patients, but she also realizes that oversimplification of the issue for entertainment purposes is not the same as making diet decisions based on comprehensive scientific research. Let's briefly review the plot of Super Size Me with Cathy and examine some of the points of controversy that have come up from the film so she can better discuss the movie with her patients when it is brought up.

Plot Summary

Super Size Me shows how filmmaker Morgan Spurlock attempts a month-long diet consisting solely of McDonald's menu items in order to see the effects of fast food on a person's health. In a 30-day window, he must eat three complete meals from McDonald's each day. He must eat each available menu item at least once during the experiment and SuperSize the meal if it's offered by the cashier. He also attempts to limit his physical activity to no more than 5000 steps per day to closely approximate the activity of a typical American.

During his experiment Spurlock regularly met with a team of doctors, including a cardiologist, gastroenterologist, and general practitioner. He also consulted with a nutritionist and personal trainer. Throughout the period, he experienced weight gain, feelings of depression, lethargy, and a decreased sex drive. He gained 25 pounds over the course of the month.

Interspersed between his interactions with his healthcare team and meals are scenes depicting how the fast food industry markets to children. The film is highly critical of restaurant corporations that market cheap, unhealthy food to the public for high profits. The film concludes with the observation that after the movie's original release, McDonald's discontinued the SuperSize option and began to market healthier menu items, such as salads.

Medical Controversy

Cathy understands that this all seems very compelling to the average person, but there is more to the issue than what people are seeing in this documentary because it is primarily a form of entertainment rather than scientific research. The film is highly edited and shows only a portion of the meals that Spurlock ate, and the meals that are shown often depict him overeating to the point of illness. It's estimated that Spurlock ate about 5,000 calories per day, which is well above the average 2,000 calories of a healthy adult diet. The argument could be made that Spurlock's weight gain was the result of overindulgence, not simply eating fast food. Had he consumed these items in reasonable quantities, the results might have been different.

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