SuperSize Me

Supersize Me
Katilyn Pangborn
HEALTH 1020-SP13

[ABSTRACT: In attempt to dramatize the human condition of the fat epidemic in America, Morgan Spurlock created an experiment in which he ate only McDonalds food for one-month time. This is a deconstruction of his film and the nutrition perspectives that are present throughout his montage.]

The documentary Supersize Me is an experiment completed by Morgan Spurlock to emphasize the fat epidemic that is currently plaguing the United States. Spurlock is an independent filmmaker with a Bachelor of the Fine Arts that he received in 1993 from New York University, he wrote, directed and was the main star of this documentary. This film was produced in 2004 in various locations of the United States. Spurlock would eat at McDonalds everyday for one month; this experiment had 5 simple rules:
– He must fully eat 3 meals from McDonalds every day; breakfast, lunch, and dinner
– He must consume every item on the McDonalds menu at least once throughout these 30 days.
– He must only consume items throughout these 30 days that are on the McDonalds menu. No outside consumption was allowed.
– He must supersize the meal when offered, but only when offered.
– He will walk only as much as the average American– 5,000 steps a day.
The central theme of this film was to point out how unhealthy large portions of American’s eat, as well as how unhealthy their diets are when lacking in exercise, known as the “fat epidemic”. Throughout this film Spurlock documented how the fast-food industry encourages poor nutrition that takes a dramatic toll on its consumers for its own profit. These themes are strongly applicable today as we continue to see the decreasing cost of fast food and the ever-increasing cost of produce and organic, healthy goods. In America, as a nation we continue to eat fast food and blame its effects on our bodies on the industry and neglect our own personal responsibility. There are many factors that have caused the “fat epidemic” although the three that will be highlighted here are, variety in meals, nutrient density/ caloric content, and limited exercise.
Nutrition Concepts

The foods that we consume should be balanced and moderated, we should aim to consume a variety of foods through the five major food groups each day (Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Dairy and Protein), while limiting our intake of sugars and fats. Our foods should all be functional, in that they provide health benefits beyond just the nutrients that they contain. Through adding variety to our foods we are able to ensure that our diet contains an adequate amount of nutrients. In balancing our diet not only should we be balancing the variety of foods we consume, we also need to be cautious the amount of food we intake and balance that to our energy that we expend. A healthy diet is one that is:
– Varied, rich in fiber, includes some fish, low in animal fat and trans fat (Wardlaw, Smith, & Collene, 2013)
The diet that was consumed in the film Supersize Me, was none of these; Spurlock’s diet had little variety, it was very low in vegetables and fruit (most days none were eaten), low in fiber, and high in both animal and trans fat. The majority of his meals were the same as the meal before it, and the day’s preceding it, with little balance of nutrient rich foods. The best way to avoid the diet mistakes made with in this film is to formulate a healthy diet plan that incorporates the five food groups highlighting fruits and vegetables as they are nutrient rich, low in calories. No one-food group contains all of the nutrients needed to maintain a healthy body, and variety is the best way to meet your body’s needs (“How to build a balanced meal,” 2012).

Limited Exercise:
Throughout the film Spurlock completed a maximum of 5,000 steps per day, in line with what the average American completes (Department of Exercise and Wellness, Arizona State University, 2004). As of 2009, 68% of US citizens are overweight, meaning across America, every state has a minimum of 15% of obese adults in its populace (Wardlaw, Smith, & Collene, 2013). The leading cause for obesity today is a positive energy balance, when more food (energy intake) is consumed than the amount of energy that is expended, causing weight gain. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 5 days a week, to provide maximum health benefits.
According to the American Heart Association (“Get moving: Easy,” 2012), studies have shown that for every hour of walking your life expectancy increases by two hours. The American Heart Association has broken down the extra costs that are incurred with decreased physical activity, including: higher risk of cardiac diseases and stroke, increased likelihood of depression, decreased weight control, increased stress, and increased health care costs annually. On the contrary, physical activity has many benefits including: heart healthy habits that help manage and reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, boosts the immune system, helps prevent bone loss, manages stress by pumping endorphins, helps manage sleep – which helps decrease many other health risks, and helps improve self-image.
Get started! Exercise doesn’t have to be tough, starting off from a sedentary state walking or other low impact exercises like yoga or hiking to get going. Find a partner or team to get moving with, start and end with 5 – 10 minutes stretching and have fun! Just increasing your heart rate with these low impact activities will get your heart pumping and help you progress to activities that are more physically demanding. A good way to make sure you are not over exerting yourself is to make sure you are still able to talk, and form sentences while exercising (“talk test”). The best form of exercise is one you want to continue! (Wardlaw, Smith, & Collene, 2013)

Calorie Content and Nutrient Density:
The film Supersize Me highlights the common issues faced with eating out, food that is large in portion size, extremely high in caloric content, and very low in nutrient density. A meal that is nutrient dense as one that provides a large number of nutrients to a relatively small number of calories. On the contrary, a meal that is low nutrient dense is energy dense. It is said that a meal that is varied with colorful items is more nutrient than one that has very few colors. Through out this film we see Spurlock eat approximately 5000 calories each day – nearly double what an active male should be eating on a regular basis. MyPlate calorie guidelines suggest that a sedentary adult consume 2400 calories for a male, and only 1800 for a female. When active these guidelines increase by 600 calories per day to make up for the negative calorie balance incurred from exercise (Wardlaw, Smith, & Collene, 2013).

Things we should watch for when we go out to eat are items that have empty calories – foods that energy dense instead of nutrient dense. The majority of foods that we will see when eating out that are empty calories are sodas; foods that are greasy or fat fried, and foods high in sodium. Just by being aware of what is not healthy, we can begin to formulate a healthy eating plan. Its ok to splurge occasionally and go for that Big Mac, but aim to eat salads or other nutrient dense foods for the reminder of the day, one bad day od eating will not destroy a healthy eating habit unless it is intentionally continued.

What I Learned:
Despite the experiment that Spurlock performed being overdramatized by eating out every single day, for every meal, there was a lot to learn from his experience. Throughout this film I was reminded of how grossly unhealthy eating out, specifically at fast food restaurants, is in relation to eating a home cooked meal. Foods that are prepared within the home tend to have fresher ingredients, as they are less likely to be mass produced and fast frozen. As well, foods that are prepared within the home greatly enables the consumer to practice portion control, where as at a fast food chain we are eagerly set up to “supersize” our meal to an outrageous portion that can equate to an entire days caloric consumption in one meal.

My point of view on eating out was greatly frazzled to the point of banishing all fast food from ever reaching my plate again. Watching this film made me sick to my stomach, and I realized how disgusting many of the items that I occasionally consume are, chicken nuggets for example – I was flabbergasted when I saw the portion of the film that showed how chicken nuggets are processed – nudging me to swear off meat that I have not cooked all together. Currently I eat out about once a week, and eight times out of 10 that would be at a fast food restaurant. I will be incorporating the health factors that I have studied throughout this semester, and through this film, and closely investigating what I consume, watching for foods that have higher nutrient density, and proper portion control. As well, I am going to start wearing a pedometer to make sure that on days that I don’t hit the gym.

Works Cited:
American heart association recommendations for physical activity in adults. (2013, Mar 26). Retrieved 2013, April 20 from
Eat right: Get your plate in shape. (2012). Retrieved 2013, April 21 from
Get moving: Easy tips to get active!. (2012, Nov 15). Retrieved 2013, April 20 from
Getting started – tips for long-term success. (2012, Nov 15). Retrieved 2013, April 20 from—Tips-for-Long-term-Success_UCM_307979_Article.jsp
How to build a balanced meal. (2012, Dec).
Physical activity improves quality of life. (2012, Nov 15). Retrieved 2013, April 21 from
The price of inactivity. (2012, Nov 15). Retrieved 2013, April 21 from
Department of Exercise and Wellness, Arizona State University. (2004). How many steps/day are enough? Preliminary pedometer indices for public health. Sports Med , 34.
Wardlaw, G., Smith, A., & Collene, A. (2013). M. Maas (Ed.), Contemporary Nutrition, A Functional Approach (3 ed.).