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Super Size Me

Super Size Me

Tagline: "A film of epic portions."
Directed by Morgan Spurlock
Produced by Morgan Spurlock
Written by Morgan Spurlock
Starring Morgan Spurlock
Music by Doug Ray
Steve Horowitz
Michael Parrish
Cinematography Scott Ambrozy
Editing by Julie "Bob" Lombardi
Distributed by Showtime Networks, Inc.
Release date(s) May 7, 2004
Running time 100 minutes
Language English
Official website
All Movie Guide profile
IMDb profile

Super Size Me is an Academy Award-nominated 2004 documentary film, directed by and starring Morgan Spurlock, an American independent filmmaker. The film is closely linked to Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, a book written somewhat earlier, that examines the impact of the fast food industry and the huge agribusiness companies on the health of the individual consumer. Spurlock's film follows a 30-day time period (February 2003) during which he subsists entirely on food and items purchased exclusively from McDonald's, and the film documents this lifestyle's drastic effects on Spurlock's physical and psychological well-being and explores the fast food industry's corporate influence, including how it encourages poor nutrition for its own profit. During the filming, Spurlock dined at McDonald's restaurants three times per day, sampling every item on the chain's menu at least once. He consumed an average of 5,000 calories (the equivalent of 9.26 Big Macs) per day during the experiment.

In February 2005, Super Size Me Educationally Enhanced DVD edition was released. It is an edited version of the film designed to be integrated into a high school health curriculum.

MSNBC has also broadcast an hour long version of the film, in addition to the regular version.

Before launching this experiment, Spurlock, age 32 at the time the movie was filmed in 2003, ate a varied diet but always ate vegan evening meals to appease his then-girlfriend (now wife) (she is a vegan chef), was healthy and slim, and stood 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) tall with a body weight of 185.5 lb (84.1 kg). After thirty days, he gained 24.5 lb (11.1 kg), a 13% body mass increase, and his Body Mass Index rose from 23.2 (within the 'healthy' range of 19-25) to 27 ('overweight'). He also experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction, and liver damage. It took Spurlock fourteen months to lose the weight he gained.

The stated driving factor for Spurlock's investigation was the increasing spread of obesity throughout U.S. society, which the Surgeon General has declared "epidemic," and the corresponding lawsuit brought against McDonald's on behalf of two overweight girls, who, it was alleged, became obese as a result of eating McDonald's food. Spurlock points out that although the lawsuit against McDonald's failed (and subsequently many state legislatures have legislated against products liability actions against producers and distributors of "fast food"), much of the same criticism leveled against the tobacco companies applies to fast food franchises, although it could be argued that fast food is not physiologically addictive in the same sense as nicotine.



As the film begins, Spurlock, is physically above average, as attested to by five doctors (a cardiologist, a gastroenterologist, a general practitioner, a internist, and a nutritionist) whom he enlists to track his health during the month-long binge. All five predict the "McMonth" will have unwelcome effects on his body, but none expect anything too drastic, one citing the human body as being "extremely adaptable."

Spurlock starts the month with breakfast near his home in Manhattan, where there are an average of four McDonald's (and 66,950 residents, and twice as many commuters) per square mile (2.6 km²). He also elects to ride in taxis more often, since he aims to keep the distances he walks in line with the 5,000 steps (approximately two miles) walked per day by the average American. Spurlock has several stipulations which govern his eating habits:

  • He must fully eat three McDonald's meals per day
  • He must sample every item on the McDonald's menu at least once over the course of the 30 days
  • He must only ingest items on the menu. This includes bottled water. Any and all outside consumption of food is prohibited.
  • He must eat a McDonald's salad every tenth meal
  • He must "Super Size" his meal whenever, and only when, the option is offered to him.
  • He will attempt to walk about as much as a typical American, based on a suggested figure of 5,000 steps per day[1], but this was not firm as he walked relatively more while in New York than Houston.

Day 2 brings Spurlock's first Super Size meal, which happens to be a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal, which takes him close to an hour to eat. He experiences steadily increasing "McStomachaches" during the process, which culminates in Spurlock vomiting in the parking lot.

After five days Spurlock has gained almost 10 pounds (4.5 kg). It is not long before he finds himself with a feeling of depression, and he finds that his bouts of depression, lethargy, and headaches are relieved by a McDonald's meal. One doctor describes him as "addicted." He has soon gained another 10 pounds, putting his weight at 203 lb (92 kg). By the end of the month he weighs about 210 pounds (95.5 kg), an increase of almost 25 pounds (11 kg). Because he could only eat McDonald's food for a month, Spurlock refused to take any medication at all. at one weigh-in Morgan actually lost 1 lb. from the previous weigh-in much to the surprise of those supervising, but it was hypothesized by a nutrionist that he lost muscle (which weighs more than fat.)

Spurlock's girlfriend, Alexandra Jamieson, attests to the fact that Spurlock has lost much of his energy and sex drive during his experiment. It was not clear at the time if Spurlock would be able to complete the full month of the high-fat, high-carbohydrate diet, and friends and family began to express worry.

Around day 20, Spurlock experiences heart palpitations. Consultation with his concerned internist, Dr. Daryl Isaacs, reveals that Spurlock's liver is "pâté," and the doctor advises him to stop what he is doing immediately to avoid any serious health problems. He compares Spurlock with the protagonist in the movie Leaving Las Vegas who deliberately drinks himself to death over a similar time period. Despite this warning, Spurlock decides to continue the experiment. He later stated in an interview that despite worries and objections from most of the people close to him, it was his older brother who tipped the balance with his remark, "Morgan, people eat this shit their whole lives. Do you really think it'll kill you after 9 more days?"

Spurlock makes it to day 30 and achieves his goal. In thirty days, he "Supersized" his meals nine times along the way (five of which were in Texas). All three doctors are surprised at the degree of deterioration in Spurlock's health. One of them states that the irreversible damage done to his liver could cause a heart attack even if he lost all the weight gained during the experiment. He notes that he has eaten more McDonald's meals than an average American should eat in 8 years.


Text at the conclusion of the movie states that it took Spurlock five months to lose 20 pounds (9 kg) and another nine months to return to his original weight. His girlfriend (now wife) Alexandra Jamieson, a vegan chef, began supervising his recovery with her "detox diet," which became the basis for her book, entitled The Great American Detox Diet.[2]

Alongside Spurlock's personal travails are interviews and sections detailing various factors that could account for the high obesity rates in the United States. He discusses the lack of healthy food available in many U.S. schools, the "luring in" of youth by advertising and McDonald's kid-friendly play parks and clowns, and the relationship between food companies' stockholder profit and their customer health concerns.

Like Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, the film alleges there is a dark side of the fast food industry. "The bottom line, they're a business, no matter what they say, and by selling you unhealthy food, they make millions, and no company wants to stop doing that." The movie ends with a rhetorical question, "Who do you want to see go first, you or them?" with a cartoon tombstone for Ronald McDonald ("1954-2012") as a backdrop. The cartoon of the tombstone originated in The Economist where it appeared in an article addressing the ethics of marketing toward children.[3]

In the DVD release of the movie, a short epilogue was added about McDonald's recent emphasis of healthier menu items such as salads. It is shown that these can contain even more calories than hamburgers, if the customer piles cheese and dressing on them. It has also been shown that, with enough cheese and dressing on them, salads can contain more calories than an entire wedding cake.


The film opened in the U.S. on May 7, 2004, and grossed a total of $28,548,087 worldwide, making it the 7th highest grossing documentary film of all time.[4] It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary but lost to the film Born into Brothels.


Critics of the film, such as McDonald's, argue that the results were because the author intentionally consumed an average of 5,000 calories per day and did not exercise, and that the results would have been the same regardless of the source of the overeating.[citation needed]

After the video was put out in theaters, McDonald's took the Super Size option off of their menus, but they still have the large, which is almost exactly what the Super Size was. McDonald's stated that their actions for taking Super Size off the menu did not have anything to do with Spurlock's documentary.

The film addresses such objections by highlighting that a part of the reason for Spurlock's deteriorating health was not just the high caloric intake but also the high quantity of fat relative to vitamins and minerals in the McDonald's menu, which is similar in that regard to the nutritional content of the menus of most other U.S. fast-food chains or processed, frozen, or canned foods.

About 1/3 of his calories came from sugar. His nutritionist, Bridget Bennett RD, chided him about his excess intake of sugar from "milkshakes and cokes". It is revealed toward the end of the movie that over the course of the diet, he consumed "over 30 pounds of sugar from their food".[5] The nutritional side of the diet was not fully explored in the film because of the closure, during the 30 days, of the clinic which was monitoring this aspect. The movie does not discuss the availability of diet soft-drinks (save only to mention that they are but one of nine sugar-free menu items), which could have greatly reduced his excess caloric consumption, nor does it discuss his caffeine levels, which could also have contributed to his moodiness and irregular energy.

Spurlock claimed he was trying to imitate what an average diet for a regular eater at McDonald's, for a person who would get little to no exercise, would do to them. It is possible that 5,000 calories per day is an average diet for a typical consumer of McDonald's or any other fast food source, despite the fact that the average adult male only requires 2,000 calories per day. However, it is unlikely that many McDonald's customers eat there three times per day. Morgan said that he was eating in thirty days the amount of fast food most nutritionists suggest someone should eat in eight years.[6] Spurlock did theorize during the course of the film, however, that the average McDonald's consumer likely wasn't eating other, healthier foods in the interim.

many have deabted over whether or not Morgan's vomitting on day 2 after consuming a supersized double quarter pounder with cheese meal was intentional


Subsequent to the showing of the film at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, the Supersize fries and beverage were retired from the menu and McDonald's replaced them with healthier foods, though McDonald's denied that this was in reaction to the movie. In Summer 2006, Super Size beverage was brought back under the name 'Summer Size.' It is unknown if it will remain permanently, though. The corporation did, however, issue a press release on their website, denouncing Spurlock's film and blaming the filmmaker for being a part of the problem, and not the solution. Moragn also mentions in the documentary that despite the addition of healthier options around the same time McDonald's also added the McGriidles breakfast sandwich to their menu Morgan called it- one of the most unhealthy sandwiches they've ever made.

The film received the highest-ever opening for a documentary in Australia, and within two weeks of release, it sparked a massive negative ad campaign, with McDonald's admitting the essential unhealthiness of their food but blaming the customer for overindulging. Russo stated to News Limited that customers had been surprised that the company had not addressed the claims. McDonald's placed a 30-second ad spot in the opening trailers of all viewings of Super Size Me and also offered to pay movie theaters to allow McDonald's employees to distribute apples to patrons as they exited the film.[citation needed]

In the United Kingdom, McDonald's placed a brief ad in the trailers of showings of the film, pointing to the website (archive). The ads simply stated, "See what we disagree with. See what we agree with."

In April 2006, when British newspaper The Guardian distributed a free DVD of the film, McDonald's placed a full-page advertisement on the back, which included a telephone number for complaints.

This movie's creation gave Spurlock an idea: a show entitled 30 Days, which now airs on the American channel FX, British channel More 4, and formely on Australian Network Ten.

Alternative experiments

Various similar experiments were made in response to Super Size Me, in an effort to provide alternative scenarios or refute the impressions made by the film. These experiments, however, were mainly balanced diets and healthy eating programs, capable of demonstrating that it is possible to eat from the McDonald's menu without upsetting one's health. At the same time, Super Size Me and these similar experiments fall short of illustrating the healthiness of a typical McDonald's consumer's choice (the quintessential "burger, Coke and fries" meal). Alternate studies do not address the alterations that occurred to Spurlock's blood chemistry, but Super Size Me did not show that this was a special characteristic of fast-food diets, and not high-calorie diets in general or the lack of exercise.

  • At Linköping University Swedish scientist Fredrik Nyström repeated the experiment under laboratory conditions, raising the calorie intake by fast food to 6000 calories per day for seven of his students. Physical exercise was discouraged; participants in the study were even issued free bus passes in the hopes that they would not walk even short distances. The calories also did not have to come exclusively from fast food per se, as long as most of the calories still came in the form of saturated fats. Students who fell short of their intake were given high-calorie shakes at bedtime. The results of the experiment were different than those in Spurlock's film. While the participants gained 5-15% extra weight during the study, and complained of feeling "tired and bloated", no mood swings were observed. "Significant" changes in the participants' livers were observed, but Nyström noted that these changes were "never even close to dangerous". Nyström ultimately decided that individual variations in metabolism could have a massive effect on a subject's response to such a diet. He also conjectured that Spurlock's apparently extreme reaction to his own experiment might have been due to undiagnosed liver problems, or his partially vegan diet, which rendered his metabolism ill-suited to deal with a diet that high in carbohydrates and saturated fat.[7]
  • In New Jersey, documentary filmmaker Scott Caswell also performed a pro-McDonald's experiment. The results of his diet can be seen in his movie, Bowling for Morgan. It can be seen for free at Like Spurlock, Caswell consumed only McDonald's food but generally opted for the healthier choices and did not gorge himself—a fact that Caswell often compares to the overeating done by Spurlock, who was often seen forcing himself to eat when he was not hungry. Over the course of the experiment, he lost 20 pounds and his cholesterol fell sharply. However, Caswell's film depicted him eating many Premium Salads from McDonald's that were not available during the making of Super Size Me. Caswell does not reveal the details of his experiment, such as what meals he eats or their nutritional content.
  • Soso Whaley, of Kensington, New Hampshire, made her own film about dieting at McDonald's, called Me and Mickey D. The film follows Whaley as she spends three 30-day periods on the diet. She lost 36 pounds, eating 2,000 calories per day at McDonald's. The film was funded by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (Whaley holds a C.E.I. fellowship). Whaley wrote, "The first time I did the diet in April 2004, I lost 10 pounds (going from 175 to 165) and lowered my cholesterol from 237 to 197, a drop of 40 points." [1]
  • Raleigh, North Carolina, resident Merab Morgan went on a 90-day diet in which she ate at McDonald's exclusively, but she limited her intake to 1,400 calories per day. She lost 37 pounds in the process.
  • San Antonio, Texas resident Deshan Woods went on a 90-day diet in which he lost nearly 14 pounds. He documented the entire experiment on his website His overall health improved while sticking to a diet mainly in burgers and fries. He stayed away from sugary drinks and stuck to non-caloric beverages instead. His average caloric intake was 2,500 calories a day, which included 130 grams of fat. His cholesterol went down about 44 points.
  • By way of comparison, the Starvation Study conducted at the University of Minnesota in 1944-45 used a starvation diet of approximately 1,570 calories per day on conscientious objectors for six months, causing an average 25% loss in body weight, simulating the loss of residents of the Warsaw Ghetto. The starvation study found for purposes of weight loss—and subsequent weight gain—it really did not matter what food was eaten: what mattered was how many calories were consumed. The focus of that study was not on blood chemistry, cholesterol, or liver function.
  • Professor James Painter, chair of Eastern Illinois University’s School of Family and Consumer Sciences, made the documentary Portion Size Me. The film follows two graduate students, one a 254-pound male and the other a 108-pound female, as they ate a fast-food diet for a month but in portions appropriate for their size. Both students lost weight and their cholesterol improved by the end of the experiment.[8]
  • Keiji Matsumoto, a civilian in Urayasu, Japan, tried to live with McDonald's food for 30 days. This trial was held twice, in 2004 and 2006, both describing his experiences in blogs, with no changes in weight and health. These experiences are made into a book (ISBN 4-3966-1268-0).
  • Norway, 2001 - The musician / performer Christoffer Schau spent several weeks in a storefront window in downtown Oslo, eating only fast food and not exercising at all. He spent his time in bed or in a chair watching tv or playing videogames. The project was called "Forfall" or "Degeneration" and aired daily on TV and radio. One could also follow Christoffer's degeneration live on the internet, where his vital functions were continuously posted. (In Norwegian )
  • Sweden, 2007 - Johan Groundstroem decided to go on a diet concisting exclusively of hamburgers. He was sponsored with free hamburgers from the Swedish fast food chain Max. In 90 days he lost weight steadlly from 127.7 kg at the start of the diet to approximately 90 kg. His blog (named Minimize Me), detailing his diet and weight loss, is available in Swedish and English.
  • The Truth About Size Zero, the reverse of this film, reflecting the dangers of undereating.

"The Smoking Fry"

Spurlock also filmed another demonstration which he called "The Smoking Fry." It can be seen in the special features of the film's DVD. While he terms it an experiment, there is no hypothesis or controls. In this demonstration, he leaves McDonald's food (an order of French Fries, a Big Mac, a Filet-O-Fish, a Chicken McGrill, and a Quarter Pounder with cheese) along with a burger and fries from a "slow food" type of restaurant in jars in order to see the rate at which the different meals decomposed. The burger and fries from the alternate restaurant decomposed quickly, as did most of the McDonald's food, with the exception of the Big Mac and the McDonald's french fries. The Big Mac lasted five weeks, after 10 weeks the documentary claims that the fries still had not begun to decompose and were mistakenly thrown out by an intern so it's unknown how long they would have lasted.[9]

Through this demonstration, Spurlock refrains from speculating on why the Big Mac and fries do not decompose more quickly. He implies by his tone that it is unnatural for food to last so long, and seems to be shunting the viewer toward the hypothesis that the decay is forestalled by preservatives detrimental to the health of McDonald's consumers, while carefully side-stepping a lawsuit over putting forward unsubstantiated claims.

See also

  • Don Gorske
  • Jared Fogle
  • Dieting
  • McDonald's
  • National Weight Control Registry
  • French Fries


  1. ^ Figure supplied by Mark Fenton, former editor Walking Magazine, in scene from movie
  2. ^ Jamieson, Alex. The Great American Detox Diet. Retrieved on 2007-05-15.
  3. ^ Spurlock, in audio commentary track
  4. ^ Documentary Movies, 1982-Present. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on 2007-05-15.
  5. ^ Scenes from movie. About 2 calories in a lb of sugar, of nearly 5000 calories consumed per day, accounts for just under 36% percent of his caloric intake
  6. ^ Spurlock, in the movie, and again on the DVD commentary track
  7. ^ Blomkvist, Martin. (2006). "Only Another 5,500 Calories to Go...". The Guardian UK. Retrieved July 30, 2007.
  8. ^ EIU Prof's 'Portion Size Me' Says Bring on the Fast Food -- In Moderation. Eastern Illinois University (2005-10-17). Retrieved on 2007-05-15.
  9. ^ Super Size Me - Fastfood Test (2006-06-23). Retrieved on 2007-05-15.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Super_Size_Me". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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