Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Perspective: Super Size Me

I remember hearing about Super Size Me, a documentary
by Morgan Spurlock, but had not seen it until a couple
of days ago.

There are a few things about it that I considered as
I watched, and I wanted to add my perspective to the
perspective he offered, and how he went about it.

First, and foremost, I want to say that have a
"conversation" about anything, is likely to be a good
thing, in general, and I think his movie certainly
encourages conversation.

However, how Morgan goes about doing what he does, in my
mind, raises some questions.

First of all, he has certain "rules" about how he is
to proceed through the experiment. The biggest of
which is that he is to eat three meals a day of McDonald's
food. Toward the end of the movie, he states that he
knows that it is unlikely that anyone would eat there
that many times during the course of the month.

Next, he will Super Size a meal whenever he is asked.
Early on this leads to a very disconcerting scene
where he gets sick, as he forces down the amount of
food he is given.

Perhaps some people will keep eating when full, but
how often will someone eat to the point of getting

Before he even begins to make his case, I wanted to
see how he set things up. It is apparent from the
things he says (such as, "I knew if I was going to
do this, I would need some serious medical supervision"),
and does (including enrolling three doctors to supervise,
and a nutritionist) that he believes that the food
will not have a positive effect. He doesn't come
out and say a negative effect, it just seems to
be inferred.

There are experiments that have been done that say
that the outcome of any experiment can often be biased
by what the perspective and expectation of the person
doing the experiment (see What the Bleep Do We Know
for conversation on this topic). If the underlying
belief he had was that the food would be bad, then it
might seem that it would help to lay the foundation to
prove his belief.

Now, add to that that another condition of his experiment
was that he had to eat everything on the menu at least
once in those 30 days, which he says he does within the
first nine days. However, despite the fact that he has
already had considerable weight gain, he still eats with
apparent abandon. At one point he is also advised to
stop consuming the sodas and shakes. It is unclear to
me as to whether he heeds that advice, as you still see
him with what appear to be sodas (despite the fact that
he said that water was acceptable, since it's on the

He could have made different choices, and even in spite
of what appears to be alarming test results, there is no
obvious move to significantly alter how he approaches
his diet. Who knows why he did what he did, but does it
speak to his wanting to make a "case," for the food being
bad, and therefore attempting to push the envelope. I
am uncertain as to whether or not he is enjoying the food,
or would make the choice, if he had a different option.

While it might seem to be a radical thing to say for most,
does going counter to to what one truly wants, or chooses
because it feels like it's their best choice, create a
discord in the body, and therefore may have encouraged
Morgan's body to react as it did? What if his body didn't
like what it wsa being given, and was trying to reject it?

Some might say that of course it was trying to reject it,
after all McDonald's food isn't good for you. However,
at one point he speaks to Don Gorske who has consumed
thousands of Big Macs (an average of at least two a day)
and it is said that his cholesterol level is normal. It
might seem contradictory to the findings, except for the
fact that two Big Macs does not a whole McDonald's menu's
effects potentially make.

During the process he does highlight the amount of
advertising in the industry, and how it approaches its
relationship with kids. I'd say this is one of the more
valuable pieces, as it might give someone cause to consider
that young kids know who Ronald McDonald is that who the
President of the US is or even who Jesus is by image. I
realize that not everyone would know who Jesus is, but for
a culture that has a high number of Christians, I did find
that an interesting detail.

I know someone who said that after seeing that movie, she
would never eat at McDonald's again. There certainly were
some unappetizing details given. It would seem to me that
there are many unappetizing things that we are consuming
these days, and if attention is drawn to it, perhaps it is
a good thing.

However, I always wonder about the stories of the 80+ year
old man or woman who drinks and smokes regularly who is
apparently healthy. What is different about them than those
who have liver or lung problems and/or get cancer? What
about those who have never smoked a cigarette in their life,
and get lung cancer (isn't that, as some would believe, "a
smoker's disease?).

We are always seeking answers. It seems to be a part of
our human make up. We always seem to want answers, to be
able to "control" and "fix" things. There are countless
books on how to do things, including a number of different
diet approaches saying that "THIS" is the ONE. However, I
am not certain (having never experimented with it, and only
coming from my observations) that there is any ONE answer
that is a "one size fits all."

Questions are raised about the motivation of money and
whose responsibility is it to address these choices and
issues. Personally I think it is very easy for us to look
outside of ourselves for answers, but not so easy to find
the answers that work for us personally. As alike as we
are, we couldn't be more different.

To me, it speaks to the need to be "true" to self, in every
way, and if something doesn't seem good for us to eat, then
we should pay attention. Are there some universal "bad"
things? I don't know. What I do know is that if we could
look within, and then LISTEN to what we get, we'd likely be
in a much better place, and likely less influenced by those
things outside of ourselves.

Having said that, there does seem to be a challenge within
our current culture to do just that. Up until the age of
eight we have no real filter, and are quite suggestible to the
environment around us. Associations that are comforting and
familiar at that young age can stay with us, unless we become
aware of them, and have a desire to make a change - and then,
find a way to make that change.

Even as adults we can be suggestible to those things that
stay in our head, or we are exposed to over and over. It's
a form of "hypnosis" that is much more common than people
realize, and depending on what the suggestion is, and where
it "fits," it might be very easy to just go "with the flow."

I often say awareness is the key...I'd say it's certainly
one of them. Another is the idea of taking that awareness
and formulating what it looks like in a world of personal
responsibility. Then, of course, acting upon it. Awareness
without some form of action could be useless.

The health care industry is currently a source of a HUGE debate
in this country. Some would argue that foods like what McDonalds
serve only add to our health issues. Maybe it does, maybe it
doesn't (look at the two a day Big Mac guy).

And while the debate is very much at hand, and the issues need to
be addressed, I can't help but wonder how much we could benefit
ourselves by being more aware of what is going on with our own
internal rhythms. What if our problems are created in some part
due to our lack of being in synch with ourselves.

What if our health care issues are the symptom of a greater
picture? In the meantime, we should definitely address how they
are handled, however, I would say that if we could start doing
more looking within, we might find ourselves in a different
place. (Just a thought...not an absolute, and certainly not THE
answer...just a question that comes to mind in this conversation).

While this conversation is helpful, I would say that many of the
questions about money and manipulation could be laid to rest if
we used the most valuable tool we have - our own inner guide. If
enough people decided that food from McDonalds (or any similar
restaurant) wasn't good for them, then maybe McDonalds would
change their offerings, or go out of business.

But, in this regard, the choice HAS to come from within. An
unconscious choice isn't always going to do the thing that
benefits us (we often don't realize where it's coming from).

Perhaps eating McDonalds is OK once in a while, perhaps you
should never eat it, perhaps you can eat it every day. The
fact is, only YOU truly know what is best for you, AND only
you can take the responsibility for doing what you need to do
for yourself.

Yes, there can be things that have an addictive quality to them.
However, that doesn't mean to shrug your shoulders and point
the finger. Taking responsibility to become aware, and make
different choices, might just seem to be one of the most difficult
things we'll ever do. We might even need some help to do it.
However, seeking the help out is up to you.

I realize that, as with most issues, there are many levels and
many perspectives, so this is in no way meant to be an entire
discussion on the topic. It is just my contribution to the mix.

What is your perspective? Please add your comments below.

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