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"Super Size Me" vs. "Fat Head": Diet, Health, Calories vs. Carbohydrates, etc.
bamccaig
Member #7,536
July 2006
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A couple of months ago I noticed that "Super Size Me", a movie about the alleged harm of fast food (and similar foods) and a guy that allegedly suffered health defects after living on only McDonald's food for a month, was available on Netflix [in Canada] and I decided to watch it for the first time.

I used to praise fast food, and McDonald's in particular, and have basically eaten some form of fast food almost daily for years (at one time I even consumed McDonald's on a near daily basis for months to years). I've always been thin, and have remained thin, despite a sudden surge of fast food once I started work and had money to spend every lunch break. I'm approximately 5'9" (~176.26 cm) and according to my scale I currently weigh approximately 127 lbs on Earth (~57.6 kg). I've been consistently between 120 lbs and 135 lbs (54.4 kg and 61.2 kg) for years now (I have never knowingly been over that to date).

I really enjoyed "Super Size Me" and was "enlightened" by what it demonstrated. I believed it, and found Morgan Spurlock entertaining and informative, believing him to be a trustworthy source for information, and even found myself wanting to watch further documentaries by him. I like him as a filmmaker. The film alleges that in fewer than 30 days of eating only McDonald's food (his rules required him to try everything on the menu at least once) his health was significantly impacted, to the point that his medical advisers and friends feared for his life.

I enjoyed the film, despite being a significant consumer of fast food, and after watching a few more documentaries, whose titles I didn't memorize, regarding the food industry in the USA (basically how they allegedly farm livestock, and use chemical agents and processes to combine good meat with what a butcher would consider "garbage", to feed our families with), I became disgusted with fast food and started to boycott it (I still eat fast food regularly, in part because I'm too lazy to prepare lunches, but I've been primarily sticking to Harvey's, a Canadian franchise that I naively assume is the lesser of evils).

Today I randomly stumbled across "Fat Head", a documentary by Tom Naughton, which is boastfully a direct response to "Super Size Me", claiming practically the opposite: while fast food isn't really good for you, it is entirely possible to eat nothing else and remain healthy, and even lose weight, and without feeling depressed/drained as Spurlock claimed he felt during his experiment in "Super Size Me".

Initially the latter film felt like it was made by the fast food (or related) industries to combat the potentially harmful effects of "Super Size Me" on industry, but over time the skepticism faded into open mindedness. The film even contains a disclaimer in the credits to ease skepticism, though that doesn't really prove anything.

I'd be very interested in the Allegro community's collective knowledge, experiences, and opinions on the subject. If you haven't watch these films yet then I challenge you to watch them. The former basically alleges to confirm the commonly accepted premise that fast food, and animal fatty foods like beef and pork, are fattening and generally bad for you (i.e., a serious heart disease risk, among other things), while the latter alleges that the scientific data claims just the opposite: the animal fats that we all basically love are more healthy than the allegedly chemically extracted plant oils that we're all now recommended to consume instead, and that by managing caloric and carbohydrate intake there's no known physical evidence to suggest that eating fast food is really all that bad for you; and that grains and starches, such as bread and pasta, are actually worse for you than fatty meats (the latter film basically claims that carbohydrates are actually broken down into sugar, such that popular sources of grain and cereal that are advertised as more healthy, even by government agencies, actually end up being converted into sugars in the human body).

Both films are rather interesting and persuasive, yet they appear to contradict one another. It suggests that somebody is lying. Since I don't employ a team of researchers/fact checkers I'm opting to query the Allegro community.

Do you favour either film or consider them both bullshit? Also, if you want, chime in with your own personal experience regarding weight/health management and your thoughts regarding the ideas presented in the films.

Elias
Member #358
May 2000

I lost about 10kg (22 pounds) in 2011, simply by stopping to drink 2 liters of coke each day (which I did every day for about 10 years before). I'm still somewhat overweight but this year I only gained a little weight again so far, instead of loosing more.

Anyway, I'm proof that you can live off only fast food :)

--
"Either help out or stop whining" - Evert

bamccaig
Member #7,536
July 2006
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Of particular interest is that "Fat Head" refutes the lipid hypothesis, which at least in North America I think everybody believes wholeheartedly at this point.

Specter Phoenix
Member #1,425
July 2001
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Well it isn't just McDonald's that is bad. There was a health show on a while back where they had people that would eat just one thing. A guy that ate nothing but pizza starting having health issues because our bodies need different nutrients to survive. If you are only eating one thing or one type of food you are neglecting your body. I don't believe any documentary movies anymore as they are only made to make the creator's point of view look good.

"Can't a man even talk to himself without being interrupted?" -Krull(1983)
"Through vengence I was born. Through war I was trained. Through love I was found. Through death I was released. Through release I was given a purpose." -- Specter Phoenix
"Programming == AWESOME the rest is just tools to accomplish it."
END OF LINE

gnolam
Member #2,030
March 2002
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if energy in > energy out:
   gain weight
elsif energy in < energy out:
   lose weight
else:
   weight stays constant

And that's pretty much all there is to it. :P

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bamccaig
Member #7,536
July 2006
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@gnolam: That is what I've always believed (which holds true, since I don't eat much in a typical day), but the latter of films presents alleged science that complicates matters. :)

type568
Member #8,381
March 2007
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If you add that your shit is also energy out, molang is 100% right.

MiquelFire
Member #3,110
January 2003
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I think the point of the films goes beyond changing weight, so gnolam's routine is only part of the program (the easy part).

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BAF
Member #2,981
December 2002
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Supersize Me was utterly stupid. Any drastic diet change (especially to the ridiculous extreme he went to) is going to have ill effect on you.

The only thing the movie shows is that it's stupid to begin eating fast food for every meal, accepting every upsize offered, and to eat to the point of being physically ill (and then eating some more).

You should make a documentary where you drink nothing but beer for a month and show all the health complications from doing so. Then get rich off it.

>:(

Bob
Free Market Evangelist
September 2000
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What complicates matters is that it's hard to measure "energy in" and "energy out", as it turns out.

For example, thermal regulation requires significant energy. Going to the (cold) pool and swimming will result in significantly more energy out than doing the exact same movements (with the same resistances) outside of water simply because your body is going to spend an extra 300 kcal/hour just to stay warm.

Similarly, how many calories are in protein? A calorimeter will say 4 kcal. But your body can only process 3.2-3.5 of that.

And that's not even factoring different people's different metabolic rates.

--
- Bob
[ -- All my signature links are 404 -- ]

Specter Phoenix
Member #1,425
July 2001
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Bob said:

And that's not even factoring different people's different metabolic rates.

Yeah, mine is as slow as a slug. I need to get healthy and do what is needed to increase it more.

"Can't a man even talk to himself without being interrupted?" -Krull(1983)
"Through vengence I was born. Through war I was trained. Through love I was found. Through death I was released. Through release I was given a purpose." -- Specter Phoenix
"Programming == AWESOME the rest is just tools to accomplish it."
END OF LINE

relpatseht
Member #5,034
September 2004
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Yes, as Baf stated, the major problem with Super Size Me in scientific terms was the condition of self-imposed challenge stating he was required to accept and then attempt to eat the largest portions offered.

All he really "proved" was eating until you literally vomit will likely degrade your overall health. Basically, the entire documentary is pandering to knee jerk reactions and stupid people looking for a scapegoat.

Mark Oates
Member #1,146
March 2001
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Off and on, I go through periods where I'll eat a diet that consists only of vegetables, whole grains, fruit, water, and some fish or chicken. When I'm "on" the diet, I notice that it takes several days for the benefits to come on. To me, the benefits are 1) more energy, and 2) better resistance to sickness and/or other odd little body pains (indigestion, etc). Also quicker recovery times for aches from exercise. The differences are more apparent when I break from the diet, it shows up quickly.

Compared to the kind of energy that you get from caffeine, energy from a good diet feels more... hmm... thorough and pervasive, and doesn't include spikes (though spikes can be good if you need them) or crashes - the energy baseline is higher overall. I wouldn't mind eating a diet like that all the time. Once you get used to it, it's just as delicious as a Big Mac w/cheese. And like the energy, the deliciousness has a higher baseline, though fewer spikes.

However, in general the way I view my diet is like this: I wish I lived in a society where it would be easier to regularly eat a diet like that, and to me, that's the heart of the problem. The food companies give all the advantages of convenience/visibility/availability to unhealthy food.

Where I live, eating what I would consider a normal food diet isn't "normal" - I live in Oklahoma, USA right now, and basically everyone I see around here is overweight. As a test two weeks ago, I went to the big grocery store in town and found that some 80% of the store was sugar/salt added products. And these products are almost always cheaper to buy and easier to prepare - a candy bar being an extreme example. A few days later I was at the smaller "poor part of town" grocery store, and I found one... one cereal that wasn't all sugar. Even the cereals that were marketed as healthy were sugar based. Vitamin Water? It's a sugar drink! (When I came back to Oklahoma after having lived in Albuquerque, NM for years, it made things a lot more obvious.)

On the flip side, wanting to eat a diet that isn't based on these products is "non-normal." At the very back of the big store in a little corner is the health section that contains foods without added crap. McDonald's and other fast foods are convenient, and when you're in a hurry, you typically don't have much of a choice around here.

Arthur Kalliokoski
Second in Command
February 2005
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But they measure (kilo)calories by burning the food in an insulated container. Cellulose is indigestible to us and doesn't turn to fat, but burns just fine. :P Also, I saw some rumor (?) on the internet about a year ago that some scientists found that mice get fatter from corn syrup than table sugar with the same caloric content.

They all watch too much MSNBC... they get ideas.

LennyLen
Member #5,313
December 2004
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Compared to the kind of energy that you get from caffeine

You don't get any energy from caffeine. It just effects neurotransmitter output so that you get the effects of increased energy intake. But since it increases the amount of energy that your body uses without contributing any in your intake, the net effect is a loss of energy.

Derezo
Member #1,666
April 2001
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Since starting college I've been eating fast food a lot. Predominantly Chinese buffet's and pizza, with the occasional burger of death. I've happily gained 7lbs around my gut over the past 18 months.

At home I eat a lot of yoghurt (plain, 6%, sometimes 750ml/day) and fruits, fruit juices, kale smoothies, nuts, etc. I eat pretty vegetarian at home. A couple years back I was strictly vegetarian, but it's really difficult for the reasons Mark pointed out.

gnolam's logic is pretty straight forward when it comes to weight, but overall health is a little more complicated.

I watched SuperSize Me and thought it was a brilliant idea for a documentary. I didn't fully buy it, but meh.

If you're looking for another food documentary, check out "Fat, Sick, and nearly dead". The guy drinks nothing but juice from a juicer for a couple months and sees a lot of improvement. I was told about the movie from a dealer at the poker room here. He started the diet in the movie on January 1st and had lost over 60lbs and was full of energy by the 42nd day (which was when he talked about it). He was noticeably thinner and happier. He said he slept better and felt like a whole new person.

video

"He who controls the stuffing controls the Universe"

gnolam
Member #2,030
March 2002
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Derezo said:

The guy drinks nothing but juice from a juicer for a couple months and sees a lot of improvement.

Aaand here come the "Dr. Frank's Frog Legs, Figs and Flatulence" diets. :P
Any diet works for losing weight. Seriously. Turns out, the important thing about a diet is simply having a regimen - it makes you a) actually think about how much you eat and b) limit yourself.

And while getting a deficiency disorder in the developed world is actually freaking hard, an "only $foo" diet is the way to do it. :P

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AMCerasoli
Member #11,955
May 2010
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Here in my city McDonal's and BurgerKing's are not very frequents, I don't know about Madrid or Barcelona, though. Here we have our own kind of fast food (not so fast), but it's almost always based on fish. Our own chains are cheaper than buying at McDonal's or BurgerKing's may time, in the sense of quantity and obviously quality. So you see those chains rarely full (maybe at night, 60% kids), but the rest local chains are full all day.

If I go to one of those Americans chains of food once a year I think I would be exaggerating... :o When I was a kid I remember I loved to go to McDonal's, though.

Jonatan Hedborg
Member #4,886
July 2004
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gnolam said:

if energy in > energy out:
gain weight
elsif energy in < energy out:
lose weight
else:
weight stays constant
And that's pretty much all there is to it.

QFT.

I've (so far) lost about 22kg (at a rate of nearly 1kg/week - it was faster initially, and has slowed down a bit now) by simply making sure the math adds up correctly.

Samuel Henderson
Member #3,757
August 2003
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Didn't the guy from Supersize Me also stop exercising though? Whether or not that was to emphasize the effects of the fast food or just to mimic a sedentary lifestyle was never made clear to me.

I used to work at McDonald's when I was in high school. I'd usually eat at least one (sometimes two!) meal(s) there every other day and I actually lost some weight. I think that is mainly attributed to being much more active. I'd walk to work from school and while at work I'd be constantly on my feet, moving around, and lifting heavy things.

Of course now I'm sure if I ate that much fast food I'd be in trouble. I never walk anywhere and I sit around on my duff for > 90% of the day.

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Matthew Leverton
Supreme Loser
January 1999
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Yes, the Super Size guy had two variables with no control: less exercise and more fast food.

Arthur Kalliokoski
Second in Command
February 2005
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This guy is asking for donations and help on YouTube, but in reality all that needs to happen is for the person bringing him food to stop doing that.

video

They all watch too much MSNBC... they get ideas.

Mark Oates
Member #1,146
March 2001
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A long time ago, I wrote a blog about Documentaries and Authenticity. It mentions Super Size Me, and is more directly related to the topic than my previous post.

Sirocco
Member #88
April 2000
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gnolam's first post is, in essence, all there is to it.

The only thing you need to be concerned with is the periodic metabolic drops you'll suffer (and I do mean suffer) as you age. Once you hit ~25 years of age, you need to get used to the idea of eating a little less food. Every five years, make another drop. If you don't, you'll gain weight. I'm closing in on 40 now, and I'm down to two meals a day, neither of which are particularly large. I could eat more, but then I'd have to offset that with more activity, and I do so cherish my time spent on the couch playing games.

The other nasties are thyroid problems and sleep disorders that tend to manifest themselves in your early 30s.

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Mark Oates
Member #1,146
March 2001
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Yea, getting old sucks. Just coming out of my 20s I could eat anything I wanted. Now that 30s are here, I noticed that the things I eat actually make a difference in the way I feel. :(

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