Fast Food and Portion Sizes

Not the usual post that shows up here, but I found an interesting article with some conclusions that came out of the Documentary “Super Size Me” by Morgan Spurlock. First off, if you haven’t seen the movie go check it out

Back to the topic at hand, the article, “Self-Experimenters: Filmmaker Gained Weight to Prove a Point about Portion Size”, is an interesting look into the aftermath of doing such an experiment as Morgan did.

Morgan Spurlock’s “really great bad idea,” as it would later be called, came to him after a gluttonous Thanksgiving meal. Jeans unbuttoned, stomach engorged with turkey—and eyeing a second helping—the 32-year-old playwright noticed on the television news that two teenage girls from New York City were suing McDonald’s for allegedly making them fat.

“It was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard of,” Spurlock recalls thinking. Until, that is, a McDonald’s spokeswoman appeared on screen to deny any link between the chain’s food and the girls’ obesity, claiming that Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets and the rest of the gang were nutritious. “That was even crazier than the lawsuit,” says Spurlock, now 37. “If it’s so nutritious, I should be able to eat it every day.”

I agree with him, most of those lawsuits against McDonalds are pretty stupid. At some point the user has to be held accountable. I will say that companies such as McDonalds can be very deceptive in their advertising and marketing, as well as statements from their spokespeople about having healthy meals. If McDonalds wants to make the statement their food is healthy, we should hold them accountable for such a statement.

To prove the statement by the spokesperson was ludicrous at best, Spurlock set out on a crazed diet of nothing but McDonalds for 30 days. If their food is healthy there should be no problem right?

But what most alarmed his physicians was the damage to his liver, which became so engorged with fat that it could have been marketed as pâté. “I expected his triglycerides would increase temporarily, his blood pressure would go up, he’d feel miserable,” said Dr. Daryl Isaacs, Spurlock’s general practitioner. “I never expected an acutely fatty liver. By the third week he had the liver of a binge alcoholic.” All three physicians ordered Spurlock to stop, but he nervously stuck it out.

Aside from the obvious issues with the diet like weight gain and cholesterol, he also experienced more severe or shall I say scary by-products of the diet such as lack of sex drive, heart palpitations, and the above issue: the liver of an alcoholic.

Spurlock’s self-experiment brought attention to unusual obesity-related illnesses. Lisa Ganjhu, Spurlock’s gastroenterologist, says the film increased public awareness of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a severe liver inflammation that is not due to alcohol but rather brought on by rapid weight gain; it is associated with insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Fredrik Nystrom, a professor of endocrinology and metabolism at Linköping University Hospital in Sweden, replicated Spurlock’s experiment with 18 subjects, nearly all of whom experienced the same rapid liver damage, but recovered after they ended the fatty diet.

It seems a diet high in crappy food can have some drastic side effects. The movie has a pretty eye opening scene where the doctor is trying to explain this phenomenon (at least at the time it was) to Spurlock and he was completely dumbfounded and surprised at the results. He recommended Spurlock stop the diet immediately. What surprised the doctor was that all estimates and best guesses assumed his cholesterol and heart issues would stop Spurlock before a bad liver would.

The other interesting thing brought up in the movie and article:

The striking documentation of his health problems put fast food purveyors on high alert. “Food portions in America have increased in parallel with rates of obesity,” Lisa Young, adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University, wrote in a recent study published in the Journal of Public Health Policy. Obesity in adults skyrocketed in the U.S. from 15 percent in 1980 to nearly 33 percent in 2004, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, putting Americans at greater risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Young says that the average daily U.S. food intake per person has increased up to 300 calories since the 1980s.

Within weeks of the movie’s May 2004 debut at the Sundance Film Festival, McDonald’s pulled Super Sizes from its menu, saying the move was designed to simplify diners’ choices. “The only thing that got McDonald’s to reduce its portions,” Young tells Scientific American, “was the publicity of the movie.”

Food portions have increased at a very close rate to obesity rates. Something confirmed by a study I read in a book by that asshole on TV… oh yea Dr. Phil. Anyways, the study mentioned looked at food portion sizes in Europe (I think specifically Great Britain and France) and America and also looked at obesity rates and average weight of adults. The study found that portion sizes in America are about 24% greater than Europe and the average weight is also about 25% greater. Something that goes right along with the study mentioned in the quote above from the article.

Anyways, my weight loss plan for the last 8 months has just been to eat less and exercise more along with getting some help from what appear to be decent sources of information (the authors of this book got a team of researchers together and poured through over 10,000 studies and research to find the best info). So far I am down 15 lbs, have a ton more energy, and I haven’t really gained any fat weight.

26 thoughts on “Fast Food and Portion Sizes

  1. “I’m not fat, its my genes”

    Yeah, right.  The gherkin in a Big Mac doesn’t count as your vegetables. (Saying that the kids and I did have Burgers and chips tonight- though home cooked- I know not any better, but we have arguements about ‘chips once a week’, and I have a 11 year old who likes sprouts!

  2. The say spinach is healthy for you, but I doubt you’d be very healthy if you ate only that for 30 days… just because anything is deemed healthy doesn’t mean you should be able to live off of it.

  3. walkerparkhill-
    You have something resembling a point, but not really.  First, your comparison is horrible.  No one would suggest that a big bowl of spinach is a balanced meal, (or even a meal.)  Fast food is presented and sold as a complete meal; I have never heard spinach farmers say the same about their product. 
    Fast food often contains elements from each food group, but too little protein in the fatty burger, too few veggies for vitamins and minerals, too little fiber in the crappy buns.  And “cheese” made out of vegetable oil. 
    After dreaming up ways to serve waste fat to their customers, many fast food companies go out of their way to make their product seem much healthier than it is.  Places like McDonalds shouldn’t be allowed to put up those little American Heart Association stickers no matter how much orange juice they sell with the Mcmuffins, or how much shitty iceberg-only salad they sell with the fries and chicken nuggets.
    I remember during the Atkins craze, some fast food places tried to jump on that bandwagon-I wonder how many livers and sets of kidneys paid the price?

  4. Great response Neil!

    LH: genetics do make a difference, but I agree it’s not a worthy excuse for the lazy that never exercise and eat enough food to feed 2 people rather than one.

  5. If you enjoyed that, look forward to his next film: Where in the world is Osama Bin Laden?
    The previews look awesome.
    – Matt

  6. Until, that is, a McDonald’s spokeswoman appeared on screen to deny any link between the chain’s food and the girls’ obesity, claiming that Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets and the rest of the gang were nutritious.

    What the spokeswoman should have said is…

    Until, that is, a McDonald’s spokeswoman appeared on screen to point out the link between their poor upbringing and the girls’ lack of self restraint, claiming that Big Macs, Chicken McNuggets and the rest of the gang were full of crap and everyone knows it.

  7. he is in las Vegas probably or may be he is chilling out with George in DC playing it old homo school monkey vs donkey style lol
    any way i liked the movie

  8. You don’t have to live off Big Macs at MickyD.  You can have a small burger and a salad for healthier alternative.  All their info is on their website, you can get yogurt, salads, salads with grilled chicken.

    If you eat with some intelligence, you can find healthy food just about anywhere.

    SG

  9. …a salad for healthier alternative…

    Except even when they try do do healthy they fail. An excerpt from a Guardian article

    “the McDonalds grilled chicken salad contained more than 3g of salt per portion – more than half the recommended maximum daily intake of 6g.” (Source – http://www.guardian.co.uk/food/Story/0,2763,1655286,00.html)

    That was a 2005 figure but even now according to McDonalds own website (http://www.mcdonalds.com/app_controller.nutrition.index1.html#3) their chicken salads have around 1000mg/1g of sodium per portion which is equivalent to 2.5g of salt (http://www.foodfitness.org.uk/nutritionlabel.aspx)

  10. That should be “to do” there – and why do I have a german flag when I put ‘UK’ in my location? Let’s try England instead smile

  11. Except even when they try do do healthy they fail. An excerpt from a Guardian article

    “the McDonalds grilled chicken salad contained more than 3g of salt per portion – more than half the recommended maximum daily intake of 6g.” (Source – http://www.guardian.co.uk/food/Story/0,2763,1655286,00.html)

    That was a 2005 figure but even now according to McDonalds own website (http://www.mcdonalds.com/app_controller.nutrition.index1.html#3) their chicken salads have around 1000mg/1g of sodium per portion which is equivalent to 2.5g of salt (http://www.foodfitness.org.uk/nutritionlabel.aspx)

    I don’t think McDonald’s is any different than any other restaurant in having too much sodium.  When my father had some heart issues, my mom started cooking with minimal salt.  Eating at home several days a week made the level of sodium in restaurant food very apparent.

  12. I take a pretty hard-line skeptical stance on all restaurant food.  Dollar for dollar, a .$99 shitburger is almost a better deal than a complete “healthy” dinner at a nice sit-down place.  You’re paying 3-4 times the value of the “food” instead of 5-15 times the value that a service place charges these days.
    I bring up economics because it ties in.  There could be options other than a generic, overpriced salad that are substantially healthier than usual at a still reasonable price.  If I can get a small double cheeseburger for $.99 almost anywhere, I should be able to find a healthier version for $1.50, maybe $2.  The nutritional differences between any fast food burger and even a modest homemade equivalent can be substantial, and it need not be so.  10-15% leaner beef, a single slice of real cheese, more options on veggie toppings, and a higher quality bun with maybe a trace of whole grain and fiber=much tastier burger, much healthier burger, at a slight cost increase.  I’m not asking for organic lettuce or gourmet condiments on the cheap, just actual food instead of processed lard and salt.  If you live in the west U.S., Carl’s Jr., In&Out;, and Sonic probably have the closest thing to real food, but it’s still much greasier than need be and very high in sodium on average.  Funny part is, they advertise as places that have greasy, manly, tasty food-not as a daily family place like the bigger chains do.  McDonalds, Burger King, and to a lesser degree Carl’s Jr. have tried to pass their shit off as healthy and perfectly okay to eat all the time.  I wish that fast food could take a step toward higher quality, or at least greater honesty.  “Come to Micky D’s and eat some greasy plastic that tastes good when you’re high..or have a plate of iceberg lettuce with a dry salty chicken breast!”

  13. why do I have a german flag when I put ‘UK’ in my location?

    I would make a joke about it, but you wouldn’t find it funny.  At least you can now get up at 5am to reserve a sun lounger.

  14. Macdonald’s is business and just like any other business the main goal is profit and it isn’t hearting customers and what they are doing is simply give people what they want , its not their mistake that people want junk food , if the majority of the people started going in and ordering salads i bet you they would be glad to give away burgers and start serving salads , it even cost them less , remember not to blame the drug dealer but rather blame the dump user, in places like Syria drug usage is 0.0001% that means every 100 000 people there is one drug addict therefore drug dealers tend to switch career to weapon dealing since it makes them more profit, when I came to the states i saw a coke at mac that i have never seen any thing as big as it in Cyprus , China Syria or any other country i have been to ever although i always super size y meal at mac , it was 1 huge bucket of coke guys.
    attack your habits before attacking restaurants and snacks, because you can eat your self to death even on veggies

  15. Two things:

    One, congratulations, Webs! Keep up the good work. I’d be afraid to get out of shape again just because I would forget how much good it’s done me.

    Two, as far as fat being genetically influenced: sure, but that’s not the cause of the obesity pandemic we’re facing.

  16. Thanks Patness! Ditto on being in shape. And with nice weather coming back it’s a little easies cause I want to go outside all the time.

  17. Oh yeah…
    All my anti-fast food ranting aside-
    Congrats on the weight loss, Les.  In my experience, keeping active and eating less junk food are the two necessary prongs of a successful diet. 
    It takes a while to remove more than a few pounds, but by the time you’re at a weight you like, the changes will have a much better chance of being permanent, because the new healthier patterns will be part of your daily life, not just a one-time effort.
    I recently got back to the gym myself.  I spent most of my teens and twenties working at jobs that kept me up and running all day.  I was able to ignore exercise, drink 6 Cokes and several beers a day, eat whatever I pleased, and never have more than a 5-pound belly.  Now I’m 35, and have been working a desk job for three years.  In the first 2.5 years, I put on almost 35 pounds.  I stopped drinking so much soda and cut out most candy & fast food, and the weight gain stopped, but I only lost about 5 pounds.  Now I have refined the diet further and gone back to the gym, and it’s another 7 pounds off in three weeks.
    I am(or used to be) a naturally skinny person, and I’m only dealing with 30-40 pounds extra, so it’s probably a little easier for me than for many, but it can be done, without killing yourself with over-strenuous exercise or starving yourself.  It just takes a little time and a good attitude.

  18. Interesting tidbit I read recently. How come the French with their rich food aren’t as morbidly obese as the Americans? They stop eating when they’re full, not when the plate is empty.

    In any case, keeping your calorie intake within reason, eating a balanced diet, and regular exercise goes a long way towards weight loss. It’s a tough sale to the American public, though—there’s no magic pill and no instant gratification.

  19. Good luck with your weight loss goals! I’ve recently started a weight loss plan, too.

  20. i have tried to lose weight before but was grossly unsuccesful.Reason :As a family we used to go out and splurge on ff and greasy chinese joints(only during weekends).Believe it or not its become the way of life in india as we are trying to ape the western life style.
    After doing my maths i realized that i used to eat around 4000 cal during the weekends though used to exercise all through the week -the end result was a cycle lose and then gain all that back.
    Now we as family have stopped going to eat out…not even once a week its totally banned.
    we have a part time maid who comes to help us out with cooking.
    With home cooking we have started losing weight about 2.2 pounds a week.Its absolutely essential to be very strict with your diet when trying to lose weight.

  21. I am 18 years old and I must admit I love McDonalds and I just watched supersize me about two weeks ago and I figured that I could do the same thing atleast for 3 days so I ate nothing but McDonalds the whole 3 days and I ended up being sick now the sight of french fries make me sick that goes to show you just because you love something that does not mean its good for you infact too much of a good thing can make you sick too….infact im 5’6 and i weighed 126 and after 3 days i weighed 131 which you would think isnt that bad but in a way it is….keep in mind im not having a baby

  22. One thing that I’ve noticed is the lack of sidewalks in too many housing developments.

    How do we expect kids to walk and exercise if they don’t have a safe way to do it?

    I remember asking one real estate agent about this issue, and she told me to “Just drive them to the gym!”

    No thanks. I’ll buy or rent in an older neighborhood with sidewalks so that I my kids can walk to school or the park to get the physical activity that they need.

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