Taking down the Golden Arches

A dark Kingsbury Hall filled with horrified gasps and incredulous exclamations during the screening of Morgan Spurlock’s “Supersize Me.”

The documentary chronicles Spurlock’s 30-day McDonald’s-only diet and highlights the negative effects on the human body. The DVD is available on Sept. 28.

Spurlock suffered chest pains, partial liver failure, headaches and depression during his month long trial.

“The [fast-food] companies’ claims are, ‘We know this stuff is bad for us,'” he said.

“But when do McGurgles in my tummy turn to McHeart disease or McDiabetes? I know no one eats this stuff for every meal every day, but this is what could happen to you in 10, 15 or 30 years,” he said.

At the invitation of the Associated Students of the University of Utah’s Presenter’s Office, the U served as Spurlock’s first stop at the nearly 40 universities he plans to visit throughout the nation, in addition to high schools and junior highs at each stop.

“Schools are eliminating nutrition classes and physical fitness. We are taught to consume and we are putting health last. We are getting sick and fat and lazy,” he said.

Spurlock first got the idea to do the film when he heard about the lawsuit filed against McDonald’s for making two girls morbidly obese.

“I said, ‘Wait, we can’t live the all-American dream of overeating and underexercising and be fine?'” he said. “I may not agree with the lawsuit, but that’s because I’m not a litigious person. But I did want to know if there was a basis for an argument,” he said.

He originally wanted to make a film about fast food and obesity, but as he researched, he discovered the complexity of the issues.

“There were so many problems. We shot 250 hours of film, and the documentary is only two hours long,” he said. When Spurlock spoke after the screening, he focused on the worldwide effects of fast food. Countries such as Japan, that have never shown signs of heart disease, now do.

“In many of these cultures, it’s looked at as an honor to go to a McDonald’s. They all want a piece of America, and that’s where they can get it,” he said.

He also worries about the globalization that is occurring through fast-food chains.

“I stand in Helsinki and ask if they want their country to feel and look and taste like America. McDonald’s is eliminating native cuisine, it’s stopping cooking in the kitchens of homes,” he said.

Spurlock said he chose McDonald’s because it is the biggest fast-food chain in the world. According to Spurlock, McDonald’s comprises 43 percent of U.S. fast food and it has 30,000 stores in 100 countries on six continents.

“I picked the company that could most easily institute change across the board,” he said. “This is an industry of lemmings. If McDonald’s changes, soon enough, so will all the other chains.”

But Spurlock isn’t totally pleased with the changes he’s seen thus far. While he said he’s happy to hear that the super-size option won’t be available by the end of the year at McDonald’s (“We’ll see if that happens,” he said), he said many of the other changes are only for public relations.

He cited the fact that last year, McDonald’s sold 150 million salads, but when compared with the 17 billion customers who eat annually at McDonald’s, fewer than 1 in 100 buy a salad.

“We aren’t going to McDonald’s for a salad; we’re going there for a double quarter pounder with cheese, a super-size fries and Coke,” he said.

Spurlock also looked at the current status of school cafeterias. He visited several high schools and junior highs, and he was horrified at what he saw. Kids bought Gatorade, Ho-Hos and fries for lunch, which was all they ate.

He said he also visited an alternative high school that used organic, no-sugar lunches. Comparably, teachers said these students who are looked at as delinquents were better behaved than most children their age.

Spurlock encouraged those old enough to choose where they eat lunch to “vote with your fork.”

“I ate a burger and fries today, but it certainly wasn’t at McDonald’s; it was at Hires. Let fast-food companies know how you feel by not supporting them,” he said.

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