Childhood Obesity Classics: Supersize Me

Supersize Me

The film Super Size Me really hit a nerve, and also has won a major award at the Sundance Film Festival when it was released. Morgan Spurlock ate nothing but McDonald’s food for a month and documented the results. His mission was to make some points about fast food, the responsibility borne by corporations, school lunches, nutritional education, and the general American tendency (exported to the rest of the world) to eat stuff with more form than content.

Nell Minow offers a parent-oriented review (with family discussion hints) that includes this summary:

He eats nothing but McDonald’s food for an entire month, and says ‘yes’ whenever he is asked if he wants to supersize his order. To the horror of his vegan chef girlfriend and the three doctors who monitor his 25-pound weight gain and severe liver damage, he eats ‘meat, meat, sugar and fat’ for a month. At first, his body rejects the supersized food and he throws up. But by the end of the month he craves McDonald’s food and feels happier and calmer when he has eaten some.

Doesn’t that sound exactly like morphine or heroin? Remember when opiated cough syrup used to be available over the counter? When adventurous and not-very-bright young people tried it, they always threw up the first time. Pretty soon, they couldn’t get along without it. Anyone who thinks that fast food and junk food are not designed to be addictive isn’t paying attention.

Minow mentions that a “small” soda in America is the same size as the “large” in other countries, and goes on to say:

We spend much more on food that is bad for us — and then on diet books — and then on treatment and lawsuits — than we do on exercise and other ways to prevent disease.

One way to tell that a work of art has become a classic is when it is satirized and parodied. The cartoon characters Beavis and Butt-head, who are technically children, appeared in just such an episode, described by R. L. Shaffer:

The two decide, in their infinite wisdom, that eating fast food for 30 days will allow them to somehow score with chicks. Needless to say, the guys just wind up getting fat and scaring the heads of Burger World into sending the duo elsewhere (to avoid bad press). The short is pretty darn funny, especially when Beavis and Butt-head find themselves the subject of their own documentary.

The fabulously popular Simpsons cartoon family also star in their own version, called “Super-Sized Nelson.” On this topic, Teresa L. writes:

Bart watches a documentary about the unhealthy nature of Krusty Burger’s food, evidenced by the star’s quick descent into obesity after attempting to eat nothing but Krusty Burger for 30 days. A light bulb goes off in Bart’s head, and shortly thereafter, Nelson has transformed into a tragic statistic — the obese child.

It was a nice satire not only of Morgan Spurlock’s documentary but also of the growing childhood obesity problem. Brockman’s claim that everyone is becoming ‘Mississippi fat’ did make light of the situation (and probably raised the ire of that state’s inhabitants), but the reality is almost too tragic not to joke about. Better to laugh than cry, right?

Perhaps so, but best of all would be if America got its head on straight and stopped eating greasy fast food. McDonald’s and all the corporations cast in the same mold have helped accustom us to the fallacious idea that cheap, bad food is an acceptable substitute for proper nutrition. Maybe some day we will all wake up, and McDonald’s will experience fallen arches, as depicted in the photo attached to one of our past posts.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Super Size Me,”
Source: “Super Size Me,” Common Sense Media
Source: “Beavis and Butt-head: ‘Supersize Me; Bathroom Break’ Review,” IGN, 11/19/11
Source: “The Simpsons Review: Super-Sized Nelson,” TV Fanatic, 05/07/12
Image of Supersize me is used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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