Super Sized Lies

Written by: Miri
June 3, 2024
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Sadly and predictably, we've had to get used to the slew of "died suddenly" celebrity demises over the last three years, but - given the much more significant impact of the same phenomenon in our own real-life communities - I haven't paid many of these premature passings a great deal of attention.

However, when I heard filmmaker Morgan Spurlock - who shot to fame with his 2004 documentary, 'Super Size Me' - had died last month aged just 53, I did take notice, for reasons I will shortly elaborate upon. When I delved into the story more deeply, I found his strange life and untimely death to be a starkly poignant cautionary tale regarding the incomparable importance of pursuing the truth - and a reminder of what happens when we don't.

For readers who are unfamiliar with his work, Spurlock first came to international attention - and widespread acclaim - for his 'Super Size Me' documentary, focusing on the poor food choices available at fast food restaurant McDonald's, which at that time offered the option to "super size" soft drinks and fries.

Aiming to demonstrate the unhealthy effects of a fast food diet, especially the super size option, Spurlock committed to eating nothing but McDonald's for 30 days, documenting the effects of his junk food splurge on film.

The doctors he consulted at the beginning of the film to assess his health as he started out didn't think much would happen to him: some weight gain, yes, but otherwise, they expected his fit, relatively young body (he was 34 at the time) to be able to handle the excess sugar and fat with few lasting consequences.

As such, they were horrified when, midway through his experiment, his liver function had deteriorated so much it appeared to resemble "an alcoholic's after a binge" (Spurlock had stated in his initial health checks that he consumed no alcohol at all). He was strongly advised to stop the experiment, but persisted through to the end, where he gained a total of 24.5 pounds (nearly two stone), increased his cholesterol to 230 mg/dL, developed depression, and experienced sexual dysfunction.

The alleged purpose of Spurlock's documentary (which was extensively fawned over at the film festivals, and won multiple awards) was to investigate what role fast food in general and McDonald's in particular played in the USA's growing obesity epidemic and related health problems.

Asserting to have "proved" McDonald's was a central villain in this situation with his documentary, the fast food giant responded to Spurlock by removing its "super size" option from the menu.

However, as fellow filmmaker Tom Naughton remarked wryly in his own fast food documentary, Fat Head, "I don't remember seeing the headlines - McDonald's Bans Super Sizing - Nation Becomes Thin!".

With some (as it turned out) very valid suspicions about the veracity of Super Size Me, Naughton - a health writer and former stand-up comic - set out to go on his own fast food diet, but with a different aim in mind: to prove that you could actually lose weight and improve your health eating only fast food.

While Spurlock's "rules" obliged him to super size his meal every time a McDonald's staff member suggested it, Naughton operated "under a slightly different premise" - namely that he had "a functioning brain" and so didn't have to order something just because some counter clerk suggested it.

In Naughton's month of eating only fast food, mainly McDonald's, he lost 12 pounds, lowered his cholesterol, and did not experience any kind of depression or dysfunction.

The reason Naughton lost weight and improved his health markers on his fast food diet is simple: he controlled his carbohydrates. Sticking to a maximum of 100 grams of carbs a day, he completely avoided sugary sodas and skipped the fries, in favour of eating burgers, chicken, sausages, and eggs, only sometimes eating the bun.

He also diligently recorded his daily intake in a food log, which is publicly available to anyone wanting to recreate his experiment.

Morgan Spurlock's food log, conversely, has never been made public.

Whilst filming Fat Head, Naughton tried repeatedly to contact Spurlock's film company - called, rather tellingly, 'The Con' - to ask for Spurlock's food log from Super Size Me, but every time, his request was declined.

As of 2017, it became widely known - as a result of a public confession he made online - that Morgan Spurlock had been a chronic alcoholic for 30 years, and was drinking heavily throughout the production of Super Size Me. The reason his liver looked like "an alcoholic's after a binge" during filming is simple - because it was. The shakes and mood swings he also reported to have experienced were clearly caused by heavy drinking and alcohol withdrawal, not fast food.

Naughton didn't know all this when he released Fat Head in 2009, but he did know Spurlock was a liar, as, using some basic maths, he proved that Spurlock could not possibly have stuck to his own rules when making Super Size Me. Spurlock didn't simply "have three meals a day" at McDonald's, as he had claimed, but, to quote Naughton, "Mcstuffed himself on purpose" in order to gain as much weight as he could.

As Naughton observed, if Spurlock had followed his own rules, he would probably only have gained four or five pounds, and such an insignificant health change would have been regarded as - to coin a phrase - a "nothingburger" on the film circuit. So, he intentionally gorged himself silly, whilst drinking heavily, in order to make a splash and gain international acclaim.

In short: he lied. And those lies, and his willingness to so significantly misrepresent and obscure the truth, was an overarching theme in his life, which had far reaching and ultimately tragic consequences.

I remember watching Super Size Me when it first came out in 2004, and like everyone else, enjoyed it (it is an enjoyable watch: Spurlock is a good entertainer). Shortly after his death, someone described Spurlock as a "real '00s guy" and that is absolutely right. At that time, there was a very prominent focus from the fashionable left-wing on placing blame for all society's ills on "the corporation" - there was even a documentary of the same name, made in 2003, which showed that, if a corporation were a person (which, legally, it is), it would be a psychopath.

So by pointing the finger at the particularly reviled corporation of McDonald's as the culprit for rapidly spiralling obesity levels, Spurlock hit all the right notes in the trendy political climate of the time, and gained a rapturous reception as a result.

As such, Tom Naughton's reply to Spurlock with 'Fat Head' was just as political as it was nutritional, with libertarian Naughton pointing out that nobody is forced to eat fast food, and that it is the responsibility of the individual who makes poor choices if they get fat, not corporations for selling fattening food.

However, Naughton also demonstrated that it is not "fast food" in itself that is fattening, it's too much sugar and too much starch - vats of sugar-laden soft drinks and huge servings of fries. If you just stick to the burgers and other meat-based options, as Naughton did, you'll be fine (in this demonstration, Naughton was not attempting to suggest a fast food diet is optimally healthy: rather, his message was that demonising fast food restaurants as "causing" an obesity crisis is cynical and wrong, and mainly driven by lawyers who want to sue McDonald's because they have a lot of money).

This was the exact opposite of the conclusion reached by Spurlock, who, upon completing his McDonald's binge, went on a "purifying vegan diet" in order to lose the weight he had gained. On this diet, it took him five months to lose 20 pounds, and another nine months to lose the remaining 4.5.

To repeat, Tom Naughton lost 12 pounds in a single month eating just fast food.

As one doctor who Naughton interviewed in response to Spurlock's experiment, and the difficulty he faced in losing weight on the vegan diet, said "if he'd just gone back to McDonald's and ordered the burgers without buns, he would have [lost all the weight] in six weeks".

What Spurlock and Naughton's respective experiments show us is precisely how mainstream "reality" and cultural perceptions are shaped: effectively, through well-packaged lies.

Spurlock used lies and subterfuge to present the case that meat and fat are the cause of America's obesity epidemic and various associated health crises, and that the solution is veganism - which continues to be an enduring and popular belief to this day, heavily pushed by social engineers.

But this was - as the name of Spurlock's film company explicitly states - "the con". In fact, as Naughton's far superior and verifiably true documentary shows (note that Spurlock's experiment was recreated under lab conditions in 2006 and none of the severe health problems Spurlock experienced were recorded), it is an excess of sugar and starch that have caused America's spiralling obesity problem, not meat and animal fat.

Even more damningly, after becoming a bestselling author with her book, 'The Great American Detox Diet', based on the "purifying" diet she had fed then-boyfriend (now ex-husband) Spurlock, vegan chef Alex Jamieson confessed she was no longer vegan as her health had collapsed under her strict dietary regime and she had even resorted to "hiding fish under kale".

So these two individuals, who went on to be married and divorced (more on that later), simply lied outrageously for money and fame, and profoundly hampered many people's understanding of health and nutrition as a result. Jamieson may legitimately have believed in the merits of veganism at that time, but she would also have been aware, as Spurlock's live-in partner, that he was drinking heavily, and yet she colluded with him to blame his health problems on fast food (particularly meat) and used that lie to launch a lucrative career as an influential vegan writer and speaker.

(Jamieson now makes her living selling "abortion trading cards" and has stated that ex-husband Spurlock was one of her first customers.)

Naughton's documentary, on the other hand, based on entirely verifiable and reproducible facts, made a far more profound and important contribution to the field of human nutrition, but - actually being true and therefore of no use to the worldwide elitist agenda to undermine human health - received no film festival fawning or gushing international press attention, and still most people have never heard of it.

Interestingly, when I studied in the USA for a year in 2013, I wrote about Fat Head for my English class, when we were tasked with arguing against a conventional belief. So, I picked the conventional belief that "meat and animal fat are bad for you and cause obesity and heart disease", and argued against it, extensively citing studies referenced in Fat Head. I got an 'A' for my essay, and my English teacher (who was quite overweight) liked it so much that she immediately ordered a copy of the documentary to watch at home.

"The funny thing is," I told her. "If I wrote this exact same essay for my nutrition class, I would get a 'D'."

The nutrition class was based on all the usual misrepresentations and lies (as, indeed, was the college's insistence I received more vaccines to stay enrolled - an insistence I successfully rebutted).

The thing with the truth, of course, is that once you uncover one obscured truth and mass-marketed lie, it tends to lead to others. Tom Naughton's pursuit of truth evolved, as many people's does, from nutrition, to the pharmaceutical industry, and he soon realised we were being sold the same kind of prettily packaged lies about pharmaceuticals (including vaccines) as we are about food.

As a result, Naughton has not only continued to follow a low-carb, meat-based diet for the last 15 years, but he also did not take the Covid vaccine.

Morgan Spurlock, conversely, continued to criticise meat and animal fat, and he took the Covid vaccine, publicly encouraging his followers to do the same.

Spurlock died last month, aged 53, of cancer complications.

Naughton is 65 and healthy.

When Spurlock died, it was in relative obscurity, his earlier fame having almost entirely evaporated after a 2017 confession, inspired by the MeToo movement, that - as well as being an alcoholic for the last 30 years - he had been accused of sexual impropriety, including rape, and had "cheated on every wife and girlfriend I ever had".

When he died, his divorce from his third wife had recently been finalised.

Naughton, on the other hand, has been happily married for nearly 25 years and there is no suggestion he has ever cheated on his wife, or any other partner, much less sexually abused anyone.

It may not always be advisable to judge the merit of at art work on the personal life of the artist, but in this case, I think an overarching theme, woven equally prominently through Spurlock and Naughton's work and personal lives, speaks profound volumes.

Naughton pursued the truth, wherever it took him, and valued facing hard realities in truth's pursuit, whereas Spurlock founded his entire life - professional and personal alike - on lies.

This brought him some significant fame, money, and acclaim initially (and his name will always be more widely known than Tom Naughton's), but ultimately, led to a fractured personal life, a ruined career, and a tragically premature death (leaving two minor children without a father).

As they say, "the lie tastes sweet in the beginning and bitter in the end" - whereas the truth is the opposite.

We don't often see quite such stark and obvious examples of "morality tales" in celebrity culture, but this one really does illustrate a powerfully important point: pursuing the truth may not bring wealth or fame, as lying undoubtedly can (and as Spurlock and his ex-wife found).

But if you pursue it anyway, it will lead to much richer rewards - as I'm sure Tom Naughton would agree, as he continues to enjoy good health into his seventh decade, despite all the dire warnings of "the experts" that so much meat and no vaccines would kill him. He can confidently expect to enjoy many more years of good health, and plenty more time with family and friends

Spurlock sacrificed all of this, not even seeing his children grow up, and leaves behind him a sorry legacy of systemic lying, exploitation, and betrayal.

Lies entrap and never deliver on their initial beguiling promises, whereas the truth really is the one thing that will set us free.

So next time you see someone tossing the bun when trying to eat a burger (and I admit: it does get messy): don't think "annoying faddy eater", but rather, consider they may be a fearless champion of truth, justice, and freedom!

(Although I can't promise they won't still be annoying...)

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