Sunday, January 5, 2014

Supersize Me...Or Not


I’ve been picking apart Supersize Me (obsessively, it’s been on my mind for the last few days) and honestly, I take issue with the conclusion they draw. The whole thing just sounds similar to what happens in recovery and of course any movie trying to make a point will skew the facts in its favor.

I know there are people out there who believe it (I’m ashamed to say I was one of them) and are set in their ways and nothing I say here will change their minds. You might think I’m reaching, or trying to make everything fit when it obviously doesn’t. But that’s fine, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, and this just happens to be mine, based on my experiences and beliefs and the set point theory.

So we all know Morgan Spurlock ate three McDonald’s meals a day for 30 days, gained about 25 pounds (24.5 to be exact), and all his doctors were freaking out about his horrible test results. In light of set point theory, however, I would contend that fast food is not the demon the documentary makes it out to be.

So, consider:

1) Was he at his weight set point to begin with and was his metabolism normal? We don’t know. He had a vegan girlfriend who cooked his meals, which is a form of restriction. So yeah, I kind of doubt whether he was coming from a place of unrestricted eating. So gaining ~25 pounds in a month, like we do in recovery when we let go of all food rules, I don’t think can be attributed solely to eating fast food.

Also, the gain was about 13.5% above his starting weight, which is assuming that it was his set point. So let’s assume that he was at the lower end of his set point range (since he had an exercise regimen and “healthy diet”), and say that range is ~10 pounds. Then he gained about 15 pounds above his set point, or 8% overshoot. Which really in the grand scheme of things I have trouble taking his accusations at face value since so many of our overshoots (mine included; yeah, I don’t really feel that sorry for you buddy) are far greater and we don't eat McDonald's every day.

This is all assuming that it's actually possible to gain 25 pounds of actual tissue in a month, which I don’t believe it is. The week-by-week gains make me think it is some water. There was one week when he actually lost a pound (but of course it was chalked up to lost muscle mass, which I don’t know if I buy either).

2) When he started eating a less-restrictive diet (although I suppose quite restrictive in a way, but not from an “only eat healthy food” orthorexic-type standpoint) his liver got messed up and of course everyone was freaking out. Guess what? When I started recovery (i.e., gave up a very restrictive diet and exercise routine) my liver got messed up and everyone said, “Oh, that’s normal.”

3) I was reading an interview where he was asked about the lasting effects and he said he gained weight so much more easily now, like 5 pounds in a weekend. (Again, I would guess water plays a part in that big of a gain in a couple days, but anywho....) He blamed it on the extra fat cells he gained when he was doing the documentary. But looking at how he lost the weight...his girlfriend put him on her “detox diet” (don’t even want to know the details of that) and he now reads every label and “exercises like crazy” (his words). So I think it could be totally possible that his metabolism is suppressed from all this “healthy eating” and crazy exercising and yeah, (as we all know) when you do shit like that it messes up your body's ability to regulate itself.

4) He was deemed “addicted” to the fast food because he said that his “depression, lethargy, and headaches could be relieved by eating a McDonald's” (according to Wikipedia). Assuming that he is telling the truth (not just trying to support his hypothesis that fast food is our worst enemy), it sounds fairly normal to me...when you are restricting, “[the body] starts an almost voracious desire for high carb and high fat foods,” [http://www.bigfatblog.com/set-point-theory-explained -- note: I mostly agree with this site but not completely] which we also know most people would interpret to be an addiction. And fast food is of course both of those ^ things. I have also been hit with extreme lethargy, headaches when I eat less than my body wants or wait too long between eating for my body’s liking, and at least episodes of extreme emotion which, depending on your tendencies, could be construed as depression. It’s all a normal part of recovery.

5) Never mind that his experiment is way extreme and eating nothing but McDonald's for 30 days is not representative of a normal person eating fast food, because a normal person would get sick of it (and he did, but he kept going). You would be extremely unhealthy if you ate nothing but vegetables for 30 days straight.

Conclusion: I still don't buy into the “bad foods,” and I still believe much of the public is sadly misinformed on diets and food choices. Eating whatever you want, when you want it, does not equal terrible health. And I feel that a lot of blame was placed on fast food when it doesn’t kill the average American.
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