What progress have you made in your fight against the fast food industry? Did your fight end with the film or are you continuing your interest in the subject? Any offers by, say Trader Joe’s or Subway to be a healthy eating spokesperson?
Well, Mickey D’s insists that the release of their adult Happy Meals and the sudden availability of their menu’s nutritional value info pamphlets were all coincidental with the national release of my film. I’m sure the corporate-wide decision to eliminate supersizing was a coincidence as well. My biggest “fight” was in getting my film made and in getting it seen by the public. I continuously talk about the film’s primary theme-personal responsibility and corporate responsibility – in interviews and at schools where I think the real change is going to occur.
Did you know what you were getting into when you started this project (both healthwise and the effect it would have on the fast food industry) or was it all a surprise to some extent?
Going in, I had a feeling that I would gain a few pounds; however, the extent of damage it caused was surprising indeed. Even the health experts I consulted prior to doing it were amazed at the extent. I mean, I didn’t realize that I was going to sustain liver damage and have my cholesterol and sodium levels at critical levels. With regard to the industry’s response? Naw, this is a huge multi-billion dollar industry and they weren’t going to take this lying down: they had to formulate their spin and create responses.
College is notorious for late-night pizzas, binge drinking and overall unhealthiness. Any advice so our students don’t wind up overweight and unhealthy like the rest of America?
Well, it’s very difficult to eat totally healthy during your undergrad years, isn’t it? I think I read somewhere that a study conducted on the ‘Freshman 15’ confirmed that binge eating is a reality of the college transition. I mean, lots of things are at play. The college experience means being away from home for the first time and folks are prone to eat what they want when they want. But the availability of high quality, unprocessed food around the clock can be a deterrent against the Taco Bell runs at 2 a.m. But you Gauchos know better than that!
Have you received any criticism about “Super Size Me” and, perhaps, its unfair portrayal of fast food? Everyone knows it’s bad for you, but they also don’t eat it three meals a day.
Apart from the fast food industry, you mean? Geez, those guys criticized me at every turn… and some of them actually even saw the film! While I think it is common knowledge that fast food is bad for you, I’m certain that people don’t know just how bad it can be. People may know that it’s bad enough to gain weight, but do they know it is bad enough to cause liver disease and interrupt regular body functions? I also don’t buy the notion that people don’t eat it three times a day. I know folks who’ll have a Burger King breakfast, a McDonald’s lunch and a Domino’s pizza dinner. Fast food is so ingrained in the culture and it’s the easy alternative because it’s cheap, tasty, satisfying and accessible.
Was there something on the McDonald’s menu that you actually liked? Have you eaten at a McDonald’s since or have you learned your lesson?
Oh man, I get asked this question a lot and I think I’ve eaten enough McDonald’s for a lifetime. I’m in the state of ongoing recovery. Besides, there’s so many better places to eat a burger – an unprocessed one with fresh meat and real cheese.
At the end of your ‘experiment,’ what were the final statistics of your health? How long did it take to get you back to normal? Was there any permanent damage? Was it worth it, in your opinion, to put your body
through such stress?
Immediately after, my girlfriend – healthy chef Alex – put me on an all-vegetarian detoxifying diet for two months in order to get my liver, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels back to normal. My body was starved of nutrients in that month and this was a way to nurse it back. All told, it took me 14 months to lose all 24 and a half pounds that I had gained.
We noticed a sidebar on the The Onion’s website a while back stating “Michael Moore kicking himself for not taping last 300 trips to McDonald’s.” Any comment?
I’m a big fan of Michael Moore both as a fellow documentarian and as a person – he’s a genuine guy. And he’s been very gracious in his comments – both private and public – about “Super Size Me.” I was excited when he put a link on his site to mine! That was awesome! Does he love a good burger? Who doesn’t?
Our budding film students will be interested in what your background is. Where did you go to school? How did you come up with the idea? Where did you get the money to fund this? Any advice for students who’d like to follow in your footsteps?
I want you guys to know that, try as I could, I couldn’t get into USC’s School of Cinema – and it was probably the best thing to happen to me. I got accepted to NYU’s Tisch School, moved back to the East Coast and got my film degree there. Soon after graduation, I formed my own company and produced content for various outlets. The idea for the film came about when I was lounging on my mom’s couch after one particularly sumptuous Thanksgiving feast watching TV, because that’s what we do after a Thanksgiving meal, right? Anyway, I saw a piece on two girls suing Mickey D’s blaming them for their obesity and I thought “Is this what it’s become? That we have to blame a restaurant for getting fat?” And then I thought “Wait a minute, if it’s only as harmful as the fast food industry says then I should be able to eat this and not have a problem.” I called up my friend Scott and he said, “Wouldn’t this be a real good bad idea for a film?” By Monday, we were deep into researching for the preproduction. My advice to students? Don’t try this at home!
What are your future plans? Any new projects in the works? Still interested in documentaries?
I’m currently touring the nation speaking at schools and talking about the film and my experiences in the last year. The DVD came out yesterday and I’m happy that it gives folks who didn’t get to see it in the theatres a chance to see it for themselves. I’m very excited about a family friendly VHS version that will be made available in early 2005 for schools so kids can view and discuss it with their parents and teachers. While at Sundance, I was contacted by a network to create a pilot based similarly on what I did for “Super Size Me.” It’s a reality show called “30 Days” and it involves placing people into unfamiliar circumstances and environments for a month and documenting the experience. I’m also looking at a few film projects to direct.