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A burger three times a day. With fries

Everyone loves a good burger. But would anyone want to eat one everyday? For three meals? For a month? And eat nothing else? This probably sounds disgusting even to the most ardent fast food fan. Yet one man did just that, and filmed himself doing that to prove a point. The point he wanted to prove? That no matter what they say in their advertising, fast food restaurants like McDonald's are not good for your health. The logic is, of course, that if something is good for you, eating it everyday certainly shouldn't be bad. But he got sick, dangerously sick, to the point where doctors were worried about him. For this the movie has become quite famous and controversial since it battles against the fast food culture that is so prevalent in the USA and other western countries, and, sadly, is making inroads into the bigger cities in India .

The title of the movie, Supersize Me , comes from a phrase McDonald's employees are taught to say to customers, to ask if they want to increase the size of the meal from the ordinary standard size to a larger 'super size' one (by paying a little bit more). America film director Morgan Spurlock got the idea for the movie after he read about two girls in the US who sued McDonald's saying that its food had made them dangerously fat. During the case, McDonald's lawyers said that their food was not unhealthy and could be part of a "nutritious diet". The girls lost the court case, but Spurlock was intrigued by the notion that McDonald's food was healthy. So he decided to test it on himself and film himself doing it. First he got himself properly checked out by doctors to make sure he was actually healthy before he started the test. He interviewed doctors, including the US surgeon-general -- the man who decides official American health policy. The surgeon-general warned him about the dangers of fast food. But, ignoring his advice, Spurlock started eating. Each meal for an entire month would be in McDonald's. On top of this he had three other 'rules'. One, he could only eat what was available over the counter at McDonald's, nothing specially made for him and nothing from outside. Two, he never asked for anything to be 'super sized' unless he was asked. Finally, he had to try everything offered on the menu at least once during the month.

Between meals Spurlock also interviewed McDonald's fans, nutritionists, anti-fast food campaigners and fast food industry employees. With all this, Spurlock paints a horrible picture of the whole business of selling fast food. He shows how greed and the desire to make more and more money can lead to very unhealthy diets and a whole generation of unhealthy people. The idea that we should eat and enjoy what's good for us is gone; now we eat what we are sold and told to like.

The first McDonald's opened in 1955. There are now over 13,000 outlets all over the world. One of the reasons they do so well is because, as Spurlock shows, a 'fast food addiction' is similar to a drug addiction, and people do get hooked. More frightening, as the movie illustrates, is the fact that, in all its advertisements, McDonald's directly aims at children who do not understand that high amounts of salt and sugar and deep-fried foods are probably not good for them. McDonald's marketing has been remarkably successful; more children around the world now recognise Ronald McDonald -- McDonald's' marketing mascot -- than the traditional heroes of their own countries. And they would rather have a Happy Meal than a meal cooked at home and enjoyed around the family table. Spurlock doesn't only blame McDonald's, he also points a finger at the US government that allows the marketing and sale of food that's harmful to its citizens.

In the movie a number of arguments come across in the interviews. But the strongest is what happens to Spurlock himself. In the movie there's a time when he is actually so disgusted with what he is eating that he vomits out his meal. In spite of this he goes on to complete the month. He finishes his 30 days having gained 25 pounds in that short time, develops dangerously high levels of cholesterol in his blood and damages his liver.

The movie is quite a strong condemnation of the whole fast food culture, especially since it came at a time when McDonald's was having other problems. Like the famous 'McLibel' court case in Britain where a judge actually said that McDonald's was responsible for animal cruelty in the way it sources its meat and that it exploited children through its advertising. Another case was in the USA where McDonald's had to settle a lawsuit that claimed it should be informing customers that it used a particularly unhealthy kind of oil.

Partly because of the movie and the court cases McDonald's has started offering slightly healthier eating options in some countries. One change that the movie has brought about is that, in many countries including the US, McDonald's no longer asks people if they want to 'super size' their meal! But in India , where both the fast food culture and obesity are rapidly taking hold of the urban middle class, it's going to be a long time before we realise that aping the west is bad for our health.

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