Downsized at McDonald's ; Filmmaker Loses 18 Pounds in Debunking Fast-food Flick

Downsized at McDonald's ; Filmmaker Loses 18 Pounds in Debunking Fast-food Flick

Soso Profiled in The Washington Times
July 04, 2004

Marguerite Higgins, THE <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />WASHINGTON TIMES<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Soso Whaley's weight-loss plan veered from the popular low-carb diets.  She ate fast food for two months and lost 18 pounds.  Ms. Whaley, a 49-year-old animal trainer, last week finished her diet using the menu at McDonald's restaurants.  She will highlight her two, 30-day diets in a 60- to 90-minute documentary. The film, scheduled for release this fall, rebuts several claims made by Morgan Spurlock, who did the documentary "Super Size Me,", Ms. Whaley said.  His film showed his weight gain and health problems after eating only McDonald's food for a month. "The film is not about taking potshots at Mr. Spurlock.  I'm not advocating people boycott his movie or go eat for 30 days at McDonald's.  I'm just giving another side to the story," said Ms. Whaley, a Kensington, N.H., resident. The film has no corporate sponsorship from any food or beverage company. In "Super Size Me," Mr. Spurlock ate at McDonald's restaurants for 30 days with a 5,000-calorie limit, more than twice the 2,200 daily calories recommended for the average man. He "super-sized" his meal only when asked by the cashier in the 98-minute film.  McDonald's Corp., which called Mr. Spurlock's film "irresponsible," announced plans before the film was released in May to phase out its super-size options by the end of the year. A spokeswoman for Samuel Goldwyn Films, which distributed Mr. Spurlock's film, said Mr. Spurlock was traveling and unavailable for comment. His film has become part of a growing anti-obesity movement that has tried to blame some of the cause of rising U.S. obesity rates on the food industry.  McDonald's and food manufacturer Kraft Foods Inc. have had obesity-related lawsuits filed against them in the past two years. Food companies have fought back by altering their serving sizes, promoting healthy lifestyles and introducing more low-fat products. Mr. Spurlock, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall, packed on 25 pounds and his cholesterol level shot up 65 points by the end of the film. By contrast, Ms. Whaley imposed a limit of 1,800 to 2,000 calories when she started her diet April 1.  But her intake would increase up to 3,000 calories "when I gave myself the day off," she said. She dropped 10 pounds from her 5-foot-3-inch frame in the first month of her experiment, slimming down to 165 from 175.  Her cholesterol level fell to 197 from 237 by the beginning of May. Like Mr. Spurlock, Ms. Whaley said she tried every item on the menu at least once.  But she spent about an hour doing moderate exercise three times a week. Although she did have salads, Ms. Whaley said she stuck with sandwiches, fries, diet sodas and shakes. "I actually had a much tougher time when I got back in the real world [in May] because I was so used to controlled portion sizes" at the burger chain, she said. Ms. Whaley went back on the diet in June and lost another 8 pounds, rounding out her weight at 157. Her cholesterol level edged up to 202. She doesn't advise the fast-food diet for everyone.  "I recommend more limiting your calories instead of food choices," she said. McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker said the Oakbrook, Ill., fast- food chain has had no contact with Ms. Whaley other than giving her permission to film her documentary inside its restaurants. "We're certainly interested in seeing [Ms. Whaley's] film.  It certainly proves what we have been saying from Day One—that there is plenty of choice on the menu for a balanced diet," Mr. Riker said. Ms. Whaley estimated the cost of the film to be $30,000 to $50,000.  That does not include her time spent or the staff help from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank advocating free markets. The organization gave Ms. Whaley an adjunct fellowship to work with her on the film.  The think tank may sponsor a screening of the film in the fall, but has not contributed any money, said spokeswoman Jody Clarke. Ms. Whaley said she plans to enter her work in several independent film festivals.