Game of Show and Don't Tell

Game of Show and Don't Tell

Whaley Letter to the Editor in The Washington Times
July 24, 2004

In case you missed it, Morgan Spurlock brought his "Super Size Me" sideshow to Capitol Hill yesterday.  Sharing the stage was the animal rights-supported Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a controversial group which, despite its name, has very few medical doctor members.  It does, however, have close ties to radical groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), and militants from Animal Liberation Front and Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty. 

So what's missing from Mr. Spurlock's sideshow?  Facts.  Mr. Spurlock talks about his 30-day diet of McDonald's food and the "side effects" he experienced such as weight gain, skyrocketing cholesterol, and a tattered libido.  He and his cohorts at PCRM seem to believe the only way to address the so-called obesity epidemic is through lawsuits against the fast food industry, limited food choices, "fat" taxes on snack foods, and other such "nanny" measures.

Mr. Spurlock's film focuses more on blaming corporations for Americans being fat, instead of putting the onus on ourselves to take personal responsibility for what we put in our mouths.  I also engaged in a 30-day McDonald's diet, with completely different results.  Granted, there was a difference in our approach: Mr. Spurlock intended to gain weight and forced himself to gorge as much as possible, eating up to 5,000 calories a day, if not more.  My approach included eating 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day and making wise food choices.

I ended up not only losing 10 pounds but also saw my cholesterol drop by 40 points.  A second round of dieting at McDonald's in June resulted in an additional weight loss of 8 pounds. Moderate exercise, including walking my dogs and using an exercise videotape, during and after the 30-day diets has been a key factor in maintaining the weight loss.

We also haven't heard exactly what and how much Mr. Spurlock ate during his 30-day experiment.  You can view my receipts at www.cei.org, so you can literally track the entire first month I ate at McDonald's.  The American Council on Science and Health is also currently analyzing my McDonald's diet.

Mr. Spurlock hasn't provided any of this information.  We see some of the food he ate by virtue of film clips — binging behavior so extreme that purging is inevitable.  We hear doctors making dramatic statements about his admittedly "high fat" diet and cautioning him to lower his caloric intake.  But let's face it: MTV "Jackass" stunts, such as eating so much that one throws up, are very popular with the younger generation.  Without a complete list of food and supplements that were ingested, any real analysis and conclusion of Mr. Spurlock's experience is impossible.

So why are Mr. Spurlock and PCRM spreading these spurious facts? To answer this question, one must ask what PCRM does. The American Medical Association calls the group "an animal rights organization that purports to speak for medicine"; the group's own literature admits less than 5 percent of its members are doctors; and PCRM President Neal Barnard co-chairs the Foundation to Support Animal Protection with PeTA President Ingrid Newkirk.

Mr. Spurlock furthers PCRM's agenda by using flawed scientific principles; his film is loaded with anti-corporate, anti-capitalist, anti-meat propaganda; and his alliance with these kinds of groups seems to indicate an agenda that is less concerned about public welfare as with the selling of an ideology. Mr. Spurlock and his friends are certainly not the first to attack the fast food industry, but this alliance should set off alarm bells for anyone who cares about having affordable food and the diversity of choices we enjoy today.

There is nothing so personal as how an individual comports him or herself, especially when it comes to lifestyle choices involving food and exercise.  We need a population that is educated and self-confident, not scared and confused.

Granted, it is easier to manipulate and frighten people, but it is undoubtedly healthier for Americans to practice personal responsibility for lifestyle choices throughout their lifetime.