June 23, 2005,
Morgan Spurlock, of Supersize Me fame, may have gained 30 pounds living on McDonald's for a month, but Soso Whaley had an altogether different experienceóboth losing weight and dropping cholesterol points. (Read an analysis of her diet here.)
And like Spurlock, Whaley has made a documentary all about her fast-food feasting.
How did she do it? It's all about the choices you make, Whaley says in an interview with NRO Editor Kathryn Lopez. (You can view a trailer for Mickey D's and Me or purchase it here. Read more about Whaley's McDonald's exercise here.)
National Review Online: Do you dedicate your documentary to Morgan Spurlock? What made you want to do your Mickey D's time besides the proving-him-wrong aspect?
Soso Whaley: Actually I dedicate the film to the late Julia Child, who just wanted us to enjoy our food, and my dog Jock who is the "moaning dog" of my production company, he helps me stay active.
I heard about Super Size Me on Good Morning America about mid-March of 2004 and was amazed that people were actually being bamboozled by director Morgan Spurlock of The Con Production Company. Even without seeing the film I could tell from the clips and the description by Spurlock that this was nothing more than junk science masquerading as legitimate scientific discovery. I had been looking into the issue of junk science through the site www.junkscience.com and felt that Super Size Me should not be allowed to exist without a proper counterpoint to it's blatant propagandizing and shoddy scientific methodology. Other than that, I wanted to lose ten pounds.
NRO: Let's be honest. McDonald's isn't exactly health food. Why are you bucking them up?
Whaley: If by "health food" you are referring to seaweed and new-age-type food products that taste like cardboard but claim to have great health benefits, no, McDonald's isn't what is considered to be a "politically correct" source of food in our current cultural climate. However, when I was growing up during the 50s and 60s we didn't have all the tens of thousands of food choices available today. Back then a hamburger or a chicken sandwich was considered a legitimate way to acquire a serving of high-grade protein and grains, add a tomato and some lettuce, maybe a little onion, pour an 8 oz. glass of milk and you have what would be considered a pretty healthy meal, provided you use proper serving sizes. So from my point of view McDonald's serves food that is no better or even different than that which I could acquire at the local store or pretty much any other restaurant
To be honest this film is not about bucking up McDonald's, just a close look at what happens when a person engages in a lifestye which includes common sense and personal responsibility. I understand that these concepts are very scary to those individuals and corporations who rely on our fear and lack of education to make a buck. It's time to take a stand against these food cops and health nannies who won't be happy until we are eating only food approved by a small group of people who claim to have our best interests at heart but whose real agenda seems to be more about scaring people than in truly educating the public. Spurlock is merely an agent of those who would seek to control our lives and limit our choices "for our own good".
NRO: So you lost weight? Did you just eat the salads? Aren't the salads even non-ideal calorie wise?
Whaley: Yes, I lost weight and have managed to maintain that loss. The first time I did the diet in April 2004, I lost 10 pounds (going from 175 to 165) and lowered my cholesterol from 237 to 197, a drop of 40 points. I did the diet again in June 2004 and lost another 8 pounds (going from 165 to 157), there was no change in my cholesterol during that time as it remained at around 197. After the holidays in 2004 I had managed to maintain my weight around 155 but could feel that I was getting out of control in my eating habits and was looking to lose a bit more weight for the Spring of 2005. The real motivating factor that took me back to the Golden Arches for another round in February 2005 was the Oscar nomination for Super Size Me. I was not surprised but certainly disappointed that the Academy nominated Spurlock's film for an Oscar for Best Documentary. To protest this nomination of such a blatant piece of propaganda as a legitimate documentary I once again ate for 30 days at McDonald's and experienced another 10-pound weight loss.
I was relieved that the Academy at least saw fit to reward a true documentarian for their efforts rather than The Con Production Company which is run by Spurlock.
No, I did not just eat the salads. One of the parameters of two of the three diets was that I had to eat everything on the single item menu at least once during the course of the 30 days. As for your question about salads being "non-ideal" calorie wise, how exactly do you mean? Veggies do not normally have a lot of calories and a veggie is a veggie, some have more nutrients than others but veggies are more important for fiber, not calories. I think this is the type of wrongheaded thinking that is currently driving the confusion surrounding our dietary habits.
NRO: And your cholesterol dropped? Does that even make sense?
Whaley: Yes it did, without any medication, and eating food only from McDonald's my cholesterol dropped 40 points and I've maintained that drop. Of course it makes sense if you factor in that I was eating less food and a more balanced diet for my age and physical condition as well as engaging in regular moderate exercise. Another reason to recommend personal responsibility and making healthy choices as a first step to improving one's health.
NRO: Did any doctors say you were crazy?
Whaley: There are plenty of people, doctors included, who have a lot of time and energy invested in believing that certain types of food are "bad" for you, and I'm sure they are just horrified at my dietary adventures under the Golden Arches. Unfortunately, no matter what my results, these people and "experts" are far more interested in controlling our eating habits using fear and confusion rather than educating people about good dietary habits. Me & Mickey D is a threat to those who rely on knee-jerk response to control the public mind set.
NRO: What's been the most surprising reaction you've gotten to your project?
Whaley: When husbands ask me to talk to their wives about giving up spending lots of money at Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers and switch to the "McDonald's Diet" to save money. I have to laugh but certainly don't recommend that anyone try this particular diet. The real key was moderate exercise, making healthy choices, and staying at around 2,000 calories a day. This was about making lifestyle changes, not about what kind of food I was eating
NRO: What's the most erroneous claim Super Size Me makes?
Whaley: Spurlock asks where "personal responsibility ends and corporate responsibility begins" at the start of his film. As far as I'm concerned personal responsibility for your own life never ends. Besides I don't need some corporation to be "responsible" for me and my actions.
NRO: What's your favorite McDonald's food?
Whaley: The Big & Tasty with Cheese has been a favorite of mine since it was introduced. I also love the California Cobb Salad with Crispy Chicken. My favorite meal? A medium chocolate shake with medium fries. Yummy.
NRO: What's the worst? (No one really eats McGriddles, do they?)
Whaley: I love the McGriddle sandwich with bacon, egg, and cheese. Very tasty. However, I must admit that I find the fish sandwiches to be a bit dry and bland.
NRO: Would you recommend anyone eat McDonald's for 30 days?
Whaley: Actually I think a lot of people do, at least for a few meals a week. Tens of millions of people eat there every day without ill effect. As for a 30-day diet to lose weight? That's up to the individual. This was not intended to promote a McDonald's diet for losing weight, it was meant to demonstrate that some of our current belief systems are incorrect.
NRO: You expect to be nominated for an Oscar?
Whaley: That would be nice but I'll be happy to make the Northern Lights Film Festival for now.
NRO: Besides the obvious, Super-Size-Me-is-wrong/be responsible/McDonald's-can't-make-you-fat,-only-the-choices-you-make-can message, what is the overall point of your documentary?
Whaley: Simply to encourage people to take more responsibility for their own lives and to appreciate the concept of freedom of choice that we have in the U.S. I also hope to inspire people to get out and move around more. Forget about "exercising," just get out there and celebrate your life by staying busy and productive. "Eat to live, don't live to eat." Moliere
NRO: What's next? "Ice Cream and Me?" 30 days at Carvel?
Whaley: Actually, I'm working on a documentary about the Camel Races that take place in Virginia City, Nevada, every year. I'm in the process of editing the footage I shot last year and am looking forward to premiering the film at the races this year in September. Tally Ho!