TCS Daily


The McLes Experiment

By Les Sayer - May 18, 2005 12:00 AM

I have finished my own version of the McDonald's diet, and not everyone is happy with the results.

I'm happy, though. After eating only McDonald's food for 30 days, I lost 17 pounds and my blood cholesterol is down. I did not suffer from any of the negative effects that Morgan Spurlock reported after his 30-day "Super Size Me" McDonald's binge, such as depression, mood swings, or sexual dysfunction. In fact, after the first week of my diet I slept more soundly and awoke being more alert. I was energized throughout the day and, more noticeably, I was not hungry between meals.

It all started in a biology class in December 2004, as I was preparing my students to take their high school biology diploma exam. During that class, I was surprised to learn that many of my students believed that McDonald's food was categorically unhealthy. The students had formed their opinions based on claims made in the documentary-style film Super Size Me, in which Morgan Spurlock gains weight and feels terrible after eating at McDonald's for a month.

I shot my mouth off and said, 'You know, I could eat a McDonald's diet for a month and lose weight.' Well, you put an idea like that in some students' minds, and they just hold you to it.

I was attempting to show that Spurlock's hypothesis was flawed. He gained weight and became ill due to the combination of over-eating high-fat, high-sugar food, and not exercising. Even the stresses associated with making a movie, and being on the road away from home are contributory factors to Spurlock's symptoms. His opinion that it was specifically McDonald's food that caused his ill health (expressed at the film's conclusion) became the vehicle that launched my objective to demonstrate the difference between opinion and impartial evaluation

While I agree that opinion generates hypotheses, Spurlock's hypothesis tries to balance too many variables. As a consequence, I objected to the conclusions, whether stated or implied, that Spurlock and his audience had drawn from the results of the Super Size Me experiment.

It really is personal bias that prevents the conclusion that McDonald's food has nutritional value, and could be a healthy choice for weight loss. But I did lose weight, and my blood work is better than before. A more reasonable conclusion is that exercise and moderation are the cornerstones of good health (hardly Earth-shattering news), so why not apply over-eating and under-exercising as the primary causes of Spurlock's results?

Interestingly, both Spurlock and I could have fashioned common conclusions from our experiments based around the issue of the hazards of over-eating and the merits of regular exercise. The difference is, Spurlock had a movie to sell, and his message guaranteed an audience.

All the same, I hope that this message will not be misinterpreted. If people see that I've lost weight, I don't want them to think it was because of the McDonald's food -- just like people shouldn't think that it was McDonald's food that caused Morgan Spurlock to gain weight and become ill.

I have extensively recorded my 30-day diet and exercise routine in a daily diary, available at www.mcles.com.

Les Sayer is a teacher at NorQuest College in Canada.

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