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Friday, March 4, 2011

Review of "Fat Head"

The "Fat Head" trailer

Since we've been on this kick, watching movies about the modern impact on diet, my daughter asked if I'd seen "Fat Head," Tom Naughton's 2008 sardonic examination of the claim fast food is evil.

I had seen "Super Size Me" a few years ago, a 2004 documentary showing Morgan Spurlock's 30 day experiment with eating only McDonald's food. Spurlock gained a lot of weight and his cholesterol shot through the roof:

The "Super Size Me" trailer

If you're inclined to watch these movies, you should watch "Super Size Me" first. "Super Size Me" conveys a compelling message: fast food phenomenon isn't healthy. I really liked the experiment where they examine how long it takes fast food to decay - particularly the days, weeks and months where the french fries didn't appear to decay at all.

Spurlock presumes the ideal diet is vegetarian and organic. He consumed 5000+ calories a day of non-vegan food to illustrate the difference. As conveyed in "Super Size Me," Spurlock inferred the fattening part of the fast food diet was the sugar and fat and meat. That plus being so available and cheap and alluring.

In "Fat Head," Tom Naughton sets out to show that a reasonable person eating a fast food diet for a month can be just fine, thank you very much. Naughton's ideal diet is one moderate in calories (~2000 per day) and low in carbohydrates (<100 g per day). So Naughton necessarily avoided the sugary sodas and starchy parts of the McDonalds repetoire. Plus he walked 6 days a week (5 miles per day).

Naughton ends his experiment having lost 12 pounds and improving his cholesterol levels.

Throughout "Fat Head," Naughton mocks Spurlock. It's pretty amusing. Naughton also hits a theme that resonates with the warnings in "Food, Inc." and "The Future of Food:" the business behind corn and soybeans has been twisting science and law and policy to fundamentally change what we eat, and it hasn't been a good thing.

Naughton isn't preaching organics, however. He's just pointing out that a low-carb diet is healthy and it's entirely possible even while eating fast food.

I think both documentaries are worth watching. But Naughton's work reminded me of Woody Allen's "Sleeper," where a man put in cryo-suspension in 1973 is revived 200 years later.

"...this morning for breakfast... [the Sleeper] requested something called wheat germ, organic honey, and tiger's milk."

[Doctor laughs] "Oh, yes. Those were the charmed substances... that some years ago were felt to contain life-preserving properties."

"You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or hot fudge?

[Doctor again] "Those were thought to be unhealthy, precisely the opposite of what we know now to be true..."

I should call "Fat Head" thought-provoking, because it was. But I was giggling too much to feel as though I'd been 'educated.' If you like such things, enjoy.

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