I received one of those hate mails this week, full of the usual brilliant observations:
Your film was obviously paid for by McDonald’s … Super Size Me was awesome and a really important film because it alerted people to the dangers of fast food … your on-camera experts must be beef-industry hacks if they say saturated fat isn’t bad for you … you think you’re funny but you’re not, you’re just really annoying … your film sucked so bad, I stopped watching before the end … etc., etc., etc.
People have asked me how I deal with those hate mails. The answer: I laugh them off, and find it increasingly easy to do so. Because while I know Morgan Spurlock has plenty of die-hard fans and admirers, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts) he never received a letter along the lines of:
Thank you so much for making Super Size Me. After watching it, I finally understood what’s been wrong with my diet all these years. Like you, I was eating three huge meals at McDonald’s every day, along with several desserts and a couple of milkshakes. It never occurred to me that eating this way could make me fat and sick, so I just kept doing it and getting bigger and bigger year after year. It was really frustrating.
Then in your wonderful film, you explained to me that I’m really, really fat and stupid, but it’s not my fault because McDonald’s should have taken more responsibility for my eating habits by not offering me so much food. Now there’s hope. Thanks to your efforts, perhaps someday McDonald’s will stop selling sodas, french fries, desserts and milkshakes, and then I’ll be able to stop stuffing myself with them. In the meantime, I know my lousy diet isn’t my fault — it’s theirs. I can’t tell you how much better that makes me feel about myself.
I’d also like to thank you for explaining my post-meal puking problem. About 20 minutes after every meal, I puke violently. I thought it was some kind of serious medical condition. Then I saw how you puked after stuffing yourself at McDonald’s and began to wonder if perhaps it’s the food that’s causing my puking. When you showed a close-up of your own puke with bits of french fries sticking out, I knew for sure it must be the food. It’s a real comfort knowing I probably don’t have stomach cancer or something like that, so the puking no longer worries me so much.
One of the really fat and stupid people you care so much about
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that letter has never been sent. If Spurlock did receive a sincere fan letter, it would be something like:
Thank you for confirming my cherished beliefs that McDonald’s is evil and fat people are stupid. Now and then I feel a need to be reminded of my own superiority. Your film did the trick nicely.
Around the same time I received the hate mail mentioned above, I also received this message from a gentleman named Cary:
Where do I even begin? I don’t want this letter to turn into a novella so I will attempt to limit my typical long-windedness. I was always a guy with an average-looking build. I’ve never been muscular and really never had the desire to be so. My frame was more typical of a lean, athletic basketball player. I was always fairly active until moving from Ohio to Georgia 12 years ago. After moving here, I became less and less active. That change to a sedentary lifestyle combined with my general poor eating habits quickly caught up with me in my early thirties.
For the past seven or eight years I have struggled mightily with my weight, general mood, and energy level. I’ve tried numerous diet plans and exercise routines with limited-to-no results. If anyone tried to categorize my frame of mind about this uninterrupted string of failures, the word “frustration” would be an understatement. I have chided myself so many times because I couldn’t lose weight or because I didn’t have the energy to exercise.
Basically, for the past 5 years I’ve felt like a “fat cow” with no motivation or energy to do much of anything to change my situation. I mean, I limited my calories and ate lots of carbs (you know… “your body’s fuel source” according to the so-called “nutrition experts”). And yet I felt tired ALL THE TIME. It didn’t matter how much sleep I got, I was ALWAYS exhausted upon waking. I went to see a sleep specialist because I thought I might have sleep apnea. Nope. I had my thyroid checked because of my weight gain. No problems there. I was at a complete loss as to why I went from an active 190 pound guy with tons of energy to a lazy 266 pound guy with no energy. For the past few years I’ve been rationalizing to myself that it was simply a product of “getting older.”
Then in mid-April I was on the Netflix website looking over their recommendations for me and your documentary “Fat Head” was listed. I read the brief description and it piqued my interest. I noticed that it was available through the Instant View so I added it to my queue and watched it later that week.
Watching your film was one of those ultra-rare moments in a person’s life when the vastness of the entire universe seems to scrunch together to form a lens of lucidity through which one can view the senselessness and mysteries of life with complete and life-altering clarity. Over and over again you and your interviewees made points and revealed facts and used human biology and physiology to explain things. Being a science geek, this caused me to become absolutely transfixed on your film. As more and more information was presented, a smile of empowerment and discovery kept involuntarily finding its way onto my face. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. This was way too good to be true. It’s as if you made this documentary with me specifically in mind.
After the film had ended I sat there on the couch with an overwhelming sense of hope and resolution for what seemed like an hour. THE VERY NEXT MORNING I changed my diet to match the one you practiced in the film – meats, cheeses, vegetables, lots of saturated fats, and hardly any sugars, carbs, starches or the like. I’m eating meals that fill me up and that I ENJOY! No more disgusting “diet food.”
Within the first three days I noticed a serious change in my mood and energy level. Rather than feeling run down and tired I was feeling awake, alive, alert, focused, and energetic. I began exercising to get rid of the excess energy I had… and I’ve been exercising four or five days a week for 60-90 minutes each session ever since! And that still doesn’t tire me out! I am overflowing with energy now. I never wake up tired any more. I feel full between meals instead of feeling hungry all the time. I used to snore… not anymore! I’ve had an embarrassing facial skin “condition” for the past six or seven years… it’s almost completely GONE! And in the first month of this lifestyle change I’ve lost 20 pounds! If anyone had told me 6 weeks ago that something like this could happen, I’d have told them they were certifiably crazy.
Tom, I don’t know how else to say this except to say that YOU HAVE GIVEN ME MY LIFE BACK. I can’t begin to put a price on what you have done for me. I’ve been sharing your worldview-changing documentary with everyone who will listen to me. I’m eagerly awaiting the continued transformation of my body and mind back to what it was before I started doing what the “experts” told me to do.
Tom, from the deepest depths of my mind and soul… THANK YOU!
Maybe it was Cary’s obvious sincerity, maybe it’s that I have my own clear memories of feeling like a frustrated “fat cow,” or maybe I just happened to read this one at the right moment, but by the time I read the last line, I had a lump in my throat.
This is why we do what we do … and it’s why anyone who thinks he’s going to wound my ego with a snarky little hate mail is dreaming.