Food Conciousness: Super Size Me as an Effective Case Study

“Our society needs more heroes who are scientists, researchers, and engineers. We need to celebrate and reward the people who cure diseases, expand our understanding of humanity, and work to improve people’s lives.” – Mark Zuckerberg

People need qualitative research to further improve the lifestyle that they are living, as well as to advance the technology and the environment that they are surrounded in. Through quality research, society is able to gain a better knowledge of today’s most current and pressing problems. By using information that is derived from research, individuals make better life decisions. In the documentary Super Size Me created by Morgan Spurlock, viewers follow the case study of a man determined to find the results of eating only fast food for an entire month. Upon finding that approximately sixty percent of all adults living in the United States are overweight or obese, Spurlock himself goes on a thirty day McDonald’s-only diet. As the true, underlying issue of McDonald’s food holding no significant nutritional value becomes clear, Spurlock attempts to dig deeper and question whether or not the fast food industry is to be blamed for the “obesity epidemic”. Through a 30-Day McDonald’s diet analysis, Spurlock discusses the importance of a quality case study regarding nutritional health and reveals that regularly indulging in fast food causes severe detrimental damage to one’s own health.

Quality case studies are in-dept investigations of a single person, group, event, or community that are based off of fundamental operational definitions. These operational definitions state how the concepts in the study are to be measured, as well as what operations will be employed, and how they will be used to produce results. Spurlock directly states his operant definitions, which he uses in his hypothesis, and later on, with his reflection on his case study. He states, “[The rules for this 30 day McDonald’s diet are:] rule number one: [I] can only supersize when asked; rule number two: [I] can only eat food from McDonald’s… water included; rule number three: [i] have to eat everything on the menu at least once; and rule number four: [I] must eat three meals a day.” This statement by Spurlock gives a definition of his terms used in his hypothesis; he also creates an exact procedure for his diet, and he show exactly how he plans to determine his data. By establishing these measurements he eliminates error in his research by narrowing down the possibility of misinterpretations for what he’s studying.

Quality case studies continue for extended periods of time, so that processes and developments can be studied as they happen. In order to investigate a subject properly, researchers look through a person’s daily routine, as well as the people around them, and official documents that surround and support the argument the case study is directed towards. During the 30-day McDonald’s fast food diet, Spurlock showcases extensive qualitative data, descriptions of events from his own personal perspective, as well as a few legal documents that share the same ideology that McDonald’s causes problems in everyday people’s’ lives. Spurlock states, “More than 60% of americans get no form of exercise; so for the next 30 days, neither will I. … I… take a check list of … the things that I eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner…” It is evident that Spurlock has created research that is thorough, as he documents what foods he has consumed for every day of his study (a total of 30 days). He also videotapes his emotional and physical reactions afterwords, which strengthens his evidence even further. His notetaking of his food is meticulous and systematic: it is made clear what information is a factual description, rather than an opinion, as all of his claims have supportive, videotaped evidence.

Quality case studies are focused and concise, and have good, analyzed results that collates the data into a manageable form so that a constructive narrative is able to be supported around it. A case study is based on an opinion, so it must be designed to provoke a debate. At the beginning of his documentary, Spurlock addresses the questions that he will be answering in regards to his case study by stating, “Is fast food really that bad for you? … what would happen if I ate nothing but McDonalds for 30 days straight? Would I suddenly be going on the fast track for becoming an obese american? Would it be unreasonably dangerous?” Spurlock’s questions have subject and relevance: he’s deliberately trying to isolate a small group of people to listen to what he’s researching (he believes that all consumers of fast food companies, especially McDonald’s, should know if or if not their food contributes to a multitude of health problems). After his 30 day fast food diet, Spurlock goes on to explain the results of his tested theory, “In only 30 days of eating McDonald’s, I gained 24.5 pounds, my liver turned to fat, and my cholesterol shot up 65 points. My body fat percentage went from 11 to 18 percent… I nearly doubled my risk for coronary heart disease, making myself twice as likely to have heart failure. I felt depressed and exhausted most of the time, and my mood swung at a dime, and my sex life was nonexistent. I craved the food I ate as more as I ate it, and got massive headaches when I didn’t.” Spurlock planned and addressed his study’s results, while analyzing them in a way where all of his collected date was of relevance. This allowed him to construct a narrative around his research.

By Morgan Spurlock’s stated operational definitions, his in depth looks at his personal life during his diet, and his collation of his data into a manageable form, it is evident that he has constructed a quality case study. In Super Size Me, viewers learn how fast food has a negative impact on the human body. Through his 30 day McDonald’s fast food diet, Spurlock discusses the importance of health and reveals that informing consumers about the foods they buy and eat creates an abundance of people who are more health conscious.