Film sparks talks on obesity

by Hayley Odom

When viewers saw “Supersize Me” in Moos Towers on Monday night, they didn’t munch on french fries or chicken nuggets. Instead they savored carrots, apples, oatmeal bars and water.

In an effort to encourage students in the Academic Health Center to discuss different aspects of what some have called the obesity epidemic, two School of Public Health experts mulled over the movie’s implications.

“There is nothing in the film that is not new,” said epidemiology professor Kathryn Schmitz. “It’s publicized in a way that is palatable and will make people consume it in larger numbers.”

She called the documentary a “boom for nutrition education” and said it “fell out of heaven” for those interested in public health.

The film focused on Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker, who only ate meals from McDonald’s for an entire month and saw his health decline as a result.

The two experts and audience members questioned whether responsibility for the epidemic lies with parents, school administrators or food companies.

Epidemiology professor Leslie Lytle said nutrition educators are told they are responsible for helping children make educated food decisions. But with physical education and nutrition program budgets being slashed, it’s difficult to teach children about healthy eating.

“Half of all calories consumed come from outside the home,” she said. “One-fourth of those calories come from fast food.”

Because the United States is not a society of censorship, personal responsibility needs to extend to the food industry, she said.

Public health graduate student Jerri Wachter said she thought the movie was interesting and enjoyed hearing students’ opinions afterward.

She said finding a solution to the problem is troubling for public health educators.

“The schools, the community and industries need to make a collaborative effort to make a difference,” she said of the obesity epidemic.

Graduate student Andrea Zytkovicz said she thought the movie was “gross” and was surprised at the extent of health problems Spurlock experienced during his month-long McDonald’s diet.

“We have to start education (about healthy food choices) early or the problem will balloon,” she said.

Zytkovicz said she has not eaten at a McDonald’s in years.