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Morgan Spurlock created the film Super Size Me to document his investigation into the effects of fast food on our health. For thirty days the intrepid writer ate nothing but food from McDonalds, recording not only the physical but also the psychological effects too.
Dont eat this Book is more than the book that accompanies the film.; it is an account of the whole story how the idea came about, the research on the possible effects of the enterprise, how Spurlock surrounded himself with medical experts and what the public and corporate responses have been to the whole affair.
The method used is a mix of statistical and scientific evidence and personal testimony - from Spurlocks experience and from people who contacted him after seeing Super Size Me, held together by Spurlocks snappy, chatty commentary. I found this last element a little tiresome; it felt like Spurlock was urging the reader to agree with him and, frankly, he tried too hard. What I am trying to say is that Spurlock is most probably preaching to the converted; I suspect that if you have no concerns about junk food and you dont care about what you eat, you probably wont pick up this book in the first place.
Another criticism I have is that the narrative often lacks cohesion; Spurlock jumps from one idea to the next and back again, leaving the reader hanging expectantly until he decides to finish his thoughts.
There are many positives, however. Foremost is Spurlocks ability to translate the statistical and nutritional information into something the average reader can relate too. Not only does he have an impressive ability to simplify things without totally dumbing down but he uses clever anecdotal evidence to counter the science.
Dont eat this Book is certainly thorough and could not be accused of being under-researched. Twenty-four pages of notes at the end of the book reveal the varied sources from which Spurlock has put together his arguments; these range from World Health organization fact sheets and advice from the united States Surgeon General to the literature and websites of major fast food corporations.
Realising the criticisms he is likely to encounter taking on some of the worlds biggest hitters, Spurlock has created what appears to be a watertight argument covering all bases. Nothing here is vague or open to interpretation; Spurlock seems almost to be daring the multi-nationals to contradict his claims.
While Super Size Me was centred around Spurlocks consumption of meals from McDonalds, Dont eat this Book is more varied in its targets, although it is the major fast food chains that attract the most criticism. Spurlock is not so narrow-minded that he does not appreciate that there are many factors in the growing number of obsess people, not only in the United States but in the developed nations generally. It is this appreciation of the wide-ranging causes and consequences that gives the book a bit more depth than otherwise would be the case. This lends a little more gravity to what Spurlock is trying to do and means that his aim is not merely to malign the fast food industry but to get the government, food producers and individuals to think about a holistic approach to good health. At the end of the book he gives contact details for people who have taken the initiative and started their own community projects all over the United States.
Spurlock does not just blindly criticise; he has some good ideas that lend the book a positive tone. He demonstrates an understanding of the economic and social implications of an aggressive fast food industry as well as an ability to understand how these forces impact globally. Put simply. This is not just a book about how why America has a problem with obesity, it looks at the changing lifestyle of people around the globe and explains how rapid industrialization of previously undeveloped countries plays a role too.
For those who have seen Super Size Me there is a small amount of repetition but this is more than made up for by the enhanced background to this debate and the more detailed data illuminates the book. However, it stands well alone and the reader does not need to have seen the film to appreciate the book.
Over all I would recommend this book particularly for parents or health professionals working with teenage children who would certainly be able to relate to the way Spurlock gets his message across.
I really don't agree with those who say that there is too much said about diet and healthy eating these days. I have only to look around me to know that the message still isnt getting through to parents; earlier this week on my way to work I saw a mother unwrap a whole chocolate bar and put it in the hand of a two year old on the bus at 7.30 a.m - a whole bar! Hadn't the child been given breakfast anyway? And over the weekend I witnessed a young father give his three year old a big cookie and, when the train was nearing their stop, he started berating the child to hurry up and finish the cookie - which was too big for him in the first place. Couldn't he have put it back in the bag until later?
Sadly the people with sense will read this and have their worst fears confirmed. Those who need to probably won't...
Published by Penguin, 320 pages
Though he wasn't much of an activist before his monthlong, McDonald's-eating experiment (documented in his film Super Size Me), Spurlock has since become a crusader for healthy eating. His passion is obvious in his reading of this audiobook, which delves more deeply into the issues his film raised, focusing in particular on food industry lobbyists and youth-oriented advertising. His undisguised indignation at their manipulative tactics and his contempt for the often slothful modern American lifestyle rise inexorably as he reels off statistics about calorie content, chemical additives, lack of exercise and so on. Frequently, his enthusiasm leads him to read too quickly and, without visuals showing portion sizes or unhealthy trends, the audio loses some of its impact. Spurlock also announces sidebar every time he begins reading what in the book are separate boxes, which is unnecessary and somewhat irritating since the information always relates to what he has been discussing. But the sincerity of Spurlock's quest and his mockery of the people behind what he sees as a national threathe humorously mimics the voices of advertising executives and food industry honchos when reading their claimsmakes this audio easy to consume.