"Fat Head" movie obliterates the low-fat lie with humor-filled facts
I recently shared with you about two amazing new documentaries on the subject of diet and obesity that are coming out soon and today I have an interview with one of those filmmakers to talk about his movie designed to be a direct response to Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me. Tom Naughton was kind enough to send me a special advance release of his new movie Fat Head to review and I was blown away by how well done it was with all the professional quality of Spurlock's documentary, but with the truth on his side.
Naughton says Morgan Spurlock fed us all "a load of bologna"
Currently, Naughton is seeking distribution for Fat Head and would like to expose it to as wide an audience as possible because of the potential lifechanging impact it could have on so many people who have never heard the facts he shares in this film. It's an eye-opening experience to learn why fat isn't so bad for you and carbohydrates are.
Watch this trailer for Fat Head posted at YouTube and then read my exclusive interview with the filmmaker Tom Naughton afterwards to find out more about this new movie and how you can help spread the word to others about it:
1. I’m so stoked to share with you an interview today with one of the most hilarious people you will ever meet in your entire life. His name is Tom Naughton and he’s a stand-up comedian who is on a personal mission to prove Morgan Spurlock was dead wrong for blaming McDonald’s and the fast food industry for obesity in his hit documentary film Super Size Me. He’s doing that through a very funny documentary of his own called Fat Head which I have been privileged to watch from start to finish.
Welcome, Tom, and tell us why you felt it was necessary to challenge Spurlock’s conclusions regarding obesity. Was it the cause-effect factor he promoted that got you the most or was Spurlock simply missing a key element in his analysis of the problem?
The cause-effect factor had a lot to do with it. There’s that famous H.L. Mencken quote that for every complex problem there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong. Blaming McDonald’s for the so-called obesity epidemic is the clear, simple, and wrong explanation. You can’t solve a problem by pointing a finger at the wrong cause.
2. Of course, Super Size Me was one of the most critically acclaimed documentaries on nutrition in the history of filmmaking. Spurlock was given high praises by those who approved of the message of his film and it indeed forced the corporate executives at McDonald’s to make certain changes to their business model to deal with the public relations fallout from the movie’s message.
But what you share in Fat Head is that much of what Spurlock spouts in his finger pointing flick is “a load of bologna!” Tell us about some of the things what he got wrong in Super Size Me and why the truth about those things is important to know.
For one, Spurlock swallowed-–hook, line and sinker-–the CDC’s assertion that there is an obesity “epidemic.” There isn’t. Since 1970, we’ve gained an average of eight pounds per person. We’re also nearly 10 years older on average, so an extra eight pounds is hardly a shocking gain. And much of the overall weight gain is concentrated in a small fraction of the population. In other words, a few folks have gotten very, very fat. The rest of us gained a bit of weight.
I’ve been hearing for years that a third of American adults are obese, that three-quarters of us are overweight, and that always struck me as suspicious. When I look around in public, I do see more fat people than I did 20 or 30 years ago, but it’s not a majority by any means. My research confirmed my suspicion. The obesity “epidemic” was wildly exaggerated by the CDC, because they were established to fight epidemics, and so they need on-going epidemics to justify their budgets. Remember when we were all told there were 2 million homeless people in America, and later we found it was never more than 200,000 and probably even fewer? Same thing is happening with the obesity figures.
For another, Spurlock promoted the idea that people are getting fat on fast food because not every McDonald’s had a nutrition menu available when he went looking. You know, we didn’t have a so-called obesity epidemic when I was growing up, and in those days, not a single restaurant had nutrition information available, anywhere. Most people recognize high-calorie meals when they see them.
When you get down to it, Spurlock is proposing that people are stupid, that they don’t know big orders of fries and huge cups of soda are fattening unless McDonald’s holds a nutrition menu up to their noses. That’s just silly and, when you think about, elitist and snobbish to boot.
Finally, Spurlock blamed–-or at least his doctor blamed-–a high-fat diet for causing the fatty liver he developed. Where did his doctor go to med school? I know a fatty liver is caused by gorging on simple carbohydrates, and I’m not a doctor. So that was just plain wrong information.
3. Your documentary Fat Head actually started out as a means for shining a light on the enormous fat prejudice that exists in our society today. In fact, the movie begins and ends with this point asking why we have become so obsessed with fat people. What was the impetus for wanting to share this message in a documentary? How did the message of your film shift from the prejudice as the primary focus to Spurlock’s interpretation of the perceived obesity problem?
I actually started this project intending for it to be a humorous video essay of sorts that would deal with what I think is a ridiculous prejudice against fat people in our society. Not everyone cares about being skinny, and if some folks prefer to go through life eating whatever they like and gaining weight as a consequence, that’s their business and we should stop trying to shame them into eating the way the rest of think they should.
In fact, as Dr. Eric Oliver explained to me, and details in his book Fat Politics, equating being thin with being virtuous is an attitude left over from our Puritan heritage. Anything involving sensuality made the Puritans uncomfortable, to put it mildly, and that included enjoying your food. In many, many cultures, being fat is either no big deal or even embraced as a sign of wealth and success.
I rented Super Size Me as research for that project--otherwise I never would’ve seen it. When I did see it, I was so annoyed with the overall message and the twisted logic Spurlock used to promote it, I felt compelled to create a reply. So the focus of my project changed. And of course it changed again when I discovered how much of the nutritional advice we’ve been fed over the years is a load of bologna.
4. The most compelling argument against the message of Super Size Me in your documentary is when you cry foul on the nutritionist who told Morgan Spurlock he was consuming over 5,000 calories a day on his McDiet. Since you were unable to have access to any of his menus, it was impossible to determine exactly how many calories he consumed in the 30 days he ate at McDonald’s. But by using deductive reasoning assuming what Spurlock ate, you did the math and it just didn’t add up especially in light of the fact that he was only asked to Super Size a total of nine times.
What did you discover his actual calorie counts to be? Do you think he purposely lied about the calories to sensationalize and hyperbolize the point of his movie even further?
Yes, I think he fudged on his rules to make sure his weight gain would be dramatic and impressive. I don’t know how many calories he actually consumed; we just know it was more than 5,000 per day. But that fact, all by itself, creates a little calculation problem for Mr. Spurlock.
When I’m not doing standup comedy, I’m a computer programmer, so math and logic are part of my daily existence. When Spurlock’s nutritionist told him he was consuming more than 5,000 calories per day, alarm bells went off in my math-loving brain. I’ve eaten at McDonald’s while on a diet, so I already had a rough idea of the calories in their meals, and I knew immediately something didn’t add up.
According to his rules, he would eat three meals per day and only super-size if they asked him. But he was only asked to super-size nine times in 30 days--that’s twice per week. You simply can’t consume 5,000 calories per day at McDonald’s unless you’re super-sizing, or eating more than three meals per day, or piling on extra sandwiches and desserts, or drinking a lot of milkshakes, or some combination of the above.
And remember, between weeks three and four, he actually lost a pound, which means he managed to gain more than eight pounds in each of the other three weeks. Again, that just doesn’t add up, not if you’re following his supposed rules. He won’t show anyone his food log, which to me means it’s almost certain that he gorged himself like a madman.
But he can’t let us know that, because that would undermine the message of his film, which is that we’re becoming obese simply by eating ordinary meals at McDonald’s. That just isn’t true. He absolutely stuffed himself. I could do the same thing at his girlfriend’s favorite vegan restaurant and gain just as much weight.
5. So basically Fat Head is a direct response to the distortions presented in Super Size Me. And might I add that your film is every bit as hilarious and truly educational as Spurlock’s film. You got a lot of outstanding health and nutrition experts to help you out with this film that my readers will likely recognize, including Eric Oliver, Drs. Michael & Mary Dan Eades, Dr. Al Sears, Dr. Mary Enig, Sally Fallon, and others.
Why did you choose these people to discuss the points of your film as opposed to people like Dr. Dean Ornish or representatives of the American Heart Association, USDA, or FDA, for example? Was there an overriding message you felt has been missing in the discussion of diet and weight loss?
I chose the people I believe are offering the correct advice, even though it’s not the advice that’s accepted by the nutritional establishment.
My own experience with low-fat diets has ranged ranged from ineffective to disastrous. I didn’t lose weight unless I also severely restricted my calories, and by the time I did that, I felt listless or even depressed. I never--and I mean never--get depressed, so if a diet does that to me, it’s a bad diet in my book.
The first relatively low-carb diet I tried was The Zone Diet by Dr. Barry Sears. To get to that 40/30/30 ratio, I cut my carbs and ate more animal fat than I had in years, and yet my cholesterol ratio improved. Since then, I’ve never accepted the low-fat diet dogma.
Naturally, I was delighted that so many outstanding nutrition experts agreed to be part of my film. I’m a complete unknown, a first-time filmmaker, and yet all the people you mentioned took several hours of their time to let me interview them. I think that underscores how dedicated they are to overturning what they consider to be load of bologna when it comes to dietary advice.
6. On your FatHead-Movie.com web site, you have a wonderful list of “No-Bologna Facts,” such as “there's never been a single study that proves saturated fat causes heart disease,” “half of all heart-attack victims have normal or low cholesterol,” and “being fat is not, in and of itself, bad for your health,” just to name a few. Why are these such obvious dietary truths not common knowledge and how do you hope your movie will help change that ignorance in our society?
Not to be flip, but they’re not common knowledge because so few people know about them. Once George McGovern’s committee on nutrition decided low-fat diets were the correct way to go, the vast majority of the research money went that way too, because the federal government is the grand poobah of funding.
Scientists are--I hate to say this, but it’s true--more or less just employees of their funding sources, and you don’t anger the boss by telling him he’s wrong. The scientists who disagreed with the cholesterol-is-a-killer theory, like Dr. Kilmer McCully, were effectively silenced. They were blackballed, denied tenure, denied grants, denied publication in the prestigious journals. That’s one of the reasons I’m against the federal government setting an official nutrition policy. What they decide goes, and if they get it wrong--which they did--we all pay the price.
Obviously I hope my film changes some minds, but the truth is, I wish a film weren’t necessary to accomplish that. I didn’t discover anything new here; as X-Files fans would say, the truth is out there, in dozens of excellent books. But like it or not, more people watch TV and films than read books, so maybe a film can be an important part of the discussion.
7. To challenge the conclusions made in Super Size Me, you wanted to put yourself on a fast-food diet for a month to show that it is possible to eat healthy, lose weight, and live to tell about it despite the hyperbole that Spurlock felt he needed to engage in to make his points. Prior to beginning this project, you went to see your doctor for some baseline readings. I could tell by your high (above 50) HDL “good” cholesterol and very low (under 100) triglycerides that you are livin’ la vida low-carb!
But what did your doctor think about this little experiment BEFORE you began? And judging by the reaction he gave you at the end of the 28 days, he seemed to be rather shocked by what he found. What was his explanation for what happened to your weight and health?
I didn’t tell my doctor what I was going to eat, so of course he counseled me to choose the grilled chicken and the salads and the other low-fat foods. When he saw afterwards that my fast-food diet was 55 percent fat and 23 percent saturated fat, he proclaimed it a “widow-maker” diet. Then he started checking the lab work. Yes, he was definitely shocked. I’m sure you saw it in his face. He ultimately decided that I’d escaped the “widow-maker” effects of a fatty diet because I had also exercised more during the 28 days.
8. Unlike Spurlock, you were more than happy to post your four-week menu eating at only fast food restaurants right there on your web site for all the world to see. I enjoyed reading what you ate and I was imagining what I would choose if I had to be forced to eat in fast food restaurants exclusively for a month. EEEK! But you did it, lost weight and even lowered your cholesterol. How can this possibly be? Were you slipping in diet pills off camera or something? Your results couldn’t possibly be due solely to your food choices, would it?
No diet pills for me, thanks. It was a combination of things. I kept my daily average around 2,000 calories, I walked six nights per week instead of my usual three, and I kept my carb intake at around 100 grams per day. That’s not down to Atkins levels, but it’s relatively low.
I believe that by keeping the carbs down, I kept my insulin down too, and that’s why I didn’t experience any of the ill effects Spurlock did. He was consuming a pound of sugar per day, which will pretty much ruin anyone’s health. And that’s really the point I was trying to make. You can eat fast food and still be healthy and keep your weight down if you just make some reasonable choices.
9. My favorite part of Fat Head is how you brilliantly exposed the fat/cholesterol hypothesis regarding heart disease that became government approved soon after Ancel Keys declared it to be the gospel truth. Then with people like Michael Jacobsen from the Center For Science In The Public Interest (CSPI), the public relations onslaught has continued and we’re always in crisis mode with this and that they say is going to kill us next.
ith a biting sense of humor and a brief trip down memory lane, you lay it all out for people to see just how quickly we devolved from a nation of people with rational nutrition down to a politically-correct, agricultural-loving dietary red tape society that is now more confused than ever about what “healthy” really means. How much longer is the low-fat lie gonna last before the gig is up? How is your film going to help re-educate people that they need to be more concerned with the excessive carbohydrates they are consuming than fat?
I sincerely hope that by working so hard to make this film entertaining, with all the Monty-Python style animations and the Super Size Me parody scenes, we can get thousands and thousands of people to see it and then learn something even as they’re laughing. One of the most gratifying experiences for me was showing a draft of this film to some friends who really liked Super Size Me.
They still don’t agree with me, and probably never will, that when people overeat in fast food restaurants, it’s their own fault, not Ronald McDonald’s. But when they saw how the cholesterol theory was basically made up and then forced down the public’s throat, they were stunned. They loved that part of the film. So perhaps even people who tend towards a blame-McDonald’s mentality will get something out of this.
I’m an optimist, but I don’t expect the low-fat dogma to disappear anytime soon. Too many careers have been built on it. Literally thousands of doctors and researchers and bureaucrats and health writers would have to admit they were wrong.
10. We appreciate you visiting with us to discuss Fat Head today, Tom! As a strong supporter of the low-carb way of life, I wish you well as you seek movie distribution in the United States. Surely there is enough interest in a film like this that challenges all that we’ve ever been taught about diet, health and nutrition and questions whether it’s all true or not.
I consider your film a cinematic version of Gary Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories because it shares the same basic message. If you were in control of how this film is shared with the public, tell us what your dream would be. Do you feel Fat Head will be given a fair shake at getting a similar amount of publicity that Super Size Me did? How can people who support your film help you right now?
I’m flattered by the comparison, but of course Gary’s book is way more detailed than my film--a 96-minute film can maybe cover a tenth of what a 500-page book covers. So please, don’t anyone watch this film and think you can skip reading Gary’s book.
That being said, my dream would be some kind of major release. That could mean a theatrical release, or getting it placed with a major cable network. It’s an uphill battle because the mentality that informs Super Size Me-–you know, people are innocent, zombie-like victims of large, evil corporations--is rampant in Hollywood. A film like mine isn’t as likely to appeal to the Sundance Film Festival crowd.
Your readers can help just by spreading the word. Visit our web site, encourage your friends to visit the web site. Information can spread so rapidly in the digital age, it’ll only be a matter of time before word gets around to the people who can make that big release happen.
Jimmy, thanks for having me today and for all the good work you do to help people make smarter choices.
THANK YOU Tom! It was such a pleasure watching your film and I know it CAN make a real difference in the lives of many if given the attention it deserves. Please visit FatHead-Movie.com for more information about this amazing film that challenges the low-fat dogma and tall tales that Morgan Spurlock shared in Super Size Me. Or, as Tom calls it, "a load of bologna!"
You can e-mail Tom Naughton at firstname.lastname@example.org.