Animal Protection > AR Interviews

AN EVENING WITH VEGAN CHEF ALEX JAMIESON
 & 'SUPERSIZE ME' MORGAN SPURLOCK

By Claudette Vaughan

The literally life-threatening hazard of stuffing one's face with fast food has made director Morgan Spurlock the next high profile documentary-maker to follow in Michael Moore's footsteps by taking on corporate America. Inspired by a court case where two teenage girls sued McDonalds for making them fat, director/writer/star Morgan Spurlock takes his audience across America as he tries to discover why two out of three Americans are overweight. Australians fare no better in the obesity stakes. The Herald Sun reports that fat kills four times as many Victorians (1400 people a year) as traffic accidents yet attracts only a fraction of the funding (1). Diabetes triggered by being overweight and obese claims 450 lives a year; heart diseases caused by excess flab kills 650.

In Super Size Me Spurlock came up with the idea of eating nothing but McDonald's for a month. But the prospect was all the more appalling to Alex Jamieson, his girlfriend, because she is a strict vegan, health counselor and vegan chef. Nobody was prepared for what was to follow. Neither Jamieson, Spurlock or a team of doctors monitoring his progress throughout predicted the devastation of his dietary decline. Let's find out what went on.

Q. Everybody's talking about the fat in the food at McDonald's but what about the sugar and sodium found in excess levels and why aren't chemicals found in food demonised? Did you notice a difference?

MS. Yes a big difference between saturated and unsaturated fats. Also natural versus 'added' sugar. I agree with you. I got very lethargic and depressed on this diet. It was like going through torture. Western Anglo attitudes to food and our attitudes to our bodies and all its compulsions is a piece of the puzzle I didn't really get into. It's a whole other door.

Q. Where there any restrictions put on you by legal advisors about Lisa Howard (The Head of Macdonald's in the US)?

MS. No. They wouldn't let her talk to me. They locked her away. No sooner than 10 minutes I had arrived in Australia and Macdonald's wants the right to reply. Faxes and emails were flying across the country saying "Get the facts before you see his documentary". They are in damage control and they are trying to demonise me. Hey, the minute they open their mouths, I sell more tickets to the movie.

Q. What message do you want people to go away with having seen Super Size Me?

MS. I would love to see parents say "I'm going down to my school to see what my kids are eating". Parents need to get involved to get practices changed. Get rid of junk food and soda machines out of the schoolyard. In the States they continue to cut education services so they privatise. It's a horrible deal for kids now. They are medicated/ drugged up at the drop of a hat pumped up. They want their sugar fix now. So why didn't I quit? After 21 days of eating McDonalds I incurred massive chest pains. My blood tests were insane. Alex said to quit. My doctors said to quit. What I did was contact my brother who has been a big influence on my life and he said: "Morgan, people eat this shit their whole lives. Do you really think another 9 days will kill you?" (laughter) Another message to take away from the movie is, Our bodies are not living {by eating junk food}, just surviving.

Q for Alex. How did you heal him after his 30 days on McDonalds food?

Alex. I knew it would wreak havoc on his body. Morgan piled on 11 kg, his cholesterol rose from a healthy 4mmol to 6, his body fat soared from 11 to 18 per cent, he was racked with headaches and his liver became so fatty his doctor warned him it was turning to pate, risking permanent damage. The worse part of it for me was Morgan's depression. He started having uncharacteristic mood swings, and, of course, the effect on our sex life was awful. It took about 8 weeks to take all the bad stuff out and Morgan started feeling healthy again. I put him on a strict vegan detox plan. I fed him vegetables, fruit, soy products and vitamin supplements while eliminating all meat, dairy, caffeine and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, sugar and rice.

Q for MS. How do you feel about McDonalds now?

MS. Don't eat it.

Alex. I'm passionate about encouraging people to eat fresh food. Even if it's not exactly McDonalds people eat this type of junk food all the time. They might have a sugary cereal out of a box or a muffin for breakfast, or some kind of fast food like pizza for lunch and maybe Mexican for dinner -- all processed foods. And look what happens!

WHAT IS ALEX'S VEGAN DETOX RECIPE FOR GOOD HEALTH?

1. Reduce and eliminate all sugars. Refined sugar is almost in all processed food, from sweets to pasta sauces and salad dressings.

2. Cut out soft drinks including diet versions, full of artificial sweeteners. These dehydrate the body rather than quench the thirst.

3. Drink lots of water. We need about 8 glasses a day for our brains and other organs to function properly. Most people think they are hungry when they are actually thirsty.

4. Eat at least one green leaf vege a day. Full of vitamins and minerals, they detoxify, cleanse and energise your body. Aim for a cup of broccoli, spinach, silverbeet, bok choy, cabbage or rocket, even frozen will do.

Source: Alex Jamieson, holistic health counselor and personal vegan chef.

(1). Herald Sun, May 18, 2004.