‘Fat Head’ Movie Review


In response to Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me (2004), we have Tom Naughton’s Fat Head (2009) and I cannot recommend this movie enough. I wish I had discovered it sooner in the deluge of documentary rebuttals to well known, more popular films. Yes, you’re going to hear a hell of a lot more science than Supersize Me but it’s done in an entertaining way and you may find yourself angry at the diet industry, the government and Spurlock himself. Director Tom Naughton rips into the “bologna” which is what is sticking out of his mouth on the DVD cover as a parody of Spurlock’s fry-filled mouth and comes up with some surprising research that has been ignored. In fact, he shows how the government has paid for bad science and we are all the victims of it which has some pretty dire ramifications.

When I first saw Supersize Me I have to say I didn’t suspect any foul play. I figured it was pretty stupid for anyone to eat McDonald’s food every day and then not exercise at least a little, but Spurlock wasn’t far off base in that most Americans either refuse to exercise or honestly have little time do it. Also a high fat diet is bad for you, at least that’s what our doctors and nutritionists tell us? We have changed over from a hard labor workforce to a sedentary workforce behind computers and wireless mobile devices. Our last blue collar heroes are hard hat construction workers and repairmen and we’d probably be surprised by how much their labor has been cut down by technology. So eating lots of fat and not moving results in weight gain, nothing new there.

Spurlock’s movie went further though. The villain was not our personal responsibility or the success of technology but the fast food restaurants themselves. With their gluttonous appeals, fatty flavors, seductive advertising and cheap prices they were the culprits. Let’s demonize them, sue them, regulate them, etc, …and everyone will become healthy and thin again.

Well, that was bullshi-er, bologna according to Fat Head. The only thing that Supersize did was make Morgan Spurlock rich and jumpstart his career. I do like some of the TV programs he’s produced as they are experiments in human behavior, but now I question the setup for those experiments. Tom Naughton and other critics have repeatedly asked for Spurlock’s food log from the Supersize Me experiment and he has refused. This is not peer reviewed research and, quite frankly, is dishonest. If you make a claim and are not going to open up your findings for others to critique for errors, then where is your confidence in your findings?

Unfortunately, Fat Head will never make as much money as Supersize Me (don’t quote me, that’s just a guess) because it doesn’t indict the usual villains–corporate food giants. It has elements that repel what I hate to say is liberal Hollywood marketing–personal responsibility, science that goes against sacred cows, and a general feeling that McDonald’s is not so bad. Fact is, Naughton’s food log doesn’t restrain itself to just McDonald’s but to almost every fast food place you can think of. His strategy is based on the science and commonsense. Really, it’s pretty simple: avoid carbohydrates and take walks. That’s it.

And guess what? He lost weight. Not only that, all his other vital statistics were in complete order or better than normal. You’ll have to watch Fat Head for the science because to me that was the most impressive part of the documentary–science is never easy to break down for the rest of use without degrees, but Fat Head does a good job. In particular pay attention to the Lipid Hypothesis as these claims have been taken for gospel by our government.

Now the main question I have is when Naughton, who is a programmer by profession, did some calorie calculations on Supersize Me and found that Spurlock’s claims were not adding up? Spurlock said he consumed 5000 calories a day by eating at McDonald’s. Naughton played out several different meal scenarios to show it wasn’t possible with 3 meals a day… so where were the extra calories coming from? In other words, Spurlock was lying or was incompetent. Was he eating on the side? Or off camera? This annoys me because it’s the same reason why I became disgusted with Michael Moore–skewed, biased research and intentionally misleading edits.

But leave it to a programmer on a small budget to call Spurlock out. Maybe there’s more to this story, maybe Spurlock has some valid answers for us–but he’s not responding. It will also make you feel better about yourself for wanting to eat fat because it’s not as bad as you think. Naughton isn’t advocating a diet of fast food, he’s simply asking that you to question the prevailing wisdom based on sound science.

SIDENOTE: Since this is Freethunk, I have to point out that part of Naughton’s conclusions were based on our historical diet of animal fat and that taking in lots of grains and bread or eating a strictly vegan diet would be unnatural. Our bodies weren’t designed by evolution to be vegan and Fat Head suggests that the sugar that results from carbohydrates may result in other health issues. Basically, our bodies crave animal fat because we need animal fat (take that Seventh Day Adventists).

For creationists, doesn’t this present a problem? Creationists say that before the fall of man (Eve being tricked by a talking snake) that humans only ate “nonmeat” because there was no death in the Garden of Eden. In other words, they ate fruits, vegetables, and salad. The reason Naughton’s documentary is called “Fat Head” is one of the doctors interviewed says our brains are fat–they need fat! So without animal fat for our brains and overall health what did Adam and Eve eat? Nuts? A lot of nuts? There really isn’t a comparison between the fat in nuts and the fat in meat, as this movie makes the point, to be of comparative value. Without animal fat in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve would have had poor nutrition. God’s perfect design thus suspect. Of course, the fallback is that God remedied any nutritional issues by miraculous healing, but that still suggests a flaw when a system is not designed to be self-sufficient. Otherwise, how could you determine if the human body was designed perfectly? Because God said so? Well, we’re back to the same old circular reasoning…

SIDENOTE 2, added 3/8/2012: I was thinking about this article due to the recent comments since I tend to upset people (you should thank me, even if I’m wrong I’m making you think). I want to add  that I think part of my comment was wrong in that it is perfectly reasonable to presuppose a mythological setting and find the conditions that would work. In other words, “magic” or supernatural settings could replace science, Biblically speaking. For example, there are Vegan Bodybuilders, something I was not aware of when writing the first side note–see http://veganbodybuilding.com/ and if you are to say that the Garden of Eden had all of the available foods/supplements that these athletes take, then certainly Adam would have six pack and Eve would be toned and hot (whoo-hoo!).  Animal fat may not have been necessary (putting aside predation and the desire for a juicy hamburger) and I think can be debated as to the effects on health and the other big issue brought up by the movie: depression. This is a good article for an overall view on the subject of fat and its effects.

On the flipside, if you type in “Fat Vegetarians” you may be surprised to find they exist and that a vegan or vegetarian diet does not solve your problems. I already was aware of this due to knowing a handful of people who went vegetarian but it made no difference for their weight gain. There are even Fat Vegans, see http://veganhope.com/2010/01/11/yes-im-a-fat-vegan/ So in addition to presupposing all of the available nonmeat food groups in one place you would have to assume that Adam and Eve either worked out or had their metabolisms perfectly set whether they were lazy or active (Adam did go around naming all of the animals, so he must have been busy).

Fat Head, the movie is about the science of fat and losing weight in the here and now. It is not commenting on anything religious. Freethunk is about doing that, for better or worse, thus my first sidenote. I have nothing to do with the director. I just think he did a good job and presented a good case and much like the sermons I’ve heard that use movie examples I put in my own atheist opinions at the end. As a result I almost always learn something from readers. The information in the movie also supports the craving for fat and the historical relation it has to evolution. My first sidenote was more off the cuff and a jab at creationism, which I’m prone to do (I was raised on creationism). Fat doesn’t have to be from animals (I mentioned nuts for example). So if the setup is that God provides ample quantities of nuts and any substitutions for animal life like Omega 3 covered by consuming algae (assuming Eden had access to marine plant life) then there you have it.  The Garden of Eden provided the correct nutrition until a talking snake came by and ruined the whole thing.

20 thoughts on “‘Fat Head’ Movie Review

  1. You keep spelling “bologna” incorrectly. Please fix it–if you want to convince someone to watch something as weighted (no pun intended) is this, mistakes like that will make you lose credibility. That said, I thought the documentary was really interesting and made excellent points.

  2. Yes Sir! No, good call, forgot an “O” in my rush. My only defense is that my eyes were glazed over from a cold, but then I’m sure some of my other posts could use a spell check too. Always glad to have readers correct me if valid!

  3. hey, nice review. I just watched this on netflix and was shocked by his questioning of the lipid hypothesis. I am familiar with the dangers of carbohydrates and insulin levels but I had no idea what cholesterol really was. your review has made me more keen to research this subject.

  4. I just watched this documentary off of NetFlix, as well. It’s nice to finally see someone bringing up the truth of carbs, fat, and how the diet really works. I struggled as I kept gaining weight and getting more and more depressed and tired, but then I ended up switching to a high protein solid fat diet avoiding white sugars and grains like the plague and suddenly the pounds came off, I have a lot more energy, and I don’t suffer from nearly so much depression. It’s nice to see someone finally bringing up the studies and the truth about how this works – I enjoyed watching immensely.

  5. Hate to play devils advocate here. But you ever think that if Creationalsm is true, then food would not be needed because Adam and Eve didnt age and didnt need energy. Food would then simply be for pleasure. And killing animals for pleasure is wrong. Just wanted to offer another side to that coin.

  6. Devil’s Advocate arguments are always welcomed.

    Actually, I think creationists would take offense at the argument that eating was just for pleasure (or maybe not? Chime in if you want creationists) because it makes the “complexity” of how food is digested and provides energy for the body pointless.

    Of course with mythology and fairy tales you can make up anything you want, but creationism is supposed to be a scientific perspective and therefore saying food was solely for pleasure has no real scientific value beyond maybe evaluating taste. Bodies were designed perfectly then and therefore should function like now only what we see now is imperfect digestion and how the body distributes food for energy.

    So it’s a decent Devil’s Advocate position, I just don’t see it being embraced.

    A better D.A. argument for creationism would be that digestion worked differently and fat was not required. Vegetables/fruits in the Garden of Eden contained all the required nutrients for muscle and bone growth, etc. Possibly Adam ate a lot of nuts for protein. I’m sure there’s some way to spin it to avoid death, putting aside the problems with predators designed to kill like sharks and T.Rex.

  7. It is also possible that the nutritional content of the food they ate in the garden was ENTIRELY different from what was available to them after the fall, outside the garden. Remember that part about the earth being cursed and producing thistles to reward their toil? In addition, presumably Adam and Eves bodies would have been capable of making the most of the nutrition in the food they ate, and the (negative) ramifications of the fall for the human metabolism could have also been very significant. Who knows.

  8. The creatonists that would be offended is just christianity anyways, and most people that are christians probably dont take it to heart. Besides the creatonist stories in the bible is a bunch of bologna.. =D

  9. I am a creationist, and not easily offended. I believe that Adam and Eve’s fall from the Garden really ROCKED their world, which is now our world, and the result was a curse that effected virtually everything here, including nutrition.
    Should we ignore the Bible’s accounts as mere stories? Consider that there is no other book of antiquity, not even Shakespeare’s writings, that comes anywhere close to the extreme accuracy/similarity of the Bible’s manuscripts. It has been and continues to be, by far and away, the #1 best seller, year after year. Why is that?
    There is no other “god” who performed dozens of miracles in front of hundreds of people, who made the audacious claims that Jesus did, or who rose from the dead. The historical evidence is quite weighty. If you use an open mind and take a fair and scientific look at the Bible, there is really nothing like it. Follow former aetheist and award winning Chicago Tribune editor/reporter Lee Strobel’s investigation to learn more.
    Or just do what most people do and skip that mental/spiritual excercise and just sit back and call it bologna. I won’t be offended. But…if there really is a creator who made you and has been reaching out to you with an urgent message of hope, love and redemption, but you continue to ignore it day after day…well He might get offended. God’s call: “Come now and let us reason together…” I wish you well in your own investigation.

  10. Accuracy in the Biblical manuscripts? Are you kidding? Multiple contradictions and ancient bigotry is more like it. See: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/inconsistencies.html

    Just because it’s a best seller is not an indicator of truth (or we can start a Harry Potter religion), it’s an indicator of the success of superstition or the story being told, much like the other major religious works such as the Koran and Book of Mormon. I’m also very aware from being a Christian that the Bible is often bought for “looks” and am surprised again and again by church goers who don’t read it. It sits on the shelf while Christians watch TV.

    You have no extant manuscripts, only copies of copies. You have no eyewitness testimony outside of The Bible to corroborate the miracles (let’s believe the believers). And yes, other messiahs made Jesus claims. Other mythologies rival the Jesus story. Jesus mythology predates Jesus. Try: http://listverse.com/2009/04/13/10-christ-like-figures-who-pre-date-jesus/ and http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1605200301?ie=UTF8&tag=jamifrat-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1605200301 and try watching the end to Bill Maher’s movie Religulous which I’m sure is available on YouTube.

    Try skipping Strobel and doing some research beyond the usual claims. What about the Christians turned atheist like myself who found it all to be a bunch of hooey. If you want to believe in talking snakes, a zoo boat, the sun standing still,the existence of Satyrs (yes, it’s in there,) animal sacrifice for apparently no reason since it took a God sacrifice to forgive sin, then go ahead and keep your mind closed. I don’t find a huge problem with deism or a belief in an unknown god, but the Biblical god makes no sense and the book itself is not the perfect construction you think it is.

  11. Wow,Admin Swenson! What a lot of venom in that come back. I think I prefer the reasoned and polite understanding of Kevin above. Aethiests always seem to have so much hate, perhaps that is why it is not attractive.

  12. @Sue. LOL! What hate? You mistake heated debate for venom?

    Kevin tells me the world is cursed (politely) and tired arguments about historical accuracy concerning the Bible (not true). If you prefer polite lies to challenging those lies then feel free to swallow old arguments–hook, line and sinker. Kevin said, let’s reason together and then doesn’t respond with reasonable arguments. The same goes for you, no counter argument–just an attempt to stereotype me as hateful because I’m an atheist.

    Here’s the thing–I’ve been Kevin. His post is exactly what I would have said when I was a Christian. I wish someone had challenged me at the time. I provided counter arguments, I did not curse at Kevin and I did not call him names. I do think his arguments are dumb but they’re really not his arguments. They’re passed on from Christian to Christian as part of the religious pop culture (Strobel for example).

    Salesmen can be extremely polite. Once you’ve bought the product you may think back and regret being sweet talked.

    Also, angry or polite argumentation, do you believe in talking snakes? Is this reasonable? Do you find blood sacrifices reasonable? Do you find your gender being made from a man’s rib a reasoned argument? …It’s called faith for a “reason.”

  13. The fats contained in nuts, oils, and seeds is sufficient for a healthy diet. The only fat not found in them is DHA, but the body can convert ALA into DHA. Any vegetarian will tell you that they can get all the nutrients they need from a strictly plant based diet. Also, you make it obvious that you have never read the bible by assuming only Adam and Eve were vegetarians. God didn’t condone the eating of animals until after the flood of Noah’s time.

  14. Good comment. I think it’s a good point about the plant based/nuts diet. What about milk? (not vegan, but…) Maybe my sarcasm that Adam and Eve ate a bunch of nuts to get fat could have been better put and some of my follow up reading suggest vegans might do alright too (didn’t know there were Vegan body builders?) depending on what we could surmise might be in Eden. However, from what I’ve read most vegan/vegetarian diets need “help.” Such as eating fish? Was that considered a legitimate killing of an animal in the Garden of Eden to get Omega 3 fatty-acids? Apparently you can substitute with microalgae oil? So were Adam and Eve eating algae? Per this article: http://www.medicinenet.com/vegetarian_and_vegan_diet/page2.htm

    I think my point was more that we “crave” fat so much that our bodies think we’re starving if we refrain from it and that evolutionary science says our brains would never have developed the way they did without fat. Also many of our early adaptations were based on killing animals (the smarter you get, the more meat you get). If someone doesn’t accept evolution than there’s no reason to continue on that debate I guess. Like I said, with God in charge of the Garden of Eden he could have made a fruit that had every nutrient needed–we can assume anything, but have no evidence of a place called Eden to even begin to study “before the fall nutrition.” We also don’t know what plants, because if everything was there then you have several plant species with different niches not adapted to a warm, tropical environments.

    I have read The Bible (but don’t have it memorized)–where did I make any claims about what the Bible says about God allowing meat eating at what point? Adam and Eve just sinned and Cain killed Abel. Were they obeying God? You don’t think we could assume they ate meat too as part of their disobedience? My sidenote was about the flaws of not providing for meat in the Garden of Eden since according to the Fat Head Movie we crave meat/fat and plant substitutes may not be enough. I think you can nail me on the nutritional aspects with the aforementioned assumptions on nuts, but I wasn’t concerned with when God gave his official sanction.

    Here’s why it doesn’t matter about the official sanctioning of eating animals because the killing had already begun: Where did Abel get his sacrifice? Firstborn of the flock. Whether or not you believe people were or were not eating meat, God was pleased with animal killing before The Ark. He killed animals to clothe Adam and Eve to cover their shame (how nice for the animals. What? God, can’t make clothes out of sheep yarn?). So Cain can kill his brother but he’s so obedient that he won’t eat meat? The only nonviolence would have had to have been before the fall, according to Creationists, so that means sharks with razor sharp teeth were eating plankton (plant version only) and “microalgae” for their nutritional diet. Really, c’mon? I don’t claim to be an expert in marine biology or the Bible, but I think a layperson can call BS on that. T-Rex was chomping down coconuts with those big teeth? I just do not see how you can be a Biblical literalist, Biblical moderates are much more reasonable.

    Also, God threw Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden for them to toil against the ground, hard to grow stuff. In those situations, you don’t think people would resort to eating meat? It’s nice to think of ancient world vegans/vegetarians, but I doubt they were the ones working from dawn to dusk developing agriculture (crops take time to grow, they fail, famines, droughts)–people who labor that much need energy and quickly. That means you kill something to eat, because what they also did was herd sheep, cows, etc, or just hunted. Those ancient world vegetarians (and I’m no expert, feel free to correct me) were mostly religious types/monks or philosophers (like the Greeks) whose workload was substantially less and they still ate fish. Those doing the hard labor of the fields, I find it hard to believe they could live solely on a vegan or vegetarian diet (I could be wrong though. Haven’t studied India?)

    Comment is appreciated (I’ve been told I’m nasty to readers–I really, really do like comments questioning what I say because it makes me think through it. I don’t care much for only ad hominem attacks–question my character but please leave something of substance in your comment).

  15. Anybody else notice that this civil debate (argument) has next to nothing to do with the article? plus this is argument is kinda a turn off for many Christians to this movie i was GOING to watch this movie but now i don’t even feel tempted to….another thing is that people hate on Christians so much it’s ridiculous they call it stupid but i have a question for you?

    if Atheist believe the universe started from one practical what set it off? i mean according to science it just ‘blew up’ and newton law says “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” so what acted upon this “one partical?

    another question if we managed to evolve from primates why haven’t other species evolved to be more intelligent( come on a dog is considered intelligent if it can OPEN A DOOR oooohhhh)don’t get me wrong i do believe in small evolution(thinner fingers, less bone mass, smaller jaws) but not us evolving from primates

    also it is best to keep religion off a movie review cause then it makes people actually watch it like i was going to 🙂

  16. Thanks for the comment (@ Alyssa). I actually just updated with a second sidenote. But I don’t understand why you would punish the director of this movie because of me? I don’t avoid movies that Christians rail against or approve. I watch them and make up my own mind or put aside anything said about it. I find such an attitude rather anti-intellectual and silly. Dump on me but not on a third party that has no association with the site or control over what I say. Freethunk is about criticizing religion, of course you’re going to find comments like mine, but you’re free to post your own. Happy to have them.

    As for The Big Bang, recognize that this is not an atheist theory. Plenty of Christians accept it too. And your description of it doesn’t sound like you’ve actually studied it as I found that I was lacking in a good understanding of it when I wrote on Barnett (the kid who is going to disprove The Big Bang).

    The Big Bang is actually more of a derogatory term said to have come from Fred Hoyle who seemed to be making fun of it. He believed in a static universe as well as Einstein. Sadly, they were shown to be wrong which is always embarrassing. The universe is expanding, something started it. The Big Bang theory refers to rapid expansion not an explosion like dynamite. If you want to say what caused the Big Bang, that’s a fair question since we always apply the same question to the God idea (what caused God? Oh, he was always there. How do we know? We have faith, that’s how we know.). I prefer to leave the question open to debate until more research comes in on how it may have happened. And yes, based on the available evidence, I do think it happened until further notice.

    Why haven’t other species developed to be more intelligent? That is very subjective. What you mean is, why aren’t there other species that act like humans? And I would say that the answer is, “because there are humans.” In other words, we dominate all other species (not always a good thing). Evolution has to do with a need to evolve, applied pressure from competition. No pressure, nothing changes. In the battles of nature many species lose out or do not need to evolve or they haven’t yet evolved. Animals find their niche and exploit it. Also various animals do exhibit high levels of intelligence (chimps, elephants, dolphins, even the octopus)and possibly even morality as I just read a book on it.

    Creationists and like-minded people prefer to say they accept “micro-evolution” or just adaptation because it sounds good–you’re not rejecting evolution, just macro-evolution. But think about what adaptation is? It’s still caused by death and suffering. This is God’s design? Death and suffering to create complexity? Why is micro-evolution any more Godly? Probably because it hard to deny “small evolution” versus macro-evolution which takes more time to study.

    In the end, it all really just comes down to this: Do you believe in talking snakes?

    Now c’mon, forget me and watch Fat Head. It’s an interesting movie.

  17. naw i probly will that last sentence of the first side note confused me abit

    the snake was supposed to be satan in disguise so technically it’s not a snake some evidence points to the thing god curses that “snakes will forever crawl on there bellies.” and when you think about it all reptiles have their bellies touch the ground when they walk at a slow pace or stop to rest plus pythons have one thing on other snake has hip bones where these hip bone are ment to be connected to legs so did it used to have legs? plus in the bible it doesn’t mention the means i which they lost these “legs” just because it say the snake lost it’s leg doesn’t mean they went poof bye bye it could mean they ‘de-volved’ or whatever that’s called

    i do believe in the big bang i just don’t believe the theroy behind it “it was very unstable and exploded”….. WHAT made it explode

    and again i do believe in evolution just not the major evolution we don’t even know EXACTLY were the first cell we have a theory but….that theory (i wouldn’t be surprised) is likely to change within fifty years

    Animal intelligence is still pretty low ex: possums still stop in the middle of the road when they see a car

    the highest intelligence i have seen in animals is 1.chimps using sticks as tools and 2. wolves use some strategy when they hunt
    plus if evolution were true we wouldn’t have started as the ‘top species’ so how com we managed to be come such an advanced race when other top species have never become this intelligent and animals have never (obviously) made or developed a way to write except things like scratching a tree or peeing on something to claim it as theirs’ i do believe that animals have emotion and morale though

    and all seriousness aside….god did make us perfect……WE HAVE THUMBS(i know some animals do to but….our thumbs r better :p )

  18. From a creationists point of view: God created a perfect world and everything in it was perfect, until Eve decided to screw us all and Adam went along with it, and ultimately blamed her (typical man). After the fall of man, God made Adam and Eve clothes out of animal skins, you see, in order for sins to be forgiven, blood must be shed (hence all of the offerings in the Old Testament and Jesus dying on the cross, becoming the final sacrifice for our sins and fulfilling the entire OT, which is why none of the laws in the OT apply to anyone anymore, which they wouldn’t back then anyway unless you were a Hebrew.) Humans were intended to live in the world with animals and not eat them until the fall of man, Adam and Eve were banished from the garden and everything changed, sort of like evolution, we adapted to our new environment.

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