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June/July 2004
A Different Side to Super Size
The Satya Interview with Alex Jamieson


Alex Jamieson. Photo:

A graduate of New York’s Natural Gourmet Cooking School, Alex Jamieson is a vegan gourmet chef and holistic health counselor. She is also the partner of the illustrious Morgan Spurlock, creator of the controversial documentary Super Size Me.

Catherine Clyne caught up with Jamieson in the midst of the Super Size Me furor to get her perspective on the story.

You have something of an understanding of what our readers are interested in.
I think I do, being one of your readers.

You’ve got an original perspective on Super Size Me. You want to tell us about that a little bit?
My boyfriend, my crazy, wonderful boyfriend, came up with this idea to illustrate what can happen to your body and your mind when you eat a standard American diet—by eating McDonald’s for 30 days straight. On Thanksgiving Day, 2002, we were at his Mom’s house in West Virginia and were watching this news program. Two teenage girls were suing McDonald’s for their obesity and the spokesperson from McDonald’s said, “You can’t prove that our food has anything to do with these girls being sick. Our food is healthy; it’s good for you.” We turned to each other and rolled our eyes and Morgan said, “If that’s true, I should be able to eat this food all the time with no problem whatsoever.” And he said, “What if I ate nothing but McDonald’s for a month? What would happen?” I said, “You are not going to do that!” Because I knew he was really thinking of doing it. So, he proceeded to ignore me, and went ahead with his idea. Luckily everything turned out all right, but it was quite a frightening adventure.

You knew that a fast food diet was going to adversely affect his health.
Yes. I knew that he was going to feel awful, but I had no idea it was going to be as bad as it was. I was surprised, and then I realized I shouldn’t be. He went to three different doctors at the beginning to confer with them, and then throughout the film to check on his progress. At the beginning all of them said, ‘We don’t think that anything is really going to happen to you. You might put on a couple of pounds, your cholesterol might go up, but that’s it.’ And I thought, ugh, that’s just so typical because doctors in this country are still not taught that nutrition and food has anything to do with your health.

What surprised you about how badly it affected his health?
Within the first week he was extremely depressed, which is totally unlike him. Normally, even under the most stressful circumstances, he’s a real go-getter, he’s very positive, outgoing. He had no energy. We weren’t arguing, but he was just really difficult to get along with. He felt bad. And it made me realize this is how most people feel all the time. By day 20 to 21, he was starting to have chest pains, he put on 24 pounds in a month. That’s an extremely short amount of time to put on that much weight. And his liver basically turned to pâté. It was so overloaded by having to deal with all the toxins and all the fat that it couldn’t function properly.

As a vegan and a health counselor, how did this whole thing affect you personally?
It was really hard for me to watch my favorite person in the world go through this because my work is all about helping people who want to get healthy. So this was like hell for me. We didn’t know what was going to happen with the movie, if it was going to work. We had no idea that we’d get the kind of response it’s gotten. But I thought, there’s a chance that this experiment could really be a great message. So I just kind of held on to that. And it was 30 days, so it wasn’t too long.

As a positive message, do you think it’s been successful?
I think it’s been very successful. I mean, look at what’s happened. McDonald’s is phasing out super-sizing, which is incredible. Of course they keep saying that this has nothing to do with the film, but it’s an amazing coincidence that the day before the film opened they announced the Go-Active Adult Happy Meal, which has water, a salad and a pedometer, like Morgan wears in the film. Then, just a few weeks ago, McDonald’s announced that Ronald McDonald is coming out with an exercise video for kids. So a lot has changed.

He and I have both received countless emails and talked with countless people at screenings that have said, ‘Wow, this film is really making me think about the connection between how I feel and what I eat.’ Which may, to Satya readers, be a basic premise, but there’s no connection for most Americans. It’s getting people thinking. It’s fantastic, it’s so exciting, and I could not be happier.

How has this whole experience influenced how you approach your counseling of clients?
That’s a really good question. I think I’ve become a lot more understanding with where people are coming from. I thought there was a much higher level of food knowledge in the world, that I didn’t have to talk about these basics that I feel so strongly about, like, you know, what you eat will influence your mood and your psyche and all of these things. I’m just realizing that I’m very fortunate, in that I was raised with this knowledge and most people are not. So I’m introducing these things to people in a kind way, accepting of and meeting people where they are, and not telling everybody, ‘You have to be vegan right now or that’s it.’ Helping them gently learn about these things in a supportive way is really great. I feel so much better about what I’m doing, like I’m helping more people that way. So it’s been great for me.

What do you think this film offers vegans?
[Laughs.] I’ve gotten emails from vegans all over the country that say, “See? I told you so!” I think it’s been really powerful to see Morgan go through this kind of meat-based diet and then on the detox diet afterwards, which was basically vegan, but also taking out refined sugars and flours, caffeine, and adding in sea vegetables and other things. It really opened a lot of people’s eyes to what diet can do for some people. At the end of the film it says, ‘Alex put Morgan on a detox diet, and in eight weeks his liver function came back to normal, he lost 10 pounds, all of his blood work, his cholesterol, came back down.’ That’s pretty powerful. Not that he stayed with it, [laughs] but that’s okay. It’s a good example for people to have: look what happened to him, and maybe if you try this for a short amount of time, you’ll feel better as well.

Are you guys going to do a detox movie?
The Super Size Me DVD is going to include more stuff about the detox and the other issues that he just didn’t have time to put in the film, like he gained access to an Overeater’s Anonymous meeting and talked to people in that group. Having all these different voices talking about the issue of obesity is really important, there just wasn’t enough time for it all to be in there.

Some ethical vegans have criticized the movie for not focusing more on the way farmed or meat animals are treated. Do you have comment about that?
This wasn’t a movie about being vegan or animal rights issues. This was a movie about obesity—the obesity epidemic and the fast food lifestyle. It could have been 20 hours long. There’s so much to cover, and absolutely, the way that animals are raised in this country is appalling. And does that have an effect on how you feel after you eat a burger? Absolutely. But again, we couldn’t even include the Overeater’s Anonymous meeting. There’s no way to address everything in a succinct way that really tells a story well.

I think that the movie is great even for people pushing animal rights. It is funny and a little bit gentler, and introduces people to ideas in a way that they can accept. Because they identify with Morgan and go on this journey with him, they’re more open to thinking in a different way. People may be turned off by PETA signs or whatever, [when they’re] confronted in a way that they can’t accept it or let their guard down.

What do you think it was specifically that helped bring his liver function back up?
It was basically taking the crap out and putting the [healthy stuff] in, taking out all the unhealthy fats, there were no trans fats or heavy saturated fats. We basically used extra virgin olive oil, sesame; and lots of water. Taking him off sodas was huge. Most people drink a ton of soda a day. Taking that out alone will be a big improvement in people’s lives.

What are some of the easiest yet most overlooked things people can change to eat more healthily?
That’s kind of a tough one because everyone is so different. Everybody starts in a different place. But I would say, water and breathing, those are the two things you can’t go without for very long. By breathing, I mean, not just a deep breath, but exercise, and being conscious of your breath and how it affects you. And water. Drink nothing else but water and a lot of other things will clear up. I’m a big believer in that.

What’s your favorite vegan junk food?

I am such a popcorn junkie. I make it all the time and I love it with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, and I use kinako, it’s Japanese toasted soybean flour. It’s so good.

To learn more about Alex Jamieson and her health counseling services, visit She is currently working on a book based on the detox diet she prepared for Morgan, intended to make eating healthfully more accessible.



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