The McDonalds Diet and Food Discipline

I find the idea of McDonalds diet extremely funny for some reason. It’s not that I’m a big fan of McDonalds, but rather how adamant people are in defending the institution.

For those of you new to the debate, the McDonalds diet is essentially the blowback from several people who decided that Morgan Spurlock went a tad overboard in his approach in criticizing McDonalds in his movie “Super Size Me“. In the movie, Spurlock ate McDonald’s food three times a day for 30 days straight, not exercising between meals, gained 24-pounds, and saw his cholesterol level rocket out of control. His point, which he communicated with the metaphorical equivalent of a sledgehammer, is that eating a lot of fast food is bad for you.

What the majority of these people who are losing the weight by eating at McDonald’s are trying to communicate is that it’s the individuals responsibility to make the right food decisions, not the restaurants.

But the real story is that this is only partially correct. It may be each individual’s responsibility for choosing, but the fast food restaurants sure have a lot invested in influencing each customers decision. Remind me once again just how much fast food companies pay for advertising in any given year? Why do people behind the counters ask “Do you want fries with that?” or state “For another ten cents, I can sell you a large instead of a medium.”

As someone who worked in the fast food industry all throughout college, I can tell you why they do these things. They work. The reason they work is that the customers are generally easily swayed by sights and smells, allowing them to feel at ease and pursue short term gratification rather than long term health benefits. If you think I’m exaggerating, perform the following test next time you walk into a Burger King or McDonald’s. Before opening the door to the restaurant, close your eyes. Walk into the restaurant and take a huge whiff of the restaurant. What’s the first thing you smell? It’s not a salad you smell, but rather french fries. This is not done on accident.

But I still don’t think that’s a good enough reason to slam McDonald’s. Food is food, and I believe it’s up to us to take responsibility for what we decide to put into our mouths. Any argument that says (roughly) “I’m fat because McDonald’s makes me so” is disingenuous. The real issue is that, as a whole, we Americans are undisciplined when it comes to many aspects surrounding food. Until we acknowledge that, obesity and unhealthy eating will be a problem.

Besides, there are many other reasons to hate McDonald’s that clearly are the fault of their corporate policies. Off the top of my head? Health benefits, pay, environmental policies all are issues that I believe Mickey D’s falls way short.

In an odd way, I kinda like those folks who lose weight by eating at McDonalds, because they prove my point. Disciplined eaters often (but not always) find it easier to lose weight. This puts a hole right smack in the middle of those Atkins advocates which I’ve grown to roll my eyes at. Diets are a individual discipline, not a patentable process that’s for sale. Whether it’s McDonalds, Atkins, or “Mabel’s eat only onions diet”, if you watch your food intake, weight loss is often easier than not.

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