Friday, January 11, 2008

McDonald's, Obesity, and Video Games

Ask anybody what the pinnacle of fast-food enterprises is, and they will likely answer McDonald's restaurants. That's a pretty impressive position to have amongst the social perception, but unfortunately for the golden arches, serving billions and billions (especially to low-income households) of their fatty meals has led to another conception. Ask those same people what factors have influenced the epidemic of childhood obesity, and many will cite "McDonald's" and their "Happy Meals" as a regular answer once again.

Bic Mac is definitely not happy with this common perception.

In an interview with the Times UK, McDonald's executive Steve Easterbrook takes a general approach in explaining the obesity problem. He states that a variety of things support a sedentary lifestyle, and that eating habits is only one of multiple variables involved with a child's overall well-being. All very true and well thought-out, but while Easterbrook remained seemingly professional throughout the interview, his frustration did express itself just a bit.

In an effort to displace some of the blame on his own industry, he calls out urbanization and video gaming slyishly, stating that:

...there’s a lifestyle element: there’s fewer green spaces and kids are sat home playing computer games on the TV when in the past they’d have been burning off energy outside.

In effect, Easterbrook is saying that kids are exercising less due to other activities, specifically video games, and that fast-food is only one part of the entire picture that is obesity. Some may find this reasoning to be completely saturated with hypocrisy, given that it stems from an executive whose company's products promote unhealthy weight-gain, therefore making exercise more taxing and difficult.

I'm pretty sure video games don't do that.

I know many gamers who eat healthy and are in great physical shape. I also know of many who don't eat healthy and are a little overweight as a result. The point is, it's not the gaming itself that requires complete changes in lifestyle in order to fulfill a healthful physique. It's one's diet that does.

"You are what you eat," as the saying goes.

The focus on the fast-food industry as an active, main player in the grandeur of obesity was further strengthened in a movie released a few years back. Some of you may remember the film Super Size Me, which displayed a healthy, young male partaking in a fast-food only diet, and the health effects he experienced as a result. The low-budget film had big-budget success, and gained a very wide range of appeal, even among health professionals. In reaction to the film and the public outrage that ensued, McDonald's added "healthy" items to their offering, changed many ingredients in their products, and removed "Super Size" as a menu option, hoping to show that the company does make an effort to support healthful living habits.

However, given that their unhealthy offerings remain the huge majority of their sales, and the defensive tone Easterbrook seems to take with regards to the issue, one has to wonder if McDonald's has done enough. Obesity is still on the rise, and McDonald's is still the #1 fast-food source in our culture. Perhaps Easterbrook and his fellow execs should eat only their company's food for a month. Maybe then, they'll eat their words too.

There's probably more nutrients in those letters anyway. =)


Star said...

Good post Jag! I hate McDonald's. Their food is disgusting and it always makes me sad to see how many kids eat there.

Jagoex said...


Anonymous said...

AGREED. Look at all the people getting obese and you wonder why... MC DONALDS!!!!!!!!