Eat To Win

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New at Reason: Had enough of Morgan "Super Size Me" Spurlock's loaded menu choices and layabout lifestyle? Soso Whaley proves you can eat nothing but McDonalds and still lose weight. Grab a Happy Meal and read her diet diary.

NEXT: One Clean Machine

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  1. I believe Spurlock’s point was to eat, and live, as the fast food culture encourages you too. That is, eat for a meal what McDonald’s considers a meal, get to the McDonald’s by car, etc. For example, her second diary identifies one meal as “double cheeseburger and medium coke.” McDonald’s gives you a special deal if you order a “value meal,” which includes the fries she snubbed. They give you an ever better deal if you supersize that meal, getting a bucket of fries and a coke large enough to have tidal action.

    Fast food restaurants encourage you to eat a certain way. Ignoring them is better for you. Got it.

  2. So, Joe, fast food companies encourage people to reduce a pre-existing exercise/activity schedule, as Spurlock did? I didn’t know the local burger joint was tapping into my daily routine so much.

  3. Soso’s point is the common libertarian argument, “You have a choice.” Of course McDonalds wants you to buy more food, they make more money that way. At the same time, no one is twisting your arm to buy more food. You eat fast food and if you try to fit it into your diet, you can stay healthy.

    Sure McDonalds is crap if you eat 5,000 calories a day, but I bet if you ate 5,000 calories of food purchased exclusively from Whole Foods, you’ll be a big fat ass. Does that mean Whole Foods is unhealthy or eating 5,000 calories is?

    Granted, Reason and the LP attract iconclasts and people that will do their own thing despite societal encouragement or discouragement (see the D&D thread simply because ‘cleric’ was in the title), so the “culture” McDonalds encourages is largely dismissed. The intellectually lazy will just do what’s expected, get fat and sue Mickey D’s.

  4. Agree with joe. Feel strange.
    We’ll have to to assume that this is Soso Whaley mau-mauing Spurlock, who’s fair game i’m sure, and that’s all this article is.
    McDonalds can sell whatever the hell they want but it surely takes a professional scholar (pro-market division) to pretend that the McD meal, however constituted, is the “cornerstone of any nutritious american breakfast”.

  5. Joe-

    Judging from fastfood commercials, one could stay trim by following their example. Everyone is either dancing while enjoying a big mac, or eating the McGriddle after a game of basketball/baseball, etc.

    McDonald’s doesn’t “want” you to eat a certain way, so long as you’re choosing something from their menu. They sure as hell don’t give a rats ass what form of transportation you use to get there. Where did you get that from?

  6. A little backstory might be helpful here. For instance, here’s the contents page of her “diary”.

    A (big) bowl of spinach has the same number of calories as small fries. However, the spinach is probably a bit healthier for you.

    Her weight loss is extremely unusual for just a week or so. I’d imagine that was due to other factors (the word retention might be relevant here).

    Even if she loses weight, there are other factors to consider. For instance, how much trans fat and cholesterol has she consumed? How many vitamins are there in a hamburger vs. that spinach? Will men who eat a lot of soy (such as in their new soy burger) grow bitch tits, and will soy eaters in general develop soy-related dementia?

  7. may all your dimentia be soy-titted.

    amen.

  8. “Sure McDonalds is crap if you eat 5,000 calories a day, but I bet if you ate 5,000 calories of food purchased exclusively from Whole Foods, you’ll be a big fat ass. Does that mean Whole Foods is unhealthy or eating 5,000 calories is?”

    It’s easier to eat 5,000 calories at McDonalds because their food is really calorie-dense. You can eat more calories before filling up.

    Whole Foods is kind of a nonsensical comparison, so substitute a vegan restaurant. It’d be kinda hard, I think, to eat 5,000 calories a day at a vegan restaurant.

  9. Here in Santa Barbara we have a chain called “Natural Cafe.” Contrary to the name the food is actually pretty good. And although not all of it is strict vegan cuisine it still tends toward vegetarian and “natural.” And I can assure you that I could easily eat 5,000 calories a day there.

    For lunch, If I wanted 5,000 calories in a day I’d get myself the “supernatural platter” which is basically corn bread, beans, vegetables, and cheese. I’d also get a smoothie. Then I’d get a piece of vegan German chocolate cake. (Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it doesn’t have lots of sugar and vegetable shortening in the recipe, and there’s lots of gooey icing and nuts and coconut on it.)

  10. I should add that if I wanted 5,000 calories in a day I’d get something similar for dinner.

    And that I don’t really care whether it’s all naturaly or not, as long as the dessert is sweet and gooey. And if it’s sweet and gooey there’s probably a lot of fat and sugar in it. And if there’s a lot of fat and sugar in it then it really doesn’t matter whether that fat and sugar came from “all natural” sources or not.

  11. “And if there’s a lot of fat and sugar in it then it really doesn’t matter whether that fat and sugar came from “all natural” sources or not.”

    Once again, that’s not entirely correct.

    For instance, at 99 Cents Only stores they currently have Health Valley cookies. Those cookies have soy added to them. However, they don’t have trans fats. All the other 99 Cents cookies don’t have soy, but they do have trans fats.

    While I don’t like the soy part, I’d imagine that eating 100 calories of Health Valley cookies is not as bad as eating 100 calories of other cookies because of the lack of trans fats.

  12. Lonewacko-

    Good point. I guess I should have restricted my comments to the issue of weight. 100 calories is 100 calories, no matter where it comes from. If you consume more calories than you burn you will gain weight. If you consume fewer calories than you burn you will lose weight. It doesn’t matter where those calories come from.

    Now, the source of those calories might matter for various other aspects of your health, but from a weight standpoint calories are calories.

  13. Well the problem with these assumptions is that either are all fats or all fats are, and that all sources of caloric intake or all sources are bad. Vegetable and fish oils are good for you generally; animal fats and oils are bad for your heart and are linked to cancer. Processed breads, etc. are bad calorically speaking (from the sugar spike to more craving for food that this causes viewpoint), but other types of calorically rich foods aren’t as bad because they take far longer to digest.

  14. McDonald’s recommends:
    http://www.mcdonalds.com/usa/eat/nutrition_info/meal_suggestions.html
    French fries are a ketchup delivery device.

  15. Overcoming herd mentality and thinking critically about advertising are laudable things. The problem with (what is apparently) the libertarian position is that you guys act as if McDonalds’ attempts to undermine individual autonomy are irrelevant because they can be overcome. While refusing to hold people responsible for their choices is demeaning, so is refusing to hold corporations responsible for their attempts to subvert those choices. Autonomy isn’t something we’re born with or that we just have automatically when we reach a certain age. It can be undermined, and contemporary advertising attempts to do just that. McDonald’s doesn’t give reasoned arguments as to why we might enjoy their food; they show beautiful, happy people eating at their restaurants, implying that beauty and happiness are to be had around the corner at your local Mickey D’s. Nobody believes this stuff literally, but over time it has an effect. That’s why advertising has moved from the “informative” model to the “image” model. What’s worse than the insult to human intelligence that these ads constitute is the fact that they work.

  16. To put it another way, which is better:

    1) An arms race between businesses and consumers, wherein the former constantly try to trick the latter, who constantly try to keep from being tricked, or

    2) Ethical business practices that seek mutually-beneficial exchanges?

    It seems to me that the market can’t be rational, can’t allocate resources to the best products, etc., when people are allowed to cheat.

  17. “Are we humans beings with our own individual minds or are we cattle being prodded towards certain ends?”

    Your implication is that recognizing that incentives exist is equivalent to denying the existence of individual autonomy. I don’t buy it, and neither do libertarians – most of the time.

  18. “Sure McDonalds is crap if you eat 5,000 calories a day, but I bet if you ate 5,000 calories of food purchased exclusively from Whole Foods, you’ll be a big fat ass. Does that mean Whole Foods is unhealthy or eating 5,000 calories is?”

    Whole Foods doesn’t give you increasingly better deals as your diet choices become less and less healthy. McDonald’s with their value meals and supersizing, does (or did, I hear they’re doing away with that promotion).

    If you add fries to your burger and coke (a value mean), you get a better deal. If you add a side salad, you do not. They also put big, bright pictures of their grease/salt/carb-heavy meals on the drive thru display, which take up much more space on the menu than anything remotely healthy. And they give you the option of saying “Number 3 with a coke,” while putting together a healthy meal requires quite a bit of yelling back and forth through the stupid speaker thing.

    But it’s good to know that you can track down their “recommendations” on the internet, add things up, and come up with a strategy for putting together a healthy meal before you go to McDonald’s. Still, I have to say, they’re tipping the scales in a certain direction, no?

    Yes, you can ignore the product’s design and manufacturer’s directions, and use a wrench as a hammer. But it’s a lot harder, and performs much better as a wrench.

  19. joe, I’m sorry, but just because it’s harder doesn’t mean that people don’t have a choice. I agree the McD’s is not totally inculpable, but is it really that big of a deal? I rarely, if ever, go to McD’s because I know the food isn’t that healthy. Most people can do the same. If I do go there, it’s usually to fulfill my cravings for some greasy fries and a greasy hamburger. I go there knowing the food is full a fat and ‘bad’ carbs. The worst part of McD’s for me is the fact that they use very low quality meat. Since I don’t eat that much meat, I prefer to eat a good cut of it when I do.

    But to say that they are somehow responsible for people being fat-asses, I can’t buy into that.

  20. I never claimed that people don’t have a choice, just that they’re choices are influenced.

    The big deal, to me, is that in a country where the economy and society push people towards fast food and away from healthier home cooking, the fast food places push you towards the most unhealthy choices and away from the healthier ones.

  21. Spurlock’s point, for what it worth, was to assess the claim of McDonald’s that they sell food that is nutritious and healthy. From that view, then, Spurlock’s film is disingenuous, because he intentionally adopts an extremely unhealthy lifestyle.

  22. Here is a big selling meal deal from McDonalds:

    quarter pounder 430 calories/21g fat/38g carb

    medium FF / 450 calories / 22g fat / 57g carb

    Diet coke / 0 / 0 / 0

    TOTAL — 880 calories / 43g fat / 95g carb
    Price locally – $2.99

    Go biggie size – add 160 cal / 7 g fat / 20g carb

    get 6 chicken nuggets and knock off 200 calories,
    or 680 calories for the meal.

    Let’s see, if I had a 25 dollar French lunch,
    or a 8oz steak, baked potato, and salad,
    or a Chinese buffet, or a medium supreme pizza???

    80 extra calories a day adds up to 8 extra pounds over the course of a year.

  23. Fair enough, joe, but all this talk of being pushed this way and that makes me sick. So what? Are we humans beings with our own individual minds or are we cattle being prodded towards certain ends? Both, to a point, but the whole point of being alive, imho, is to overcome any sort of herd mentality and become a, you know, *human*! Saying that people are pushed (and we’re not just talking food, but smoking, drugs, etc) smacks of denial of responsiblity.

  24. None of the arguments which uphold the libertarian position regarding free choice seem to acknowledge the responsibility that the corporation and advertisers have towards children and the mentally retarded.

    Sure, as a fully functioning, literate adult I have the ability to assess my alternatives and choose (hopefully) wisely. Yet anyone who is a parent knows that most kids go bonkers over the ‘treat’ that is a trip to McDonalds. Now, since I do not take my kids to McDonalds, nor do I ever entice my kids to behave in positive ways by promising trips to McDonalds as rewards, they are not getting the notion of McDonalds as being a treat from me.

    So yes, as a fully functioning literate adult I do have the choice to not go to McDonalds as well as the choice to not ever take my kids to McDonalds. But, it is still disturbing that my influence is so easily corrupted by advertising and peer influence.

    This, for me begins to point to the real issue which is: what is the corporation’s responsibility when it, as an entity run by fully functioning and literate adults, knows that it’s actions and products lead less than wise, less than fully literate, or even less than adult consumers to make decisions which harm their health or well being?

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