Recently I read an article in which the CEO of McDonald’s, Jim Skinner, was quoted saying that McDonald’s was part of the solution to the obesity problem in the United States. The headline was infuriating. How could a company that sells the McRib and milkshakes that exceed 1000 calories per serving claim that they are helping solve the obesity problem in this country?
Then I read the article.
McDonald’s offers a variety of menu items, not just grease-laden meat products, Skinner said. “It’s not my job to get up in the morning and prescribe to people what they eat, but I should give them a choice that makes them feel good about their decision and, more importantly, fits into the appropriate nutritional guidelines for them.”
I hate to say it, but he has a point. While McDonald’s is still a nightmare for a vegetarian like myself, they do have healthier options on their menu. A person can go to McDonald’s now and get a salad or apple slices or yogurt or a smaller sandwich that, while not exactly healthy, won’t necessarily cause any immediate problems unless one overindulges. These things are available. But these things are not what people choose to buy.
I can’t really remember the last time I went to a McDonald’s and saw someone eating a salad with apple slices. Actually, I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen this. But, why is it McDonald’s responsibility to make sure Americans don’t eat an excessive amount of calories and saturated fats? It may shock those of you who know me to hear me say this, but I don’t think it is their responsibility.
I’m a big believer in corporate responsibility. It is the duty of any company, just as it is of any person, to contribute something positive to this world. However, I am also a big believer in personal choice. We live in a country where choice is an option. Every morning when I wake up I make hundreds, even thousands, of choices, from what to wear or eat to how to behave toward my family, friends and coworkers or sometimes, who to elect for public office.
I have these options, and in many countries people do not have this basic liberty. Yet, somehow in this country we have come to believe that it is the responsibility of companies to tell us what choices to make. Don’t give us options. Just don’t make any bad things available to us.
The thing is, at least when it comes to food and drink, nothing is strictly bad or good. Pomegranate is good. It tastes good, and it’s so healthy for you. But is it healthy to eat 10 pomegranates in one sitting? Probably not. Conversely, hamburgers hardly fall in the category of healthy eats, but will a person suffer irreparable harm if they eat a hamburger once every couple of months? No way!
I’m a generally healthy eater. I love fruits and vegetables and whole grains and even tofu and tempeh. I really do love the way these things taste, and I often crave them the way others crave a salty kettle chip. Does this mean I never touch any junk food? Absolutely not. I love junk food as much as the next person. There are times when I must have a plate of salty french fries or a cup of creamy, fatty ice cream, and I tend to indulge myself at these times. 95% of every week I live on foods that would make a nutritionist proud, but when only a slice of pie will do, I eat the slice of pie.
And the thing is, I want the option to eat that damn slice of pie. And I don’t want companies to stop serving these options simply because the powers that be think I can’t make the right decisions for myself. Over the centuries Americans, and particularly women, have fought hard to make our own choices. It would be a shame to lose this right because some people make bad choices at the expense of the health of our country. I would argue, for example, that Americans made a bad, bad choice in electing George W. Bush, but I don’t think we should lose our right to vote because of it.
I’m just saying.
So, whose fault is it that we’re fat? Well, it’s our fault. I blame no one but myself when I eat too much. I know who made the decision, and trust me when I say that I would have found a way to make that decision even if the corporate world tried their damnedest to make it impossible. Do I at least know that I made a bad decision and try harder to make a better one next time?
Well, yes, I do. And that, my friends, is the key. Education. Like GI Joe used to say when I was a kid, “knowing is half the battle.” I couldn’t agree more.