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Biblical premise

The clowns, the jingles, the play lands and Happy Meals designed to appeal to toddlers are not by accident. In “Fast Food Nation”, Eric Schlosser argues that the marketing gurus at McDonalds, Burger King and other fast food restaurants have figured out that if you teach a child to love fast food, they will continue to eat there when they are older. The argument makes perfect sense, following the religious tenets that if you train a child in the way he should act, he will return to it as an adult. The Biblical premise holds true to the fast food consumption of America—win their hearts and minds as toddlers.

Then, when they are old enough to choose for themselves, fast food providers are like old friends, a habit that is easy to repeat throughout life. Because children are forming their taste preferences at this age, they will also be attracted back to the fast food of their childhood because the taste is familiar. It tastes “normal” like a burger and French fries are “supposed to taste. ” Schlosser offers some proof of this, but almost every American can offer their own testimonial. My mother, for instance, will never eat Carl’s Jr.

(Hardee’s) burgers because she remembers getting them when she was younger and having them be cooked insufficiently. Her memory, some 30+ years later is that those burgers taste bad and make her sick. This is why it so important for fast food providers to win over children while they are young. It forms a lifetime of eating habits. So, to do this, the restaurants make sure that children associate happy memories with fast food. By providing brightly colored boxes and bags, covered with games, and with a toy inside, fast food providers can associate happy memories with their food, regardless of how the food itself tastes.

In addition, most fast food restaurants also provide play lands, areas designed to promote play and happy times with other children. Unlike other restaurants, these places are designed specifically for children with the intent of drawing them back again and again. The choice of toys included in children’s meals and the effort to tie promotions to the most popular movies and toys of the year are part of the restaurants concentrated efforts to make their place of business a happy childhood memory.

The more things that they like that children associate with fast food, the more likely they will be to turn to that fast food later in life when they are unhappy and need quick gratification, Schlosser writes. Sadly, while Schlosser makes some very extreme claims about the fast food industry and blames it for American obesity and a dozen other societal ills, his book and the subsequent movie are not nearly as effective as Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me”. Schlosser makes claims about the manner in which the fast food industry has contributed to the obesity epidemic; Spurlock proves them.

In his documentary, “Super Size Me”, Spurlock decides to eat nothing but McDonalds for one month and to monitor how it affects his health. His rules include requiring himself to try everything on the menu at least once and accepting whenever the clerk offers him a super sized meal. Before beginning the documentary, Spurlock consulted with medical professionals regarding what they believed the effects of the all McDonalds meal plan would be. He had a complete physical including blood work, cholesterol testing and weight.

These visits were videotaped and the doctors were informed of his plan and asked to help monitor his condition. While narrating the spliced together footage of his month of eating McDonalds, Spurlock threw in his personal experiments regarding the rate of decay for various types of McDonalds food, including the fries which appeared to never decay. He also based his exercise during the experiment on the average level of exercise reported by most New Yorkers, wearing a pedometer to make certain that he did not get too much exercise.

Trying to keep within the exercise limits meant that on one occasion he had to take a cab to the nearest McDonalds rather than walk, but these factors were all set out before he began the experiment. Though Schlosser offers numerous facts and figures and examples about the health impact of the fast food diet, Spurlock’s documentary was much more attention getting because it was not an anonymous “could happen”. It was this is what is happening. Spurlock’s experiment showed that at least for him, a diet of nothing but McDonalds food was even more devastating than doctors ahd anticipated.

Some had predicted that his triglyceride levels would rise (a precursor to cholesterol), the rise was far more dramatic than anticipated. In addition, no one had predicted that his liver enzymes would be unable to keep up with the toxins of a fast food diet and begin causing trouble. Three-quarters of the way through the experiment, Spurlock’s doctors encouraged him to give it up. He stuck with it and gained 30 pounds in a month and endangered his health. Schlosser’s claims are not that specific or graphic.

So while Schlosser claims “No other nation in history has gotten so overweight so fast”, Spurlock begins to show why. The fast food diet is a major portion of the problem, but he also demonstrates that the sedentary lifestyle most people lead contributes significantly to the weight gain. Spurlock concluded his documentary with a notation regarding the amount of time and exercise along with a healthy eating plan that it took his body to recover from the month of McDonalds.

His blood chemistry levels took almost two full months to return to pre-experiment levels. Schlosser and Spurlock both point to the dramatic increase in obesity and the growing size of the portions at fast food restaurants. For example, a small fry today is the same size as a regular adult fry was when McDonalds first opened. The increasing size of the portions has lead Americans to consume growing numbers of calories without thinking that they are consuming more food. Especially contributing to this is the rise in the consumption of carbonated soft drinks.

Now, the drink sold as “child size” is an 8 ounce serving of soda, the recommended serving size. A large drink is four servings and the supersize drinks are almost six full servings. This means that people are unwittingly consuming as much as 800 calories per soda with their meals. In addition, Spurlock pointed out that many of the menu explanations offered by the fast food companies discuss calorie content in the preconceived idea of serving size rather than in terms of the servings actually offered at the restaurant.

While this overabundance of food may be one of the factors in the growing American obesity problem, it is certainly not the only one. Many people point to the tendency of children to play video games or computer games rather than playing outdoors or in other physical activities as a reason for the growing problem. Some also argue that children rarely walk to school anymore as previous generations did and in some school districts, physical education has been one of the victims of school budget cuts.

In addition, many children are actively discouraged from taking part in physical activities due to a fear that they might be injured in the activity—school districts have forbidden playground activities ranging from tag to flag football after being sued when a child was injured playing. Adults face greater obesity issues as more and more people work in sedentary jobs as opposed to manual labor or the farm labor that was more common in previous generations.

Works Cited Schlosser, Eric. “Fast Food Nation”, Harper Perrennial, New York, 2005. Spurlock, Morgan. “Super Size Me” (2004) Kathbur Pictures: Canada.

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