Supersize Me is a 2004 documentary in which Spurlock embarked on an experiment to see what fast food would do to his body if he ate nothing but McDonald’s for a month. The nuggets my friend and I bought were of course the same nuggets that are made from chickens pumped into preternatural fatness by hormones, which are then put whole into a machine, where their heads are unceremoniously lopped off, and the rest of their bodies, faeces included, emerge magically from the machine as McNuggets.
Yet that, and the fact that Spurlock gained for his efforts 11.1kg, 13% in body mass, cholesterol readings of 230, and a potpourri of mood swings, sexual dysfunction and fatty accumulation in his liver, did nothing to deter us from our mission to McStuff Our Faces. Presumably we were driven by the same urge that compels crack addicts to shoot up after a particularly violent PSA about drugs that is in fact designed to deter them from using. Why are we humans so perverse? Why do we persist in smoking, drinking, and eating fast food when we know that one of those three will ultimately kill us?
When he continuously gorged on McDonald’s, the drug effect from the food told his brain to go back for more.
Fast food, despite scaremongers like Spurlock, continues to be very compelling to the bulk of the world. Even as Asian children grow ever more obese (with Malaysia adding to its growing pile of dubious achievements by having the fattest children in the region), even as nutritionists declaim with founded, albeit pedantic, indignation for healthier food choices to be made by care-givers, the populace nevertheless continues to flock like lemmings to the nearest fast food joint.
Convenience, cost and taste are regularly cited as key reasons for our addiction to fast food, but it really isn’t more convenient to choose fast food over any other kind of food unless you opt for home delivery, in which case, reason number three-taste-becomes a moot point, because anyone who has ever had fast food delivered to their homes will attest to the fact that everything tastes like soggy (or dry) cardboard.
And in Malaysia-where the price of a regular Big Mac meal is equivalent to at least three hearty economy rice meals with meat and vegetables-cost really isn’t a valid argument either. Which brings us to the elephant in the room: the argument that fast food is as “addictive as heroin”, which Spurlock has reported as being true. When he continuously gorged on McDonald’s, the drug effect from the food told his brain to go back for more. Put simply, the fast food industry is the gastronomic equivalent to Big Tobacco. It’s hardly a cheering thought.
And yet, isn’t it our capacity to choose that theoretically separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom? Why then do we continue to make the wrong choices? Is it because, like having extramarital sex, we know it’s wrong, but we do it because we enjoy it, and because we can?
When Eric Schlosser published Fast Food Nation, The Dark Side of the All-American Meal chronicling the ills of fast food and exhorting a boycott of said fast food franchises until these chains start preparing healthier food, McDonald’s response was this: “His [Schlosser’s] opinion is outvoted 46 million to one every single day, because that’s how many customers around the world choose to come to McDonald’s for our menu of variety, value and quality.”
And when I forget, say, once a year, the nausea I feel post McBinge is sufficient to remind me to stay away for another year at least. In the meantime, I have learned to Just. Say. No.
In the meantime, fast food franchises have been working in overdrive to create menu options that are perceived as healthier (the McWrap, described by writer Susan Berfield as “a fusion of the fresh and the machined”), and more exclusive (the Angus Third Pounder, a McD’s premium burger that’s still comparatively ‘cheaper’ than burgers from sit-down restaurants). But if you wanted healthier and more ‘gourmet’ food, then why would you opt to go to a fast food joint in the first place? As for me, I’ve seen the error of my ways. And when I forget, say, once a year, the nausea I feel post McBinge is sufficient to remind me to stay away for another year at least. In the meantime, I have learned to Just. Say. No.
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