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That took a while. (long long post)

So ye olde internet was out at the office today and I managed to not sit down and read LJ until a little while ago... like say an hour ago. I just finished reading and commenting to everything since I read it yesterday.

Heh, with friends like you who needs cable?

You know, that's not such a bad idea. I've been contemplating getting rid of cable for a while now and I think I finally decided to do it. I went to see Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me with Dave last night (he went on doctor's orders, I went out of morbid curiosity) and it got me thinking about my lifestyle once upon a time and now and in the future.

If I look around at what I want and need to do cable/TV doesn't really factor in anywhere. I've never sat around and thought "gosh, I feel so accomplished now that I watched that Love Boat marathon". Sure, I love movies (and some TV shows) and I will always enjoy curling up on the couch to watch something, but given my rather monsterous and ever growing DVD collection (not to mention my newest bit torrent aquisitions) I really don't need cable and I could certainly do without paying for it. Heck, more often than not I end up feeling lame for losing a couple of hours watching it on any given night. Honestly I'd much rather get off my ass and do stuff (even if some of the stuff, like say putting up and fiddling with my seemingly mythical webpages, involves much sitting).

Ok this is likely to be long-ish so bear with me. Ever since I got back in regular contact with k earlier this year I've been putting a lot of thought into things I used to do (like back in my rugby playing days). I was a bit shocked to realize that the weight I've gained since then is fairly noticeable (and shocked that she'd noticed me in the first place all those years ago). It doesn't bother her that I'm heavier set fatter than I used to be, but it bugs me. I suppose we all have our mental images of what we look like and I was really dismayed to realize that I was cutting myself way too much slack about the weight. Mind you I'm not competing with Shamu just yet, but I'm certainly not a trim as I could (and in fact used to) be.

Last night, I was watching the movie and it made me think about a lot of things. Personally I think Spurlock made a pretty big blunder in his "experiment" because he went on the McDiet and he stopped exercising (or even walking). You can't have a true experiement where you change two major variables like that. It just doesn't work that way. Sure it makes the point that only eating at McDonald's and not exercising is bad for you, but it ignores the fact that Ronald McDonald isn't holding a gun to anyone's head and making them shovel in the grease and he's also not keeping them hostage on the couch all night after they did. At some point we have to take responsability for what we do (i.e. eat like pigs) and what we don't do (i.e. move).

It's interesting. The movie did make me think a lot about my own physical condition, how it's changed, how I want to change it back, and how ALL of my health concerns are in some way connected to my weight. However, it also annoyed me because it pretty much took the approach "Oh woe is us, the big evil corporation is manipulating us into becoming Fatty McFats, look, see how horrible *licks fingers* their yummy food is?" Can we say McVictim? How about McBullshit?

I think the part that really started to turn me off to their arguement was when they seemed to think that targetting McDonald's with lawsuits was ok. I wondered, who's next? Is some fat person going to go sue Krispy Kreme for not having salads? Do people really need to read nutrition labels on their McNuggets to know they're not the healthiest food out there? Is someone going to sue Laz-e-boy for making overly comfortable couches? I mean come on, suing tobacco companies who actively lied about the harm that their products caused is one thing. Suing a restaurant for not going out their way to remind you at every turn that their food is unhealthy is a completely different (and highly stupid) thing.

For instance, one of the big points against McD's was how only half of those in Manhattan had any nutrition information (and yet another point in the movie was how few people even had a vague notion of what a calorie was so who knows what they'd get from them if they did have them) and even fewer still had any you could take away with you. Mind you they did this after pointing out how there are 80+ McD's in Manhattan and showing you a map were many were, at most, only 2 or 3 blocks apart (so theoretically if you really wanted to know the nutrition information, you could easily find it if you walked around for 30 minutes or so (which Spurlock claims New Yorkers do a lot so it wouldn't be all that hard).

It made me wonder, is that really the restaurant's fault? I mean I've heard about the steps that they'll take to make sure that each McD's has enough beanie babies (or whatever gotta-have-it toy is in their Happy Meals this week) for any given promotion. I've heard my sister tell me how she scoured the city looking for a specific toy from a happy meal (and I know she's a relatively sane collector of these things) so it seems to me that if the restaurants don't have nutrition information readily available, it's because we don't want it. As he was making his "point" I was wondering how many of the restaurants that had that information had actually needed to order new pamphlets in the last year? I seriously doubt that any of them have ever had a run of people clamoring for nutrition information. If we don't want the information then it seems like condeming the corporation for not having it is somehow missing an important part of the problem.

I think most people know full well that McD's is not McHealthy and they don't want to know just how bad it is. Dave showed me a little fact sheet that his doctor gave him about the movie. Apparently Spurlock's diet consisted of 200% of his recommended daily caloric intake. On the very first day he made himself sick enough to throw up and yet he kept doing it. That, right there is the big problem with us as a nation. Our body tells us that something is wrong, something is bad and we ignore it. I do it, heck I think most of us had had moments where we push away from the table stuffed beyond belief and actually hurting for it. That doesn't give us a slight clue that something is amiss? We don't need to be counting calories, we'd probably do pretty good if we just started counting servings.

But we're adults right. We can make decisions for ourselves, but *gasp* think about the... children!!! Oh no, now the movie switched gears and reminded us about the poor little ones. They can barely recognize George Washington or Jesus, but they all know Ronald McDonald. Clearly this means Ronald is the devil and McDonald's is evil. McDonald's does marketing so that people buy their stuff and.... Hold on a minute.... they do marketing so that people buy their stuff... Hmmmm.... Now I know times have changed from when I was a kid, but I seem to recall that the only money that I ever had from birth right up until I was 13 or 14 was the money my parents gave me (and after that it was the money I earned working). Not only that, but the only way I was getting to McD's or aywhere else was on foot, on my bike or being taken their by my folks. Hmmm... so thinking back to the two girls who filed the lawsuits, how did the younger of the two little errr fat girls get enough money to eat all this "toxic" food? Fast food is cheap, but it's not free.

If I remember correctly one was a pre-teen and the other was in her late teens. What were they doing? Holding up McD's after school? Mugging other patrons for their Big Macs? Probably not right.... Hmmm.... so who was their supplier? Who got them the McCrack? Could it be their.... parents? The movie made a point of saying how no parent can compete with the amount of advertising that their kids see on TV etc... and you know they're right. If you just plop your kid in front of the TV night after night, there is no way to compete with whatever content they're absorbing. What's a parent to do?

Hey wait-a-minute. What was I talking about earlier? Getting rid of cable... now there's an idea.... ok ok ok, I'm kidding, that's a bit extreme (for most folks), but maybe the real culprit isn't the big faceless corporation that only cares about the bottom line, maybe the real culprit is the person or parents who don't stop and think about the harm they're doing to themselves and their kids when they let TV raise them and make decisions about what they should all eat. I know that I constantly hear people arguing about the truthfullness of news coverage and how politician Foo is lying and mis-representing himself etc... Where is all this skepticism when they're watching the damn commercials?

Maybe instead of casting about looking for a villain, we need to look for a solution that we can pursue on our own. See that was ultimately what I disliked about the movie. The answer was simple. McDonald's makes "toxic" food and our children are powerless to resist the siren song of the Big Mac and as they grow up they're doomed to become fat adults. Woe to us and our waistlines. What good is that? I'm overweight fat and there's nothing I can do about it until the government makes McDonald's (and other corporations) take care of me and make sure I eat healthy? When is that going to happen? I want to be healthy now. Hell, I'm already getting healthy and losing weight, I just need to take some more steps to make it easier on myself (e.g. get rid of the distraction that is the cable box). McDonald's (which I almost never frequent in the first place) isn't the one to blame. I am. Sure I can't expect to be rail thin (just like I'll never have that nice alabaster glow of a true programmer ;) but I can be fit and healthy, I just need to want it more than I want that second helping of ice cream/chocolate/pie/etc...

Hmmm... now I think I'll go row.

Comments

I will elaborate more, when I've had some sleep. But, you have made some excellent points.
A very large grain of salt indeed ;).

You're right though he has some very interesting points (and I will probably try to dig it up at the library), but I tend to dislike arguements that take good points and then come to the conclusion "therefore we must do away with _____ completely".

I don't think there are many/any things out there that I would advocate totally doing away with. Alcohol, drugs, TV, sugar, McDonalds, all of these things can serve a good purpose in someone's life if they are consumed in moderation. Unfortunately, once we lose our sense of balance everything also becomes a potential source for harm.