Obesity and McDonald’s, Chapter 821


The Weigh2Rock website collects comments from children and teens, of a kind that would not be possible if they were not anonymous. It strains credulity, that there could be a 16-year-old girl walking around out there weighing 560 pounds, yet this was posted online:

i eat at mcdonalds everyday .. i am adicttied and i cant stop goin and when i did i felt ill all the time

Dr. Pretlow interprets this ill feeling as a drug-withdrawal symptom, as obvious as the sickness that befalls a heroin junkie without a fix. For complete information on that, we recommend “Addiction to Highly Pleasurable Food as a Cause of the Childhood Obesity Epidemic: A Qualitative Internet Study.”

A great deal of obesity is traceable to people’s emotional difficulties, which entice them into eating for comfort and oblivion. Even if they are not predisposed to addiction, and could maybe avoid getting hooked on certain foods, the likelihood of escape is reduced by the inclusion of addictive substances.

When the fast food industry creates advertising, the emotionally laden content implies that they are very much aware of both comfort-eating and addiction. Dr. Pretlow has collected several McDonald’s slogans together in one place at Weigh2Rock:

‘Little nuggets of joy’
‘Nobody makes your day like McDonald’s can’
‘Food, folks and fun’
‘We love to make you smile’
‘You deserve a break today’
‘Happy Meal’
‘Open your snack hole’
‘Wake up with a hottie’
‘Your free hand can rub your belly’

According to food policy lore, it took only a single lawsuit to spur the fast food industry into zealously promoting legislation to protect itself from litigation. Filed in New York in 2002, it raised the ugly specter of an industry held responsible for medical problems, including conditions exacerbated by obesity, caused by crummy pseudo-food products. So McDonald’s and all the rest of them were running scared.

Michele Simon of CorpWatch looked into that rumor and reported that in his initial decision (which was of course appealed), the judge said this about Chicken McNuggets:

Rather than being merely chicken fried in a pan, [they] are a McFrankenstein creation of various elements not utilized by the home cook.

Simon concludes that the main issue was not the contents of the food, but what the advertising said or omitted about the contents of the food, based on information from an interviewee:

But Ellen Fried, who teaches food law at New York University, says the suit is not about obesity per se, but about how McDonald’s has deceptively advertised its food as healthy… ‘The lawsuit is not about ‘I ate this and it made me fat,’ it’s about what you told me about eating this way, or didn’t tell me.’

But they did! They told us it would make us happy, joyful, fulfilled, rewarded, and content!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Industry Rewrites Laws to Avoid Liability,” CorpWatch, 03/21/05
Image by Kansir, used under its Creative Commons license.

4 Responses

  1. As your title said, chapter 821. Although I became obese in my 20’s, I felt a lot of these feelings for McDonald’s. Out of control, that I needed it, and that it made me feel good. Fortunately I learned that the opposite was true, but it took me getting to 300+ pounds to make the turnaround.

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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