McDonald’s and Resistance, Kind Of

Want to know an easy way to burn a million calories in less than an hour? Set a McDonald’s on fire. That street joke expresses the collective malaise felt in a society that lives with a heavy load of cognitive dissonance.

The unholy mixture of fast food retail centers with hospitals has been recognized as a jarring misfit, and objected to in some places. Yet the cozy coexistence of the two institutions is pervasive, with almost one-third of children’s hospitals embracing fast-food outlets on their premises.

What’s in it for the kids? Plenty of research dollars and, up close and personal, the comfort of being in a familiar place even when far from home and under terrible stress. Children who lose their appetite from chemotherapy will at least eat a couple of fries and take a bite of burger.

When Dr. Rahul Parikh researched the topic, a McDonald’s store was the only 24-hour food source at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. At the time, 27 children’s hospitals in America had a McDonald’s on site, with of course other fast-food corporations in others. Parikh’s research was hindered by the fact that hospitals would not return calls or otherwise cooperate in discussing their fast-food partners.

Only McDonald’s itself would talk, and naturally had only positive things to say about itself. The company’s senior director of nutrition, appropriately named Dr. Cindy Goody, reminded the reporter that hospitals always need money, and McDonald’s leases space and pays rent. The fast-food companies don’t have to go begging, or do anything coercive. Hospitals come to them.

On the other hand, the doctor/journalist noted:

Several years ago, the Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation’s most respected centers, made the decision to remove McDonald’s from its premises. McDonald’s fought back, refusing to terminate its lease early. It remains open today.

But that was in 2011. Finally, four years later, the momentous news was announced that the Cleveland Clinic would be cutting its ties with the fast food giant. In the previous few years, seven hospitals had ended their relationships with Micky D — and not without complaints, because many visitors need a low-budget option. At the time, Cleveland Clinic’s spokesperson said they were considering more healthful replacements — a rather tardy effort, it seems, since the hospital had known for years that it did not intend to renew the McDonald’s lease.

In 2014, Watsonville, California, had a childhood obesity rate of 49.3 percent. Almost half of its kids, in contrast to the normal one-third in the whole county, were obese. There were two McDonald’s franchises in town, and when a third one was proposed, group of activist high school students protested. But the corporation promised almost 80 new jobs and enormous contributions to the property tax and sales tax funds, and currently there are three McDonald’s stores in the city.

The previously mentioned article by Dr. Parikh ends like this:

So we close our eyes, sign the contract, hand Ronald McDonald our soul, and let our patients eat their french fries with packets of fancy ketchup.

Visual artist Chris Woods has created a collection of paintings called McTopia, which addresses the effects of fast-food culture on society. The artist’s statement distributed at the show said:

I hope to give the figures a saintly air to emphasize the way our society worships consumer culture.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Why children’s hospitals tolerate McDonald’s,”, 09/19/11
Source: “So Long, Big Mac: Cleveland Clinic Ousts McDonald’s From Cafeteria,”, 08/19/15
Source: “Watsonville spends hours debating third McDonalds proposal,”, 10/15/14
Source: “Artist Chris Woods,”, undated
Image by Chris Woods, used with permission

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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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