As discussed in the first post on this topic, my girlfriend and I decided that it might be worth experimenting to see if her daughter, Emily, would have her fixation on McDonald’s relieved by a 3-day McBinge. Like everything in life, it was both success and failure, with both positive and negative outcomes. It no doubt provided some very intriguing and thought-provoking results to ponder, and some good insights into the nature of the human psyche and its relationship to food and beyond.
We did this experiment in wondrous Cortez, Colorado, home of lots of ancient Indian ruins, including the famous Mesa Verde, and not one but TWO humorously-named liquor stores… “Package Liquors” and “Box Liquors.” Nuff said. The McDonald’s there? To die for. It has the Play Palace of Play Palaces adjacent to a vacant lot full of diseased Prairie Dogs. The staff was as sharp as a bowling ball, usually only able to get 2 out of 3 items we ordered on the tray. It would have been easier to make my own damn McFlurry.
The good news is that 3 days of McDonald’s chow was more than enough to make her completely and totally disgusted by the food, especially with a little encouragement to “finish eating before you play.” This phrase always makes whatever food a kid is eating less attractive, but unfortunately is what most parents say about eating “healthy foods,” which adds to kids’ disgust with them. Likewise, making a kid do something in order to eat will make them dislike whatever they had to do to be able to eat. Alfie Kohn said it best in regards to the Pizza Hut “Book It” program, a program where kids earn free pizza by reading books. He claimed that making kids read to obtain a food reward is a good way to create a bunch of obese kids that hate reading!
Anyway, we literally spent 10 hours over a 3-day period at McDonald’s. Emily apparently has an endless appetite for chasing kids up and down those seemingly-boring and redundant plastic tubes at Play Palace. And letting her have hours of fun at McDonald’s at the cost of our boredom only seemed to magnify her adoration for the non-edible portion of McDonald’s. It was a good lesson. Not everyone stops doing what they are doing because they just spent a lot of time doing it. Putting Emily in front of a tv makes her want to watch more tv. Even 6 weeks of 10-hour days in front of the tube at her dad’s was apparently not enough to quench her thirst. I too find that the more television I watch the more difficult it becomes to do pretty much anything else. Likewise, she never seems to tire of swimming. So you can’t just assume that all thirsts are quenchable.
But we were relieved to discover that the food has nothing to do with the McDonald’s experience for her. By the 2nd day she said, “I hate french fries. I don’t want any more french fries. They make me tired.” From that point on she actually wanted the apple slices. She may be the first kid to ever eat a McDonald’s apple slice by her own volition.
By the 3rd day she wouldn’t even touch her chicken McNuggets, and was having some gastrointestinal issues (we all pretty much were!), that will be forever known as the infamous McShart (a term that requires full American slang fluency to understand – I won’t go into detail. It was unfortunate that she was wearing a white skirt though. That much I can say).
I actually had this same experience as a kid with Taco Bell (minus the shart). My family lived in suburbia with no fast food joints for many miles. Then, at age 12, a giant galleria mall came and spread its commercial fungus practically up to our doorstep. Our family ate like Ricky Bobby’s for months.
Then one day, halfway through a bean burrito, I became inexplicably disgusted, put it down, and have only eaten there 3 times in the last 22 years since.
So, as promised, here is some video footage – an exit interview on day 3 of the McXperiment just prior to making like a bird and getting the flock out of there. Hope this experiment has been both entertaining and thought-provoking beyond just food. It certainly has been for me.