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Obesity: do you blame Maccas, or parents?

Boycott McDonald's if you wish, but does Little Athletics have to suffer for your protest?

Boycott McDonald's if you wish, but does Little Athletics have to suffer for your protest? Photo: Jeffrey Chan

McDonald's is the target, but it pains me to admit it: people are aiming their arrows at the wrong bullseye.

Anti-McDonald's protesters in Melbourne started a petition asking Little Athletics to drop McDonald's as a sponsor because they promote junk food to children. If you've read my column in the past, you'd think I'd sign this petition, right? Surprisingly wrong. Here's why.

If you don't like something, stop doing it. Stop eating it. Stop drinking it. And stop giving it to your kids.  

McDonald's is a business. We all know that. And we are all aware of the type of food they provide, and the nutritional ingredients are all over the internet and at each store location. Do they want to increase sales? You betcha. Therefore, they have the right to spend marketing dollars where they please, just as a consumer has a right to spend their hard-earned where they wish.

The Little Athletics petition is based on McDonald's targeting children "under the guise of community participation". I'd focus attention on the "guise" that also provides more than 7200 beds in 52 countries to families who have children in hospital … donating hundreds of millions of dollars. Guise? I don't see it at Ronald McDonald Houses.

When I was young, of course I had McDonald's. Mum took us there for a treat – once in a while. As an adult, that was her choice for us. Dad owned KFCs around the area, and we had fried chicken – once in a while.

But if TV ads drove me into a kicking and screaming fit because I wanted a burger, fries and a large drink? Mum served me up a fried smack upside the head and forced me to eat extra green beans and every morsel of her not-made-for-MasterChef meat loaf.

I'm no longer a child. Do I have McDonald's? Once in a while on a road trip, I choose to make that stop.

Mum chose for me as a child, and I choose for myself as an adult. The one consistent verb in that sentence is choice. The bow and arrow shouldn't be pointed at one business, it should be pointed at ourselves and the choices that we make as individuals.

I live in Sydney's CBD, and I pass by convenience stores loaded with junk food. Cigarettes are for sale. Then bakeries and chocolate stores tempt our sweet tooth. Cafes serve up umpteen types of coffee (yes, caffeine is a drug). Pie and fish and chip shops with everything battered, fried, and salted. Bars (yes, alcohol is a drug) on every other street corner. Grocery stores are loaded with processed junk. City food halls with 90 per cent unhealthy choices stacked with energy and fizzy drinks. You can't walk 10 metres in any big city in the world without being confronted with some kind of unhealthy food, drink or drug.

We'd have to petition against every chocolate brand, unhealthy cereal and even the couch manufacturers that make couches so comfortable they discourage us from getting up and going for a run. Let's start aiming the bow at ourselves because we choose what we put into our bodies.

I refuse to believe children have so much power in the decision-making process. Who dresses them, grabs the car keys, puts them in their seatbelts, drives, parks, and pays for fast food? Parents make the decision at every single part of that equation.

When I was a kid in Chicago's suburbs, I played little league baseball and our sponsor was Dairy Queen. They bought our uniforms and gained some advertising. After a game, we'd get banana splits, milkshakes, and ice cream cones. We loved it. We didn't petition against our sponsor, we just chose to make it a treat once in a while.

As an adult, I now choose to not eat banana splits and cronuts. I choose for Mike's health. Dairy Queen doesn't choose for me, because I'm stronger than their marketing and advertising and would teach my children the same thing.

Call me Switzerland, because I support the Melbourne protesters' right to create a petition, but I also support any pizza, chicken or burger joint to set up shop where they'd like. I support the petition without signing it, and I support McDonald's by lacing up my shoes and jogging on by.

If you don't like something, stop doing it. Stop eating it. Stop drinking it. And stop giving it to your kids. Don't like the advertising on television? Throw the TV and video games out the window.

I support the protesters and everybody else looking to create a charitable, healthier Australia. And I support Aussie fisherman and farmers by passing over some dollars for salmon on top of spinach salad.

That's my choice, and I believe every Australian can also make smarter choices. I just hope the Golden Arches aren't the reason for anybody to not take the field. That would be the worst thing that could happen.

Should all fast food outlets be disallowed from sponsoring sports?

Follow Mike on Twitter or email him.


  • Great article. Parents are lazy and don't want to deal with the fall out after saying no to little Johnny or Susie. Parents are supposed to be the decision makers, not the children.

    Date and time
    September 02, 2013, 2:49PM
    • Try telling that to weary parents with screaming kids refusing to quiet down unless they got their maccas fix. Should they smack them? Oh no, we don't want parents smacking their kids either. We just prefer to blame them for having kids in the first place. Not everyone will have oodles of time or lack of a personal life that they can devote their time to the psychological coniditioning we want all parents to use.
      It would not help to reduce the conditing that all these product placements and commercial do to a child's mind. Did you think commercial advertising has no effect on their targetted audience and that every parent would have the expertise and time to counteract a complicated marketing startegy developed by a large team or psychoalalysts?

      Knee Jerk
      Date and time
      September 02, 2013, 3:03PM
    • Agree. We have lost personal responsibility and with nanny state intervention this can only get worse if the next generation rely on others to make their choices for them. This holds true for food, smoking, alcohol and so many other choices that we face. If people such as the Greens or the likes of the Democrats in the US have their way, we would have little choice in what we ate or drank. This is a good wake up call or else we face a life of plain packaging on all things.

      Date and time
      September 02, 2013, 3:12PM
    • Please come to my place and say no to my kids, good luck to you. Kids seem to have been told 'how' to manipulate parents, and if all you think it is about is 'fall out' then sure, dream on.

      As for the food, it's all about quantity, even too much water is fatal, can't see how fast food outlets can get blamed for it.

      Real Parent
      Date and time
      September 02, 2013, 3:27PM
    • To the whingers. Learn to discipline your kids and take some responsibility for them. They're your precious little ones not anyone elses.
      When I hear a kid screaming in a spot for something i want to slap the parent for creating that little beast.

      Big Doug
      Date and time
      September 02, 2013, 3:32PM
    • "Try telling that to weary parents with screaming kids refusing to quiet down unless they got their maccas fix" ... "Please come to my place and say no to my kids, good luck to you."

      Seriously people ... they're kids. You're adults.

      Whatever mess you're got yourselves into where you can't win an argument with them, or simply stop them from hassling you about things they want, you need to grow a pair and get yourselves out of it and fix the situation.

      You're in charge, not them. Otherwise you're the reason they'll become obese, not McDonalds or KFC or whatever. Seriously ... this generation of parents who can't do the simple job of being 'the parent', and instead opt to be 'the friend' ... it's ridiculous.

      Date and time
      September 02, 2013, 4:21PM
    • @Knee Jerk - that's the point exactly. Parents are too lazy to actually BE parents these days. Always an excuse. If you haven't got the time or inclination to invest in your kids then you shouldn't have them. Again, you choice - now own up to the responsibility and raise your kids properly. Disgraceful attitude.

      There are plenty of ways to discipline a child without smacking. Just say no to McD's and let them cry it out, they'll soon learn it gets them nowhere. Oh, of course, you don't want to do the hard yards and deal with a little bit of a sook so instead you off-load your kids to the rest of society when they grow up with the same whinge-whinge-get-what-I-want mindset. Thanks for that.

      Date and time
      September 02, 2013, 4:23PM
    • @ Real Parent & Knee Jerk - poor excuses folks. It sounds as though your kids have twisted you around their mini little fingers - and that's YOUR fault.

      Kids don't have an inbuilt ability to 'manipulate parents' as you appear to be claiming - that trait has been taught to them by....oh no i won't tell you who, I'll let you guess....who taught it to them?

      come on, I think you know the answer....

      ok, I'll give you a wasn't their teacher....

      no no, not little Johnny's best mate Davo....

      no, nope, not Davo's parents either, but close...very close.....

      YES, that's right! It was YOU!

      Seriously - stop trying to pass the blame. They're your kids, you raise them, you teach them, you act as their role model, and I guarantee you'd get atop of your high horse, screaming blue murder if anyone tried to tell you how to raise them.

      So don't blame any one else, don't blame the advertiser, don't blame the fast food company, the chocolate company, the teachers, the government or anyone else. Blame yourselves. You did it.

      Date and time
      September 02, 2013, 4:26PM
    • Get real, Real Parent. If your kids have you wrapped around their little finger, then you need to ask yourself some serious questions.

      Yesterday at Fathers Day we were asked why our kids don't throw tantrums and carry on like the in-laws' kids do. The answer was simple: we explained the concept of consequence and the reasons for decisions to our kids and the kids understood that 'No' was for a reason and not just a roadblock to them getting what they want. Our in-laws said "Oh, we just close the door until they stop throwing a tantrum."

      Are our kids happy to hear "No"? Not at all. But do they at least understand why we said no and respect our word as parents? Damn straight.

      Date and time
      September 02, 2013, 4:26PM
    • @Knee Jerk kids would not be screaming for their fix of Macca if they had never been there in the first place and had it drummed into them, from a young age, by their parents how horrible this food is. My nieces and nephews hate the stuff and always say 'Yuck' when the advertisement comes on TV or they drive by it.

      P.S. There are also other ways of disciplining your child and get them to stop throwing a tantrum other than smacking them.

      Date and time
      September 02, 2013, 4:28PM

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