The Situationist

McDonald’s Favorite Man: Don Gorske

Posted by Adam Benforado on May 19, 2011

May 17th is an important day for Ronald.

You see, each year it marks the anniversary of when one Fond du Lac, Wisconsin man decided to start eating Big Macs.

Since 1972, that man, Don Gorske, has eaten 25,000 of McDonald’s famous burgers — typically two a day — becoming, as I and other Situationist contributors have chronicled (here in short form and here in long form), one of McDonald’s prize assets in its fight to avoid litigation and regulation related to the health consequences of consuming its products.  The reason?  In these 39 years, Gorske has been able to maintain relatively good health, low cholesterol, and, perhaps most importantly, a slim figure — clear proof that McDonald’s food can be eaten in copious quantities with no ill effects.

As McDonald’s explained in a press release for the special occasion: “Who could blame him for being such a fan of the Big Mac?  We’re honored that Don Gorske continues to be a longtime, loyal customer.  We look forward to serving him for many years to come.”

So what’s my “beef,” so to speak?

In part, it’s the same one that I’ve blogged about before (here and here): I think celebrating people like Gorske can seriously distort our conversation about the causes of obesity and undermine our ability to combat the epidemic.  When we constantly see or hear about skinny people eating excessively and not gaining weight, it is hard to get the message about the health costs of high calorie diets.  And these stories seem to be everywhere.

Here is Penelope Cruz, in the June issue of Vogue, talking about her post-Oscars routine:

When it was over, she headed over to In-N-Out Burger, still wrapped in her vintage white Balmain gown.  “You have to remove the tight dress to eat a Double Double monster cheeseburger with everything on it,” she says.   The post-Oscar In-N-Out burger has become a ritual.   It’s happened after each of her nominations–the hungry Spanish bombshell at the drive-through.

Here is extreme eating champion Kobayashi challenging a grizzly bear in a hotdog eating contest with the announcers explaining, “Look at how skinny Kobayashi is and look at the size of the bear. . . . He’s in great shape, you can tell he’s an athlete.”

Turn on the television or open a magazine and you’ll see countless other examples.

The other part of my problem with the Gorske celebration is that Gorske’s eating appears to be driven by a psychological disorder.  He has suggested that he suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder.  Not only is he compelled to eat the same sandwich every single day (storing frozen sandwiches in his freezer for an emergency), but he has also kept most of the hamburger boxes and receipts from his purchases.  The 25,000 Big Macs is a manifestation of an often-debilitating mental illness, not the occasion for a corporate press release.

What do you think?

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