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On Finding Happiness – The McD’s Setback

The McD’s setback. What is the McD’s setback? Well first, McD’s stands for McDonald’s just in case you were wondering. But secondly, the McD’s setback happens in conjunction with all of the New Year’s resolutions we are making, particularly as it pertains to weight control and weight loss. The McD’s setback is a breakdown that happens as we give in to our appetitive desires. For me it was the large fry, the 6-pack of McNuggets and a small coke.

I placed the order January 3rd, 2015 just 2 days after I had been making all my resolutions about weight control and weight loss. As I made the order I feel slightly bad and I knew I was breaking my resolutions in such a short period of time. I was also spending extra money I didn’t have which broke another one of my resolutions to save more money in the New Year.

But as I drove around the bend to pick up my order and drove around another bend to find the parking lot and eat, I wasn’t feeling as bad. I opened up the bag of McDonald’s food and let the smell of the greasy food waft up to my nose. I breathed in deep and relished the aroma. I let out a huge sigh of relief as I knew soon I’d be devouring the delicious food that was just handed to me by a young girl that was working the drive-thru.

I savored every salty bite of food and thoroughly enjoyed the greasy golden nuggets as I dipped them in the provided sweet and sour sauce. If I felt I was eating too much food too quickly I’d stop and take a sip of sweet and sugary pop. The meal just kept on getting better and better down to the last savory bite.

As I ate though a feeling washed over me and I said to myself “Here we go again” or “I’m doing it again”. I’m doing what I said I wouldn’t do. Luckily I went for a nice brisk walk just before but that didn’t change the feeling I was feeling as I stared at the McDonald’s building from my car. I was stumbling down the old familiar path of giving in to my feelings and chubbiness.

Let me explain. As I was walking I felt a weakness in my bones and a wave of hunger come over me. I should have forged on to make my walk longer but I cut it short and headed toward my car to drive to McDonald’s. Again, I felt a weakness that pushed me toward my car. I don’t know what it was but it was very unpleasant. I gave into it instead of forging on and depriving myself of food. Even in the car on my way to McDonald’s I knew I shouldn’t go but my car just steered itself to the location where I could place my order.

It may not come as a surprise or a shock that this is about will-power and not giving in to your appetitive feelings. It takes great will-power to say ‘no’ to the appetitive desires we have. We want so much to consume grease, salt and sugar. They all taste so great and leave our bellies with a feeling of fullness. It almost brings tears to your eyes as you consume the McD’s food. That is how good it is and that is how good it tastes. I’m not grossly overweight either and it’s not as if I’m a McDonald’s junky – I hardly ever go there. When I do though, I like to indulge with at least a large fry and a 6-pack of McNuggets. This is where my will power occasionally breaks down and I give in and say yes to my appetites.

It’s the negative feelings and guilt that result from consuming the food that are concerning. There are accompanying negative thoughts that are turned inward as we consume the food. We know we shouldn’t be doing it for numerous reasons but there we are consuming to our heart’s delight. And yes, consuming the food does almost bring tears to one’s eyes. It’s not just that it tastes so good but it’s the accompanying feelings. We know we can be stronger but how come we can’t in the moment? How come we give in to our whims? How come we give in to our desires? How does the greasy food overcome us and have a stranglehold on us?

I wish I had the answers. And it’s more than clever marketing by these big chain restaurants. Yes, it goes much deeper. I think it’s something chemical, biological or neurological. It’s more than just the waft of grease into the air and it’s more than patterned behaviors and the expectation of what will be in the bag when we order it and buy it.

If anything, it’s just the McD’s setback. Even after all of the New Year’s resolutions have been made, it’s still the McD’s setback. It’s the thing we so much want to avoid doing but we do it anyway. And we see streams of cars rolling into the restaurant to do the exact thing we are doing. Everyone, it seems, is indulging in their desires at a fanatic and fantastic rate. Everyone is susceptible to the McD’s setback, no one is exempt.

What do we see then – a lot of people giving in to their appetitive desires? It’s not just the French fries; it’s the fancy coffees and the milkshakes. It’s not just the sweet pop, it’s the ¼ pounders and Big Macs. It’s the never-ending amount of choices and guilty pleasures that are available to us. We are surrounded by temptations. At every driveway. At every corner, the temptations are there right in front of our eyes and right in front of our faces. Everywhere we drive, everywhere we walk the streets are booby-trapped with the next guilty indulgence that is going to make us feel better, if only for a brief moment or in the short-term.

Then, after the last savory morsel is eaten, reality sets in; we feel bad about ourselves. We’re unhappy with who we are. We are ashamed of ourselves and know we can do better in terms of self-control and maintenance of self. We have just victimized ourselves again and taken another step closer to the ultimate enemy – obesity. We have just devoured another meal that will discourage us from stepping on the scale to guestimate our body mass. When we do step on the scale we look depressingly downward to see a number that disappoints us, perhaps frightens us. We know we can do better given the right circumstances and the right amount of will-power.

As we know though will-power is the governing issue at hand and it’s something all of us are trying to exercise at varying degrees. We need the will-power to overcome the desires that are put so amply in front of us. We need the will-power to say ‘no’ to all of the temptations that wait for us at every corner. And we need to will-power to stay and stick firm to a plan that works toward discipline and improvement of self; toward a self that is the very best representation of us as determined and goal-oriented human beings.

It’d be great to hear from you,

Matthew R. Polkinghorne

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