Friday, 22 May 2009

An unhealthy triathlon

Villeneuve lès AvignonA fireman helps a young boy remove the helmet and heavy fireproof jacket he wore during a three-minute drill during which he had to crawl into a smoke-filled tent, find and grab a 20 kilo dummy child, carry him out to safety and along an obstacle-filled path before lying him softly on the ground. Wow, that's exhausting, says the child with a proud smile. A good way to realise the hardships a fireman is exposed to.

Un pompier aide un jeune garçon à enlever le casque et la grosse veste anti-feu qu'il a porté pendant les trois minutes d'exercice d'entrainement où il devait entrer en rampant dans une grande tente enfumée, trouver et saisir un petit mannequin de 20 kilos, le transporter dehors et sur un parcours semé d'obstacles avant de le déposer doucement au sol en sécurité. Ouf, c'est épuisant, soupire le garçon fier d'avoir réussi ! Une bonne façon de se rendre compte des difficultés du métier de pompier.
The other activity of the afternoon, and that's where our friend Ronnie comes in (see previous post) was the Irontour sponsored by McDonald's : with a mini-triathlon involving swimming, cycling and running our kids are meant to discover the joys of sports thanks to the friendly clown who cares about their health. But who are they trying to fool? The distances were so short that the kids (all dressed up in McD caps and t-shirts) spent far more time waiting for their turn and taking explanations from adults than actually running, cycling or swimming : see the length of the pool on the left below? They did a return lap in that, no more, and two rounds of cycling and running on the tiny circuit you see above. I find quite disturbing McDonald's hopes to buy itself a clean conscience by supposedly supporting sports and good health practices when the reality is that they feed us junk food that is responsible for the massive spread of obesity in North America and slowly reaching Europe too. I am disgusted that our kids are led to associate McDonald's with the good guys, i.e. the firemen and policemen (who were running a street safety awareness workshop on the same afternoon) when the real aim is to brainwash our kids into consuming ever more McD products for the greatest benefit of a multi-million dollar profit corporation. Please read Owen's comments in yesterday's post, he expresses better than I can the reasons why I'm NOT HAPPY with this whole exercise.

La deuxième activité de l'après-midi (et c'est là que notre ami Ronny apparaît) était une initiation à un mini-triathlon sponsorée par MacDo. Voilà les enfants censés découvrir les joies du sport grâce au gentil clown qui se soucie de leur santé. Mais les trois activités (natation, vélo, course) étaient faites sur de si petites distances qu'on ne pouvait qu'être choqué par cette parodie de sport où les enfants ont passé bien plus longtemps à attendre leur tour (dûment habillés d'une casquette et d'un t-shirt publicitaires) et à écouter les explications des adultes qu'à faire du sport. Voyez la petite piscine à gauche ci-dessous ? Ils ont juste fait un aller-retour là-dedans puis à vélo et à pied deux tours du mini-circuit que vous voyez ci-dessous. Je suis franchement choquée que MacDo s'achète une conscience en feignant de soutenir le sport et un mode de vie sain alors qu'ils ne font que vendre une malbouffe qui a rendu l'Amérique obèse et qui gagne gentiment du terrain en Europe. Je suis choquée que nos enfants soient incités à associer MacDo avec les gentils pompiers et policiers (qui menaient un atelier de sécurité routière avec un circuit à vélo et des panneaux à respecter) alors qu'il ne s'agit de rien d'autre que de les amener à consommer toujours davantage pour le plus grand bénéfice d'une corporation aux méga-profits. Oui je suis choquée et je pense que les enjeux sont GRAVES.

48 comments:

Owen said...

Oyé, oyé... 'nuff said already... tonight we have dorade on the menu, with onions, tomatoes, and whole rice, to be washed down with a chardonnay from... Koonunga Hill, South Australia. Yum ! And not a french fry or cheeseburger in sight ! BTW, have you seen "Supersize Me"? If not, it is an excellent film, if you can find it...

Adam said...

Wow Nathalie and Owen - a little over the top here perhaps. We are all responsible individuals, and children all have parents who should decide what their kids eat. Stop trying to make it look like we are dragged off the streets and forced into a restaurant. In the US, I'd say school canteens and supermarkets are more to blame, places where Americans are forced to shop and eat through lack of alternatives.

Owen - sounds nice, but you couldn't say that your meal is locally sourced! We have responsibilities for what we choose to eat in many different ways!

Chriscot said...

Comme je comprends et souscris au "chocage"!!!
Ronnie va faire un tour ailleurs!

raphaelleae said...
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raphaelleae said...
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Avignon said...

Ah ! Qu'est-ce que j'aime ça !
Tu es formidable !

jeff34 said...

Bah Nathalie ! Ce sont de petits français ou autres qui ont tout de même un cerveau !... Non ?
Après tout Ronald est en train de virer au vert !...

A plus !...

Avignon said...

Raphaellae : it's too late !!!

raphaelleae said...
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raphaelleae said...
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Avignon said...

The "mistakers" are welcome here !!!

Nadege said...

The first time I ate at MacDonald's was in Tokyo. I had pancakes (not great), just because it was too expensive to eat everyday in restaurants or at the hotel.
The second time (US) was because I was in a hurry; I didn't like the burger buns. They tasting like soap to me (way too refined for my taste) and I have never had another burger at Mac Donald's since, in 30 years in the US. In Tahiti, I saw lines of women and little kids waiting to get inside a MacDonald's. If there is a demand for it, those kinds of food chains will stay and multiply. I thing that YOUNG people all over the world love what is American because it represent opulence and because that is what they see on TVs and movies. Morgan Spurlock's movie "Super-size me" was fascinating.

Owen is American and is entitled to his opinion, so does Raphaelleae. But I hate to see people over-+reacting at soemone else's comment particularly on this sweet blog.

Adam, it would be wonderful if we would eat and drink "local" but that would be goodbye to a global economy.

None of the kids on your photo is overweight by the way. That is a wonderful thing.

raphaelleae said...
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Open Minded said...

@ raphaelleae,
after reading through the comments here and on the below post as well, it would seem you are reacting rather extravagantly, indeed to the unpleasantly extreme... neither Nathalie nor Owen are supporting or exhibiting any racist sentiment here. If you construe Mr. Robbins' writing as disgusting, rather than simply creative and perhaps a bit generalized or caricatural, so be it, but wow, leave off the racist accusations; as Adam said, that is "over the top" and uncalled for on Nathalie's sweet blog, to echo the above.

Anyone who stops by here regularly, even an open minded lurker like myself, would be shocked by your diatribe. But then the incident with Michel Benoit not too long ago, over an anonymous comment from Asia, where you resorted to plastering his comments box with obscene and foul cursing is not easily forgotten. How embarrassing for you. And unless I'm mistaken, his response to you was something like : You may need help...

Let's get back to "fair and balanced" here, a friendly discussion among intelligent bloggers, who may sometimes have differing opinions...

raphaelleae said...
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raphaelleae said...
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remember said...

Always children

Chuckeroon said...

May I say that I do greatly admire the style of the French firefighter helmet? They have revolutionised the design and it was quickly adopted here in Britain. Not only is it highly effective, it's "chic". In that, it expresses the best of France.

The trouble with the French is their style of stridently expressing a different point of view. But whatever they do say is thoughtful and worth listening to, even if you don't agree in the end.

France p****s me off 20 times a day; but I do enjoy it so much!!! I would miss France very much if it were not there. (One might say the same about America).

Well done, N for starting this hare running.

richard said...

It's cynical of Macdonald's certainly. Reminds me of Sunny Delight paying supermarkets to put their drink in the chilled cabinet along with real fruit juices in order that they appeared more healthy. Does anyone seriously think Macdonalds is worried about kids health here? Imagine if you were a fly on the wall at the marketing teams meeting that came up with this wheeze...

raphaelleae said...
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raphaelleae said...
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AnneduSud said...

Le sport sponsorisé par Mac Do en direction des jeunes enfants? Tout à fait lamentable, et tellement peu crédible... surtout dans les conditions que tu décris...

jeff34 said...

C'est normal sur la photo tout en haut que le mec il soit pas toujours réanimé ? Overdose de Big Mac peut-être...!
Bon, après Mc Do ya quoi... Monsanto ? Super sujet je pense !

Je dis ça, mais ton sujet éveille les passions ! Fatche !...

A plus Nath !

Nathalie said...

Thank you all for your input, I am not surprised that my strong personal views aren't necessarily shared by all.

I am quite conscious that I expressed myself vigorously and that the topic could be examined from many other angles but this blog is usually more about photos than text. On this occasion I realised there was no way I would cover this event without giving my opinion about it. I tried to do that in as little words as possible, therefore cutting short on a certain number of points justifiably raised by some of you.

Adam - of course the ultimate responsibility for feeding kids lies with their parents but what do you do when your kids are invited to a birthday party at McDonalds? What do you do when they are invited (THROUGH SCHOOOL as these kids were) to attend an event such as this one where Ronnie's image is shrewdly associated with that of the ever-popular fireman?
And I'm sorry to say, but I doubt all parents are behaving responsibly. It takes guts and energy, and a lot of thought, to fight for your children's health when you're working against large corporations having a go at them through TV, advertising, media communication and a broad range of events such as this one. Who do you think parents are? Superheroes?

They are not. And when they fail (and many do) I don't necessarily blame them. It's just that they haven't been strong enough to fight the system.

Well I don't believe feeding your kids right should require such a tremendous effort.

And that's why I'm NOT HAPPY with events such as this one.

Muriel said...

Et bien Mac Don déchaine les commentaires. Je n'y vais plus depuis que mes enfants sont assez grands pour y aller sans moi. Mais j'y ai fait autrefois des anniversaires pour eux, et ils étaient ravis. Et je garde une certaine nostalgie des glaces et sundaes. Je rejoins l'avis de certains: personne ne force qui que soit à entrer dans un MacDo. Si les jeunes y vont, c'est parce qu'ils ont le droit d'y manger avec leurs doigts et de faire du bruit entre jeunes. C'est aussi parce qu'ils sont servis au comptoir rapidement, ce qui leur plait parce qu'ils n'aiment pas attendre. Je me demande quel succès aurait un resto qui proposerait les mêmes avantages en plus d'une nourriture saine!

raphaelleae said...
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Owen said...

Funny how a simple subject like hamburgers and french fries can get people worked up to the point where they feel it necessary to stoop to insulting, slandering, and demonizing other members of the blogging community who happen to see things a little differently.

As an American, although now a long term ex-pat, I feel qualified to criticize where I see fit the society I came from. That is a pillar of democracy, and is not a demonstration of racism. I have never in my life been accused of racism on any grounds, and there are no grounds in anything written in any of the previous comments here that could warrant such a charge.

To quote another famous author, (Tom Robbins) as I did here, who thinks McDonald's represents an unfortunate standardization or industrialization of the restaurant business, and who mentionned in passing that he feels American culture is lacking in traditions, does not constitute racism in any way, shape, or form.

America is a melting pot, comprised of people of many "racial" origins. To levy a general criticism at American culture is to criticize all members of it, but it does not single out any single racial group within that melting pot for special unpleasant treatment. So call Mr Robbins superficial, or generalising, or ignorant, but do not call him a racist, and do not call me a racist for quoting him.

Tom Robbins is the farthest a writer could possibly be from being racist. And I can assure all present who may read this that I abhor racism. Tom Robbins' fundamental assertion is that people, and the language people use, should stop taking themselves so seriously...

Of course Americans have traditions, and are not all a vulgar, hamburger guzzling posse of obese redneck cowboys. Americans eat turkeys at Thanksgiving and cheer the Superbowl or the World Series in keeping with the season. Americans remember their dead from many wars and hang flags on their houses in great numbers these days. America has produced from the worst to the best in any field imaginable. America has the biggest porn industry in the world, and the largest network of universities in the world today. Some Americans burn crosses on other Americans front yards. (I consider traditions like that one despicable.) America gave the world the Blues and Jazz and the Grateful Dead, and hosts many large symphony orchestras; who could want more musically than Americans ? America gave the world the sub-prime loan system, and we are now paying the consequences. America has been, ever since the land was stolen from its rightful owners, a multi-faceted culture... as Dickens said, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times".

So call me short-sighted, dim-witted, or downright stupid if you disagree with me. But don't call me a "disgusting racist", especially when in fact you are referring to language that was quoted from another source. That kind of vilification of an individual because you disagree with a debatable point is about as digestible as a McDonald's Super Size dinner... it leaves one with extreme flatulence and a desire to vomit.

Vicious personal attacks have no place in the blogging community.

PS Thanks to "Open Minded" above for your balanced approach in the wake of an un-balanced diatribe.

Kris said...

As far as I am aware, "American" is not a race, so using such a loaded term is problematic, (at best). That said, I can see why people get frustrated by simplistic and generalist assumptions.

I don't see the point of hating McDonalds. If you don't like it, don't go there. If the feeling is that their stores push out local alternatives - as it was in my home town when the arrived on the scene - I would as that people reflect why many opted to go to the chain rather than the local establishment.

They do what they do quickly and efficiently. Their staff seem to be reasonably capable and generally friendly. Their buildings are clean and tidy. Their menu was reasonably priced. I'll be honest and say that the burger joints in Burnie, Tasmania in 1992 (when McDonalds arrived) did not offer this. Thus people went to the chain. So be it.

In 2009, there are alternatives that deliver a far superior experience to the customer. Rather than browbeat McDonalds, I'd rather recognise the role they play in lifting their game, rather than spreading mediocrity.

I say this as someone who has eaten at McDonalds maybe ten times in the past decade. Half of that was when I was travelling, and went to the chain because - whatever the ultimate value of the product - I could rely upon it being what I expected, as opposed to the wildly varying quality and price of other places I visited (that is, I went after too many overpriced, terrible meals with rude service).

raphaelleae said...
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raphaelleae said...
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Owen said...

Raph, You are missing the points raised entirely, there was no attack on Americans (I am one) and there was no racism expressed by anyone... so give it a rest... get some sleep... and smile, like Ronald here in these lovely photos from Nathalie. A tempest in a tea pot...

raphaelleae said...
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raphaelleae said...
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Nathalie said...
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Nathalie again said...

Of course our teenagers love McDonald's carefree atmosphere. Having said that, kebabs are now on the verge of taking over as teenagers' favourite food. They come out cheaper than burgers. Life moves on...

Nathalie said...

I personally don't think Owen made racist comments - he only pointed the shortcomings of a society which as he said has produced the best and worst in many fields.

I guess the point Raphaellae was trying to make is that every time you make a sweeping statement about a population (the French are arrogant, Americans are uneducated, etc ) you are bound for trouble because there will be hundreds of examples of the opposite.

However if you recognize that there is such a thing as a local culture in any country, yes such statements make sense. The French in general care about quality eating far more that Americans. It's a fact.

Meals in our country are seen as a time to get together, socialize and enjoy the good things in life : tasty foods, good wines etc. Meals are seen as quality time, not time wasted.

But when I was a child, restaurants were places where meals were long and boring and kids were not welcome unless perfectly well behaved, i.e. sitting still and quiet.

Therefore it is no wonder that the French have a love/hate relationship with McDonald's. McD revolutionized restaurants in our country : suddenly there was a place where meals were quick and easy, loads of fun, where kids were kings, got special meals and toys, ate with their fingers and could choose only the food they loved such as French fries and ice cream.

If our restaurants are far more child-friendly today, we owe it largely to McDonald's.

But the happy child culture has a lot to answer for in many respects. Nowadays a lot of parents don't want to educate their kids, they want to be loved by them. It's a catastrophy.
Quite often children will appear happier when you let them eat fries to their heart's content than when you tell them to finish their spinach. And they'll throw a tantrum and say they they hate you if you tell them that no, they can't have a second helping of ice cream. Some parents can't stand it so they let go of education, in the dream of raising happy kids. Fat kids.

This is such a complicated issue, we could go on and on...

Adam said...

Your last comment is very interesting Nathalie. Yes parenting is difficult, but can we blame McDonalds for our weaknesses? And when you asked what parents should do if their kids are invented to a party, well you let them go of course! McDo is no worse than kebabs, pizza or even the rubbish you get in most restaurants on the 'Menu Enfant', so let them have fun.

The final point. Nobody believes that McDo is 'good for you' these days, so people are going there for other reasons. If people want to eat unhealthily and get fat, that's their personal choice isn't it? Why attack McDo for that rather than a French wine producer who wants consumption of alcohol to made easier and cheaper?

Nathalie said...

Adam - of course my kids went to McDo birthday parties. But the birthday parties I threw for them were never there. They involved a home-made cake and lots of indoor or outdoor games depending on the season. That was easy because I only worked part-time and had plenty of time to devote to such activities.

Parenting is difficult, but can we blame McDonalds for our weaknesses?

The problem is, education is not only about healthy eating. Being a parent means you also have to educate your children on other major issues such as
- time spent on TV/video games
- physical development (sleep, sports etc)
- working at school and developing their intelligence
- politeness and appropriate social behaviour
- consideration for other people's feelings and awareness of their own feelings
- awareness of environmental issues....
and the list goes on.

Not easy. Parents usually do well on some points and not so well on others. It's bloody hard to be on all fronts at once!

Basically I want my kids to become bright, kind and responsible individuals who will be able to recognize the forces that are applied upon them and make informed decisions.

I believe it is my responsibility as a parent to show my kids how the world works and how large corporations like McDonalds use a variety of tactics to appear as the good guys and establish a stronger corporate image. My children and I should never lose sight of the fact that McDonalds and other large corporations are NOT CHARITIES and their ultimate goal is higher profits, not our good health.

Then if you eat fast food from time to time as my kids do is fine. You do it in full conscience. No worries.

Nathalie again said...

Reading this again, I realise that a lot of controversy seemed to stem from the belief that I was saying people should not eat at McDonalds. An example of that is Kris's comment "I don't see the point of hating McDonalds. If you don't like it, don't go there."

My point was elsewhere: what shocked me was the shrewd methods used by McDonalds to revamp its corporate image, selling itself for what it is not.

I believe we as parents should teach children how to "read" advertising messages and pictures, understand how they are constructed and see what psychological buttons they push.

If we want to raise informed citizens, understanding the pressures of corporate strategies is now a must.

raphaelleae said...
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Nathalie said...
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Nathalie said...

One of the commentators above made strong personal accusations against another, something I really wasn't happy about. I'm all for exchange of ideas but personal accusations are not on. Finally this person decided to remove all her comments. Readers coming now might find the reading difficult as they are missing half the conversation. A few very interesting points were raised however and I hope you will enjoy everyone's input as much as I did.

Muriel said...

A small saying: "If you don't by, they can't sell it". Stands for foods, of course, and also for theories. Kids on this event organized by McDo may not believe that sports and hamburgers go together. I remember when we were children, sports on the beaches were organized by "Mickey clubs", and I never supposed that the "Mickey Magazine" was in any way responsible for the way we were sporting.

nathalie in avignon said...

Muriel - I presume you mean "if you don't BUY it, they can't sell it".

I have no idea if Mickey Beach Clubs were sponsored by Disney when we were little but Mickey Mouse doesn't sell hamburgers, fries, ice-cream and coke.

If you still remember Mickey Magazine today, it could well be because they sponsored those beach events when you were little. It's called corporate image. The aim isn't to make you buy something immediately but to make you recognise the brand instantly and associate it with a positive image.

Owen said...
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