So on a cold February morning, I found myself sitting at McDonalds in Vienna (eating, I might add, a reasonably healthy Egg McMuffin minus the muffin top and no hash browns), watching people and talking to my husband when a news report on TV caught my eye.
Customer at Las Vegas Heart Attack Grill Suffers Heart Attack
I perked up. Despite the obvious and ironic humor implicit in that headline, I’ve also walked by that restaurant, although we didn’t eat there. We did take lots of photos because we found it intriguing.
Oh, OK. Funny. We found it funny. It’s an amazing, in-your-face theme restaurant that’s totally upfront and honest about what it offers: Single, Double, Triple and Quadruple Bypass Burgers, Flatliner Fries (cooked in pure lard), and Butter-fat Shakes.
Apparently on Valentine’s Day, a customer chowing down on a super high-calorie Triple Bypass Burger (6,000 calories, more or less) suffered symptoms of a heart attack. Paramedics responded quickly, took the man to the hospital, and he apparently is fine.
The next week, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine asked owner Jon Basso to shut down the restaurant, saying the incident should be a wake-up call that bypass operations are not funny.
Basso says there’s no way he’ll shut down.
Ah, perhaps that’s the root of the controversy. In this corner: those of us who believe the Heart Attack Grill should close its doors and stop being irresponsible by offering horrendously unhealthy food. In the opposite corner: those of us who believe the grill should not be obligated to end its offerings of nutritional suicide. Now, shake hands and let the discussion ensue.
I’ll be honest with you: I’m with Basso on this one. And I’ll tell you why. It all boils down to accountability, which is a major personal value I hold near the top of the heap (behind humor, of course). I think we have to acknowledge the role our choices and decisions play in what happens in our lives. I don’t think we should hold others, or outside circumstances, or businesses responsible for everything that happens to us. Especially when what happens to us is brought about by lifestyle choices we freely made, or by heredity, for which we are always free to blame our parents, as if that will do us any good. Now, I’m not talking about egregious situations — companies that pollute, for instance, or professionals who are truly negligent. So don’t get excited here.
Take these two sentences:
- “The Heart Attack Grill caused me to have a heart attack.” (Followed by, “I’m suing.”)
- “Eating at the Heart Attack Grill made me unhealthy and I had a heart attack.” (Followed by, “I’ve learned a lesson.”)
They’re fundamentally different.
In the first, we lay the blame at the grill. THEY made me sick; it’s THEIR fault; THEY must pay for causing my deterioration. I learn nothing about myself in this process.
In the second, we lay the blame where it belongs: with ourselves. I chose to eat there every day; or else I ate similarly unhealthy things all my life; and I became unhealthy and had a heart attack. I actually learn something about myself in this process, and it hopefully helps me change my behavior.
Big difference. Sure, the Heart Attack Grill serves atrocious food that’s nutritionally bankrupt, but eating there is a choice, and there are plenty of healthier alternatives available at neighboring restaurants. Choices. It’s all about choices – or perhaps I should say it’s all about accountability. Because, let’s face it, I’m the only one I can blame for my dietary choices. I am accountable for them.
See, as a society, we like to ignore this whole accountability thing. It’s uncomfortable. We’d much prefer to blame something or someone else for our decisions and our failings. Oh, we’ll be accountable for our successes, of course, but our failings? No, thanks. We’ll just blame someone or something else. That way we can still feel good about ourselves.
Consequently our lives become a blame game, where we are, in all ways, faultless. “That salesman never told me the dishwasher was that noisy.” Really? Maybe you didn’t research it well. “My teacher doesn’t like me, so she gave me a bad grade.” Huh. Is it possible you didn’t really study enough? “That [insert name of almost any fast-food restaurant] is knowingly serving unhealthy food and making me sick.” Hmmm. And you could spend your money somewhere else or eat at home just as easily, right?
“The Heart Attack Grill is causing us to have heart attacks.”
No, it isn’t. Lifestyle choices (or maybe heredity) brought that on. That one Triple-Bypass Burger doesn’t have that much power. The Heart Attack Grill simply provides a food choice, no matter how unwise and unhealthy it may be. We don’t have to choose it. We don’t have to enter. They don’t force us through the door and into a seat. We come, we see, we eat — or not, if we remain accountable to ourselves for our health.
Our choices. Our consequences. Accountability.