I’ll Take Four Burgers And A Heart Attack, Please

Is it just me, or does the following quote horrify you?

“The unapologetically unhealthy restaurant . . . serves . . . 9,982-calorie ‘quadruple bypass burgers.’ (Patrons who are able to finish them are escorted to their cars in wheelchairs.) Customers who weigh over 350 pounds eat free.”

Quadruple Bypass Burger® Image credit: heartattackgrill.com

Quadruple Bypass Burger® Image credit: heartattackgrill.com

Surely You Jest

That quote comes from a recent Yahoo! News article announcing the death of a second unofficial spokesperson and regular patron of the Heart Attack Grill restaurant, a restaurant which literally lives up to its name (Heart Attack Grill Spokesman Dies of Apparent Heart Attack). Other patrons over the years have enjoyed various “medical emergencies while dining at the grill,” including a man who suffered a heart attack “while eating a ‘triple bypass burger’.”

What, you mean I don’t have to pay extra for that?

Before I took this year to play in the writing world, a research path in pediatric obesity beckoned me, beginning with my public health degree’s capstone project

So let me indulge in a bit of public health talk. I promise I’ll be gentle.

Whose Fault Is It?

When it comes to obesity, it’s easy to blame the individual.

If she ate less and exercised more, she wouldn’t be overweight.

Whoa. Not so fast. It’s not quite as simple as that.

The influences of any chronic condition, including obesity, nest within one another. In public health we refer to this as the Social Ecological Model.

Image credit: Partners in Action (depts.washington.edu)

Image credit: Partners in Action (depts.washington.edu)

  • At the core of the model is the individual; let’s call him Joe.
  • A social network of family, friends, and coworkers wrap their loving arms around Joe.
  • Further snuggling this motley crew is the outside community, complete with its environmental evils (restaurants called the Heart Attack Grill) and environmental angels (parks, sidewalks, accessible gyms).
  • Next up comes the institutional tier, where healthcare systems and organizations help influence Joe’s health outcomes at all three of the previous levels.
  • And finally, formal policies help keep Joe in check, whether at the local, state, or federal level.

Think of the arrangement as a lovely set of nesting dolls. Or an ugly set, like this one my husband picked up in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“Hey, my sweet Oksana, some American debil finally bought those ugly babushkas!”

In other words, it takes two to tango. Or in this case, five.

Come On, Carrie, That’s Crazy

Before you accuse me of making excuses for a person’s obesity, please know that I do understand it ultimately comes down to individual behavior. But arguing about that gets us nowhere. The fact is, many people choose not to or are unable to change their behaviors, and it’s easier to understand why when one considers this nesting doll model:

Bubba: “Hey Joe, come out to eat with us tonight.”

Joe: “Well, I should really make a healthy meal at home.”

Bubba: “Oh, come on, it’s 5-dollar off night at that Heart Attack place. What are you, a wuss?”

Joe: “Hey, who’re you calling a wuss? I’m in. But maybe we should walk there to get a little exercise.”

Bubba: “No can do. You know there aren’t any sidewalks on the busy road leading to the burger joint. The cars will smack us down like bowling pins.”

Joe: “Okay, I’ll drive then. But I have to get home early. I haven’t been feeling so good. My insurance sucks, so I’ve missed my check-ups. And they don’t cover my blood pressure meds, so I’ve only been taking half a pill.”

Bubba: “That stinks. There should be a law saying they have to cover those things.”

Dotty Dee, who’s been silent thus far: “They should make a law banning restaurants that serve 10,000-calorie burgers…”

I hope you get my point. Yes, as individuals we need to make good choices. But no, society should not get off scot-free. Only when change happens at every level can positive outcomes occur.

Related Articles/Websites

Overweight and Obesity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Nutrition and Obesity, American Public Health Association

Creating Vibrant, Healthy Communities, Healthscaping Northwest Blog

* * *

Carrie Rubin is a physician with a master’s degree in public health. She is the author of The Seneca Scourge, a medical thriller.

512 Responses to “I’ll Take Four Burgers And A Heart Attack, Please”

  1. jeanjames26

    When I worked in the CCU in NYC I had a patient who was a real ‘foodie’ from Louisiana. He went out to dinner at Jean-Georges and had the foie gras with a side of cardiac arrest. After his stents were placed he said the foie gras was so good, that he would do it all over again! Some people never learn…Great post.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh, yeah, fois gras isn’t exactly low in fat, is it? You would think cardiac stents would be enough to help people change their behaviors, but sadly it obviously isn’t.

      Like

  2. twistingthreads

    My coworkers and I used to joke about a restaurant just like this. We’d make an omelet, and if it had three meats and a cheese or two, we’d laugh about calling it the stroke. Then we found out such a place really existed and that it was a thousand times worse than we imagined, and now…not so funny.

    People have heart attacks and strokes at other restaurants, too. Every server who’s been in the business for a few years seems to have a story of someone being carried out on a stretcher or dying on a bathroom floor. It’s terrifying, especially when it’s that person on oxygen who tells you they have conditions eating a rare steak with drinks and cheesecake. The server is “Oh, um…I mean…should I be serving this person?” One of my server told me his story, in tears, and the other patrons were angry that service was taking slightly longer, even when they told them they had a medical emergency. Some people, gah.

    Butter It, too. I don’t know if you know what that is, but it’s a creepy butter substitute that doesn’t pop and burn the cooks that is often used on flattops when cooking food. That stuff is higher calorie than butter, full of creepiness, and gets all over one’s food in higher proportions. If you eat at a restaurant everyday, you’ll smell it coming out of you. Hence, along with a lot of other reasons, I make a point of not eating at work, even though it’s free for me. I’ll box up the ingredients I want and take them home. I’m not eating that crap on a regular basis. Moderation is key.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Oh, I have not heard of Butter It. Sounds horrible. It’s gotten to the point that eating out really has to be mostly a once a week thing, because the calorie count is so ridiculous (though thankfully there are some restaurants that offer nutritious fare; or at least fare that won’t break the calorie bank). I never order pasta when I go out. One, because I think my homemade sauces taste better (and I know they’re healthier), and two, because if you bring home leftovers from a restaurant pasta dish and open the box up the next day, you’ll see a solid layer of residual butter and fat lining the bottom of the box. Really gross to think how much fat they’re using to create these sauces.

      We love to try different restaurants, and some of our favorites are gluttony at its finest, but as with most things, it all comes down to moderation.

      Thanks so much for all your great comments on my posts. I appreciate it!

      Like

  3. Stephanie Raffelock

    We need to make it “less cool” to mock eating well and less cool to eat that kind of disease producing food! Food is supposed to nurture not just be entertainment!

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      So true. And that’s exactly what this restaurant does–it mocks healthy eating. It promotes the fact that there’s nothing healthy on its menu. I get that that’s their marketing tool, but when people are bombarded with stuff like this all over the place, it’s hard to make positive changes.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Like

  4. Mr. Wapojif

    I eat cake for breakfast, lunch, and tea. With cake as a snack inbetween. Occasionaly I have a burger as a substitute.

    Like

  5. tomburdakin

    Great article. I believe restaurants are getting better however in what they offer and more aware of the demand for healthy food.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Yes, some are getting there, and it’s nice to see. My family loves a trip to the Cheesecake Factory now and then, and they have a really good Skinnylicious menu.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thanks, Lisa. And yes, that restaurant better sell some antacids with those burgers. Or have surgeons nearby for when stomachs rupture…

      Like

  6. Pink Ninjabi

    Congrats on your second freshly pressed! You are star quality! And thank you for your tweet mention the other day too! I am resurfacing (barely) while doing exam notes, gave myself a break with your witty humor and hilarious post on Feb. 25th. Another giveaway! I am still relishing in those delicious memories of chocolates. 😀 Hope you’re doing well amongst the treadmill of comments 😀

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you for stopping by! It means all the more considering how busy you are–I know how busy exam times can be. When I first read your comment, I thought you meant you still had some of the chocolates left. I was very impressed, because I know I wouldn’t have any left. But then I saw the word ‘memories’ and realized the chocolates are now in past tense. 😉

      Like

  7. annesquared

    I finally broke down and pressed your article… I tried to resist like a junk food junkie craves french fries 😉

    Like

  8. yamez2012

    Reblogged this on topdiets and commented:
    yes this burger looks so fatty and it may cause heart attack indeed, i suggest after eating you go for some physical exercise to reduce some unwanted weight and be fit.
    James

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I agree. Some major exercising is in order after eating this burger. Better yet, avoid it all together. 🙂

      Thanks for the reblog!

      Like

  9. Organic Gelly

    it’s UNREAL places like the “heart attack” exist, and define america. big fan of the diagram of how obesity can relate to other things than just the person. great post.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      Thank you. And yes, sadly, America is being defined by our waistlines. At least that’s often how other countries see us.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  10. Jilanne Hoffmann

    Nice post. Have you read the latest NY Times magazine article on junk food? I don’t think the human race stands a chance against the junk food scientists. And even those who no longer work for the junk food giants appear to have a difficult time admitting the extent of their culpability.

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      I printed it out–an earlier commenter steered me to it as well. I intend to read it this weekend. Goes along nicely with other research I’ve read in this area. So glad to have found it. Thank you! And thanks for visiting. Much appreciated!

      Like

  11. emmblu

    Why is it that most things that taste good are bad for us? Why can’t we have negative calorie pasta and cakes? Why does carb indulgence beget even more carb cravings? It’s a conspiracy, I tell you! I long for the days of yore when Rubenesque forms were the ideals of beauty, then the Kate Mosses of the world would be green with envy at my voluptuous perfection.

    Btw, I wanted to share a post I wrote about my battle with the bulge.
    http://emmblu.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/to-binge-is-to-die-a-slow-death/

    Like

    • Carrie Rubin

      It’s because these good-tasting things are loaded with fat, sugar, and salt, the three of which work together to trigger feel-good dopamine in our brains, making us want to keep eating. There is good research behind this. That’s why it’s so hard to put down the “Baskin Robbins’ two-scoop sundae” you mentioned in your binge post. And the food manufacturers know this…

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate it.

      Like

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