This Is Why America Is The Fattest Nation On Earth…

This Is Why America Is The Fattest Nation On Earth…

According to BMC Public Health data, an average adult in the USA weighs over 80 kilograms. We think this “small” McDonald’s cheeseburger meal might have something to do with it…

Last week, the Lifehacker team attended Microsoft’s TechEd 2013 conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. During the event, we got to sample several uniquely American takeaway meals, including the McDonald’s Bacon Habanero Ranch Quarter Pounder (check out the resultant takeaway truth post here).

However, no other menu item typified the excesses of America quite like the McDonald’s 2 Cheeseburger Meal.

While waiting for my connecting plane at LAX International Airport, I decided to grab a quick snack, mainly to kill some time. The monstrosity you see above is the smallest meal option that McDonald’s offers in the US. It comprises two cheeseburgers, a medium fries and a large soft drink. I repeat — this is the smallest McDonald’s meal you can buy in the US without purchasing items separately.

The combined calorie intake of this “snack” is 1090 — which translates to around 4500 kilojoules. While Australia isn’t exactly a svelte nation, at least it’s possible to get a small McDonald’s meal here that has a passing resemblance to the word. (I still scarfed the lot, mind. When in Rome…)

Do you find takeaway restaurants typically serve too much? Or do you find their individual meal sizes to be too meager? Let us know in the comments section below…


  • They serve exactly what you order.

    Like you said, you could have chosen individual items, but in typical glutinous thinking you chose the too much option to stuff your face with, in what was just a snack by your own words.. Congrats to you. You will be obese over time if you are not already. Change your thinking and stop blaming everyone else for your own short comings. Hell, you could have chosen a nice nut bar if it was just a snack.

    • Buying items individually ramps up the cost significantly. I don’t think its unreasonable to expect a small meal deal to actually be, y’know, small. Also, one of my McDonald’s chips appears to have fallen on your shoulder. Lighten up 😛

      • Lighten up.. hahahahaha.. You made a funny. I was quite sure your whole article was solely because of the chip on your shoulder, expecting others to make the correct decision for you.. Too bad if you pay more for the items individually. It’s only a dollar or 2… Big deal. . That’s life, you still had the choice.. Don’t be such a tight wad.

          • Man you are so Wrong. What simple thinking you have going on.

            Everyone, including Chris has the choice. Nobody makes them or Chris eat too much or choose too much food or even the wrong kind of food. We all know what it is, so it is not exactly a surprise. Chris knew before he bought what he bought that it would be exactly what it was. He chose to over eat by his own inference. He could have chosen better but decided to be a tight wad instead to save a buck or 2 at best, if at all. Obviously you would not order it all if you did not want it all. His choice, not Mcdonalds choice, so you nor Chris nor anyone else can blame any fast food chain for being fat. You did it to yourself every step of the way.

          • I seriously think this guy deserves a prize.

            I have never seen Anyone on this site get as many down votes as you have. Ever.
            Currently sitting at 136.

            I can only conclude that you need the title of “Most Wrong Person On Lifehacker”

          • Here we are almost 3 weeks later and the down vote count is 155.

            Ben626873232 (if that is your real name), congratulations. You just won the internet.

          • Yeah and McDonald’s spend all the money on marketing and advertising because neither works. Don’t be so self righteous

          • Are you saying you can’t make a decision that was not handed to you through marketing. Sorry to hear that really.

          • The reality is that most people are lazy. Unless you are really into your health you are not going to count every calorie in your meals.
            Most people always go for what is convenient. Even I eat maccas too often because it is just easy and cheap. I get what you are saying, we all have a choice. It’s just that places like maccas are absolutely everywhere and when every easy to purchase meal is 4500kj or more, it is a recipe for disaster. Clearly nobody is blaming maccas for obesity, Chris is just stating that maccas in US makes it an easier option for people to order meals that are high in calories.. and again.. people are lazy, they order what is convenient and then they get fatter.

          • dood he ate McDonalds and made a fairly light hearted remark about their meal sizes – get over it.

          • I actually agree with you. The temptation there is to finish everything on your plate, but you don’t have to.

            I was shocked when I went to the states in 2007, because the medium coke I bought at the airport was an Australian large. And I was amazed at the unlimited refill mentality in most restaurants (bottomless coffee, etc.).

            But I never ate or drank more than I felt like, even when presented with the opportunity to order a large or to get a refill.

          • There is a lot of talk these days about how upbringing can actually be a factor in obesity.

            Think about it, quite a lot of people when they were kids learned to eat everything in front of them, this has meant that most people have that sort of think ingrained in them. Mix that with meals that are much bigger than what is needed (this example is one of many out there) and then you have issues with obesity. Portion control is key in this, but it can be hard, especially with eating out.

            Some people do have a hard time leaving unfinished food….

          • On the other hand, people who always put too much on their plate and don’t finish it because it makes them feel like they eat less. My sister does this and I think it’s part of the reason my mum always chose to tell us to eat everything on the plate and portion correctly, which works when you don’t go out to eat often

          • Yes, with a but.

            A study has shown that merely having it there in front of you increases the desire to finish it all (the temptation to finish everything on your plate) so it’s a difficult thing to combat. Simply making the extra food available, and cheaper triggers a natural reaction to eat more, and participants didn’t “feel” they had eaten any more than the control group.

            Just because you can doesn’t mean you should, but it’s difficult to fight with human nature.

            Citation: “Bottomless bowls: why visual cues of portion size may influence intake.”

          • That’s like saying that people have a “choice” not to be spied on by the NSA by not using any connected devices.

          • Good god, no one is trying to absolve all fat people of blame for being fat. Chris is simply stating that a franchise like McDonalds serving a monstrosity like that and labeling it “small” is indicative of a society’s screwed up outlook on food.
            McDonalds labeling of that meal as being “small” changes the way people perceive their food. You can carry on hating all of the fat people in the world for their lack of self control, and that’s fine and probably true, but you cant just completely ignoring the bigger issue; that it’s not just the individuals perception of junk food that needs to change, but rather the way we as a society represent healthy eating. McDonalds, by calling meals like that a “small”, encourages people to view a “double cheeseburger meal” as being perfectly acceptable.

      • Nobody said you had to eat everything on your plate. And it *is* cheaper to buy individually if you don’t want all that food. A single cheeseburger and a drink is cheaper than the meal you linked.

    • I totally agree with Ben’s point. I could I guess, agree with the original post. But in general, I don’t paint getting more for less as a negative. And if it turned out to be a false economy, then all the more reason to just get the burger. When I want something light from Maccas I don’t buy a meal.

    • derp derp. derp. My time is reserved for reading, but every so often you happen; I’m forced to comment. Or do I have a choice? That’s your take, so clearly the article is lost on you. The author is delivering an observational factlet, and jocularly theorizing it’s effect. Indisputably a product of savvy marketing, an interesting article – which is why the rest of us read it. You sound angry, testostegression? He did not ‘blame everyone’, nor ask for your congratulations. Do not take yourself so seriously, I imagine most don’t. Oh, and what a redeeming close, a ‘nice nut bar’. Stupid people never fail to surprise.

  • I’m just wondering for the sake of comparison, was there a HappyMeal option at the airport? If there was, how would it have stacked up (price/comparison wise) against the “Two Cheeseburger” extravaganza?

    In theory, that would be the equivalent of a small Australian cheeseburger meal, one would hope. And you’d get a toy. Bonus!

  • Meal sizes in Australia grow ever bigger year on year. This was highlighted for me when we went to an Italian restaurant in Potts Point, Sydney. When my meal arrived, it was a normal-sized portion such as I would make at home or such as you would once have gotten in Australian restaurants. It was great! I ate my meal and had room for dessert and probably had fewer calories than I would have had in an average restaurant. And I came away without the normal bloated sluggish feeling.
    And what is it with snacks at movies? The smallest popcorn you can buy would serve a family of four and the smallest soft drink would provide two days of normal calorie requirements. Companies that serve this stuff up should be taxed – say 1% tax for a 250ml drink and 900% tax on a 2 litre drink.

    • Back in the day, a small popcorn and soft drink were modestly sized AND affordable. Cinemas eventually realised they could make more money by selling larger portions at a higher markup. Hence the $8-$10 “small” popcorn boxes you get these days.

      • The profit margins on popcorn and post-mix soft drink is in the order of 1000% so they would rather sell you a huge cup for $8 than a small cup for $5 as it’s all profit.Bear in mind that the profit margin on new relaese movie tickets are 10% or less for the first week then another 10% added per week till it hits 50/50, so they have to make money somehow.

  • Ever since McDonalds started selling double cheeseburgers for $2 I’d have a meal of three of them once every couple of weeks. For something that’s so bad for you they really do hit the spot.

  • Wait, so the small meal has a medium fries and medium coke? Are they not on the menu at all or are they just not in the meals? I guess it’d make sense if they just had medium, large and super size.

  • Let’s face it the biggest issue with fast food isn’t that people can’t control their urges when they’re hungry. It’s because the bulk of them live close to or under the poverty line and for the most part it’s cheaper to eat crap than to buy proper food. Add to that the massive advertising machine behind it and you have what’s becoming the biggest health issue on the planet!.

    • It’s not really cheaper to buy this crap, it’s just easier. I once did the Live Below The Line challenge, which you have to eat no more than $2 worth of food a day, and I couldn’t afford to eat Mcdonalds. I think the only people who have the excuse of not being able to eat “proper” food are homeless people, who don’t have the resources to cook themselves, so buying a cheeseburger for a few bucks is the only viable option they have.

      I do agree that the advertising behind it really does add to the problem. They make it seem like such a fun, easy and cheap option to feed yourself and your entire family.

      • I once did the Live Below The Line challenge, which you have to eat no more than $2 worth of food a daySpeaking from experience in my household, when it costs on average between eight to twelve dollars per meal, that two dollar big mac you pointed out looks like a cheap way to feed a family that is either poor, large or both. Fast food chains need to be more responsible for their effect on the nation, just as cigarette companies should. Of course that will never happen in a society that is based on sucking as much money as possible out of everybody.

        • Eight to twelve dollars a meal for how many people? The cheapest meal at McDonalds would be a $2 burger, $2 chicken bites, a $1 apple pie and a free cup of water (or maybe a small cheeseburger meal… but that’s not as good!). Feed two people with that and you could have made a proper meal at home with better nutritional value. Take-away food is pretty much -never- cheaper than what you can make at home. People use it as an excuse to not cook because really, no one feels they have the time to cook these days and they can’t admit they are too tired or lazy.

          I do a lot of cooking at home and will readily admit that I get take-away sometimes because I am way too lazy to cook every night of the week. McDonalds definitely costs more than what I cook.

          • Sorry I’m not actually sure what your point is. However what if your living close to the edge with a family and your maybe working as well as looking after kids, you know, the usual? You may be inclined to take the easy way out more than you should. I do the shopping and cooking in my family, so I know how expensive fresh veg and meat is and let me tell you it aint cheap. All I’m saying is look at the big picture… 🙂

          • My point is that McDonalds isn’t cheaper than cooking at home. It’s the lazy way out, but people would rather make up invalid excuses such as “McDonalds is cheaper than cooking at home”.

            It costs 50 cents for the ingredients to cook a loaf of bread, and less than $10 for a kilo of meat for mincing. You get 16 slices of bread in your standard loaf, so that’s 8 hamburgers with a hell of a lot of leftover meat for $10.50. You can even make yourself some chips with brushed potato close to a dollar a kilo when you buy a big bag.

            Meat is cheap when you buy cheap cuts. I go the cheap route and add chicken stock to my dishes to add some extra nutrients. The local shopping centre butcher charges a dollar a kilo for chicken frames, and you only need 2kg to cook up a heap of stock. I buy the cheapest meat cuts possible to make my own mince meat. Etc. etc. etc.

          • Meat, bread and potato? You can also cook at home for cheap if you live off 2-minute noodles, but it’s not very healthy. Also, there’s barely any nutrients in chicken stock (unless you count salt). The ingredients for a stir-fry or a decent salad are much more comparable to McDonalds prices than 8 hamburgers and a big bag of chips.

      • One of the things that bugs me is people calling the USA ‘America’. If they wanted a simple name for the country then they could have called it America, but they went with ‘The United States of America’. America covers the Americas, which is the north and south continents of America. Citizens of The United States of America are Americans as much as people from Canada or Peru.

        • Yeah, but it’s rare that people refer to the whole combination of North and South America as America. When they do they actually say “North America and South America” or “the Americas”.

          Many from around the world refer to America or the Americans when they talk about the USA. At the same time, people don’t exactly say the “Commonwealth of Australia” or the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” either. They call the former “Australia” and the latter, “Britain”, “Great Britain”, “UK” or just “England” sometimes. I know, the last one is wrong and is almost like confusing the Netherlands and Holland.

    • While we’re on the subject:

      Absolute weight means nothing. Of course a Western nation of 5’10+ folks is going to be heavier than a bunch of 5’3″ Asians.

      BMI means nothing and anyone who uses it should be ashamed. You don’t have to be an elite bodybuilder or athlete for BMI results to be bullshit.

      If you’re not quoting properly-measured body fat percentage, your study is useless.

  • I don’t buy this. It’s a person’s choice how much they eat, where they eat, and when. If we’re blaming fast food for obesity, we’re blaming car manufacturers for speeding.

    Yes, these places don’t make it any easier, offering a tasty meal for cheap (and McDonalds has started asking me if I’d like an apple pie with my coffee (for an extra dollar)), but you are in control of what you do.

    It just seems that more and more people are finding it easier to buy than to cook.

  • I know its not America, but was in a McDonald’s in Vancouver a couple years ago, and literally had to argue with the girl behind the counter to purchase a single cheeseburger. I kept saying all I wanted was a single burger, and she kept telling me it was cheaper to get a whole cheeseburger meal (there must have been a promotion). I kept telling her I didn’t want a whole meal because I didn’t want to eat/drink the other stuff, but she kept insisting I get more for less… it caused quite a scene.

  • Last time I was at LAX I was between meals and also wanting to kill time. I ordered a Caesar salad (you know, the unhealthy salad masquerading as a healthy salad) thinking that sounds healthy-ish and was at a very reasonable price of $7. what I got was a 30cm flat bottomed bowl with straight sides, filled about 10cm high above the rim with Cos lettuce and olive oil. It was packed in tight. Was probably about 2-3 whole cos lettuces. My jaw was sore after chewing through 1/3 of it.

    All I remember from the encounter was “Lucky I didn’t order the chicken Caesar salad!”

    • The chips tasted better — not sure if that’s due to the cooking method, oil or potatoes, but they were definitely crispier and more flavoursome. Can’t say I noticed a huge difference with the cheeseburgers though (if anything they tasted blander).

  • I actually completely agree with some of the commenters above getting -12312 votes..

    Nobody forces anyone to do anything. I eat fast food quite often two meals a day, five days a week, as i’m sure many busy people do.. Normally it isn’t an issue, recently I thought to myself I was feeling unhealthy and (less importantly to me) gaining some weight. .. So I cut down.

    3 weeks on and i’m doing much better, and because I wasn’t insane about it – trying to get ultra fit, or not eat ANY take away, it’s basically a non-event for me..

    You can live your life how you choose. If the meal was “too small” then it would more than likely attract far more hatred than for being “too good value”.. It’s relative, and they seek to satisfy the largest potential market share possible..

    Is it a coincidence that this segment of the population happens to line up with the people also willing to change THEMSELVES the least (most people, including myself most of the time) ? And why should McDonalds care. There’s corporate responsibility and then there’s trying to control peoples behaviour.

    This is the same as expecting the government to ban smoking. Sure, it might be good for the population, and good for public medical expendature.. But it’s a matter of personal choice. Where does it end, with us all wearing identical outfits (hoodies for example associated with criminality) and living in nearly identical houses (so that nobody has a better house than anyone else), with identical cars (because some are “too loud”, or “too smokey” etc etc)… Because i’ve seen that movie, and I didn’t like it.

    In the end of the day, it’s both the government and corporations duty only to inform their customers of potential risks, unless there’s an immediate risk, especially to those around you. Anything else is behaviour control, and is completely outside scope of either entity. It’s your duty to live how you want to live, unless that interferes with someone else directly. Anything else is to sacrifice personal freedoms.

    • Well said.

      I would add that most of the fast food restaurants are now required by display the kilo-joule / calorie count of both individual products and value meal bundles. Also the government is currently running a campaign to make people aware of their daily kilo-joule intake (

      So it’s now even easier than ever before to identify when you’re eating too much. Even just switching to a diet version of the drink can significantly reduce the kilo-joule count of a meal.

      People just need to exercise some self-control.

  • Ive up and down voted more comments in this article than in the entire time the voting system has been introduced here.
    Burnt 73 calories doing it too.

  • Last time I was in the States (in Idaho of all places) I went to a generic burger joint to get a hamburger, expecting something resembling an Aussie milk bar burger minus the beetroot. To my surprise I got a small squishy thing with the sugary white bread buns, just like McD’s. I learnt from that experience that most hamburgers in the States are just like McD’s and Burger King, even when purchased from a non-franchise restaurant.

    It’s a scary thought when one begins to consider an Aussie milk bar burger to be health food, relatively speaking.

    • There’s no reason not to consider an Aussie milk bar burger to be healthy food. It’s a great meal choice for those who live a life of physical culture.

  • McDonalds and other companies only respond to consumer needs. If the need was not there then believe me companies would not sell such fattening rubbish.

    Our more is more mentality is killing us and our planet. Until we can change our thinking don’t expect governments or large corporation to do it for you.

    Wake up people!

  • How many calories is it in total when you get a diet soft drink instead of a regular soft drink?

    As someone who lives the life of a champion, 1000 calories is a reasonably acceptable meal. I’d have to put some extra consideration towards hitting my micro and macro nutrient goals through my remaining meals though. The fries are delicious but probably the most troubling item on the McDonald’s menu from a holistic nutrient perspective.

    What is about a third of my daily caloric needs could be two thirds of someone elses caloric needs, especially sedentary women, and even sedentary men. You have to think about your personal lifestyle and the sad thing is that for most people, 1000 calories is a lot of calories.

    • Agreed. My caloric needs according to my TDEE come to approx 1800. A meal with 1000 calories wouldn’t be the end of the world (because 2 x 400 calorie meals is totally doable) but it would mean no snacking and no drinking. That said, if I’m eating McDonalds, there’s a good chance I have already been drinking.

  • I am a 50 year old that recently out lasted several 20 and 30 year olds in a pick up football game.
    Yes most Americans ARE FAT. Watch TV, play video games, stay indoors and waste away. No outdoor excercise. We even excercise indoors in climate controlled comfort(if we do excercise at all). Even a TV show(Biggest Loser) about fat people losing weight). Sad aren’t we. No longer are we the country to emulate. No longer the “super power” country. Just the “Super Size me” country. When I visited Oz, I was amazed at how much outdoor activity you have. So many great green spaces to enjoy, even in the Sydney. Real sports that require strength, skill and loads of energy. Not the 5 seconds of activity and several minutes of arguing about a bad referee call plus the overpaid spoiled jocks that our fat children idolize.
    Awesome food. Awesome people.
    Learn from our mistakes.
    Good on ya Oz. I miss ya.
    Can I come to stay???

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