Happy Birthday Big Mac

McDonald's super-fan celebrates 40th birthday of signature sandwich.

January 8, 2009, 1:07 AM

Aug. 24, 2007 — -- For Don Gotske, Friday is a very special day.

It is, after all, the 40th birthday of his favorite food: McDonald's Big Mac.

Gotske, who said he ate his first Big Mac on May 17, 1972, in Fond Du Lac, Wis., said that he still eats two Big Macs every day.

Today he will eat his 21,292nd Big Mac.

"Every Big Mac I eat is like the first one I ever ate," Gotske told ABCNEWS.com.

And Gotske certainly isn't the only one who adores Big Macs. Cities across the country are trying to ban unhealthy foods. It's all rather fine when you're talking about trans fats or pesticide-laden vegetables, but don't even try going near the Big Mac. The burger is sold in more the 13,700 McDonald's restaurants in the United States and in more than 100 countries worldwide. In the United States alone, 560 million Big Macs are sold each year, said Danya Proud, a McDonald's spokeswoman.

The Big Mac was first introduced in 1972, when a McDonald's franchise owner in Pennsylvania recommended that the company develop a burger with two beef patties, instead of just one, and overeating became a lot easier.

The double-decker caught on quickly, but not without the help of a clever marketing slogan that is still recited by consumers more than four decades later.

"Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame-seed bun," reads the jingle, which premiered in a 1975 McDonald's commercial where average people were asked to recite the tongue-twisting slogan as quickly as possible.

In Morgan Spurlock's 2004 documentary "Super Size Me," which chronicled what it was like to exist solely on food from McDonald's for 30 days, Spurlock asked women to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

While the women were unable to remember the words of the pledge, they had no trouble reciting the Big Mac jingle.

Forty years later, very little about the Big Mac itself has changed -- other than the packaging, and the massive portions consumed alongside the famous sandwich.

"We do less exercise and eat more calories than we used to," said Dr. Keith Ayoob, an associate professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "A Big Mac used to fill us up. Unfortunately today people tend to want to have a Big Mac, a super-sized fries and 32 ounce soda. At some point, that's just too much for most people."

Of course you can choose the new "healthy choices" on the menu, which were not available 40 years ago, and some people actually do.

"A 540 calorie Big Mac isn't going to push a person over their calorie limit," said Ayoob, who said it's possible to eat at McDonald's and be perfectly healthy. "What's new now is that you can have it with a side salad and a bottle of water -- then it's fine. Forty years ago, there was none of that."

Nutritionists are certain that even if the Big Mac was removed from McDonald's menus -- which is unlikely, to say the least -- there would still be an obesity epidemic.

"No one single food is the cause of the problems we are dealing with," said Dr. Connie Deikman, a registered dietitian and the president of the American Dietetic Association. "And outlawing foods doesn't really work -- we've seen that with alcohol and tobacco -- consumers will find a way to do what they want to do."

Making healthy choices, even if you do eat at fast food restaurants, is the responsible thing to do, said Deikman.

Even Gotske wouldn't recommend his Big Mac-only diet to the average American.

"I would tell people not to do it," said Gotske, the longtime Big Mac eater who was actually featured in "Super Size Me." Gotske said he takes long walks and has a healthy cholesterol level. "I'm hyperactive so I can keep off the weight no matter what I eat. But I wouldn't want to tell you to eat two Big Macs a day because you might not be able to handle it."

In terms of healthy choices, Gotske said his diet isn't far from what the doctor ordered.

He told ABC News that he rarely eats fries with his burger, but always drinks a Coca-Cola with the meal.

At a local McDonald's restaurant in Manhattan -- which was surprisingly void of any Big Mac birthday balloons or decoration -- patrons had a hard time justifying why they like Big Macs.

Many diners shrugged between chews, but eventually said, "They're just tasty" and "They always fill you up."

One Big Mac lover, who claims to only eat Big Macs once a month, said that whenever she's craving a burger, she goes to McDonald's.

Clearly, for Gostke, Big Macs are a huge part of life. He boasts of having eaten his favorite meal time companion at all of the Major League Baseball stadiums in the country, as well as every NASCAR track.

Each burger takes Gotske 16 bites to finish, and he said that he always has a few Big Macs in his freezer, just in case a snowstorm prevent his local McDonald's from opening.

"They are best food I've ever eaten," said Gotske.

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