My Breakup With Fast Food
I will start this by saying I haven’t eaten fast food in about 7 years. It wasn’t to lose weight or to even really be healthy. To me healthy means very different things like avoiding MSG, sulfates, GMO anything, hydrolyzed proteins, vegetable oils, high fructose corn syrup, unsustainably grown meat, margarine and so forth. I stopped eating fast food to feel better. Have I eaten MSG since? Yup. Some processed potato chips? You bet. It’s basically impossible to eat out in the Midwest without coming into contact with at least one of the above. All in all, I’ve tried to cut out as much of the bad stuff out of my diet as I can. It wasn’t easy, and I still miss it often. Even after seven years, fast food is that one boyfriend that got away. Caffeine, gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol—I’ve given them all up for one to several month long periods since I turned 18. Fast food is the only one I’ve so adamantly stuck to and that’s because it’s the only one where I’ve felt and seen a major difference in my body.
Let me disclaim before I go any further what I mean by fast food. All the restaurants that make headlines for poor food practices,
disturbing additives and bad quality are the ones I avoid. Among these I name McDonalds, Taco Bell, Wendy’s (except for Frosties), Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen and Panda Express, to name a few. What I will eat and have eaten in the last seven years is a handful of Subway sandwiches in pinches, Jimmy Johns, Chipotle burrito bowls, way too much chicken noodle soup from Panera Bread, some slices of Papa John’s pizza and a Sonic burger outside Nashville when everything else was closed and I had been driving for 12 hours straight. Among those, I haven’t eaten Subway and Sonic in about 3 years and Chipotle, Panera and Papa Johns in about a year. I still get the occasional Turkey sandwich from Jimmy John’s and am a sucker for Portillo’s French fries (it’s a Chicago thing). The ones I completely stay away from are the notorious headline makers and overall contributors to the world’s poor health crisis. I have absolutely no desire to consume fake, chemically created or rotten meat, obscene amounts of vegetable oils and as many preservatives to cryogenically freeze my insides for hundreds of years to come. I don’t want the upset stomach, uncomfortably full feeling or constant brain fog. Mostly, I don’t even want to think about what that food has gone through to get into good enough shape to get in my belly.
I wouldn’t even consider myself someone with a lot of self-control when it comes to food. If I want chocolate, I eat it. If I want gobs of mayonnaise with my fries, I do it up without a second thought. I’ve been known to inhale entire wheels of brie cheese in one sitting. I eat pizza on a weekly basis and often more than once a week. But I woke up one day at 19 and said enough is enough. I had been on a particularly bad crunchwrap spree and my whole body was feeling it. The conscious effort to stop bad fast food was probably the hardest part since it seems that it’s been engraved in our minds to eat fast food. McDonald’s has become synonymous with American. But the actual physical action of eating it was the easy part. My body didn’t miss the way it felt. It was still recovering. And once my body purged itself of all the toxins my skin started to glow a little brighter, my energy picked up and my overall sluggish feeling lifted to reveal a lighter, happier and more efficient me. Just like that.
I don’t judge those who eat fast food. My boyfriend often picks it up while we’re out and about as a cheap and easy way to get sustenance. And just like I do for the times I make dinner at home or we eat out at an especially fancy place, I ask him how it is. Does denying myself the option to eat fast food make things more difficult? You bet it does. As someone who especially loves road trips and is constantly on the move, I have to be prepared for those moments when my blood sugar drops. I can eat just about nothing at gas station save for the occasional bag of nuts and fresh fruit. I pack the car full of transportation friendly snacks and munch my way from destination to destination. But for all that, for all the hassle and inconvenience, it’s still worth it to me. If I made it through the majority of my college years without doing it, I think I can manage everything else. That’s not including many bowls of Panera chicken noodle soup and the occasional burrito bowl. No one’s perfect.
I feel like for every new, “healthy” item they add to their menus, there’s still gonna be 10 stories about improper use of food, spoiled ingredients or funky additives. I’m happy as I am, even if it can be a big pain in the butt. Do I hope my story inspires others to do the same? I actually kind of do. I don’t expect it though. I understand that being a resident of the third largest city in the U.S. gives me certain advantages that others in smaller cities and towns don’t have or aren’t accustomed to, namely more outlets to pick up organic produce and meat, alternative grains and restaurants that are on the same page as me. But, if you’re feeling daring, I encourage you to at least try it. Some tips for when you do: gas stations will soon become frequent stops, nuts will become your new best friends (let them. the’ll love you good), stay away from candy bars (they’ll give you energy and then crash you so very hard), rotate your grains and meat, take same online cooking classes to help improve your at home skills and treat yourself often to something yummy and not made by Yum Brands. Good luck!