Are the fast food risks that we always hear about over and over again on the news all hype? We are constantly told that fast food isn’t the best option for us and are bombarded with statistics, studies, and charts, but we continue to dine out regardless.
For some of us it’s the taste that we’re addicted to, but for others it’s the convenience and cost that lure us under the harsh fluorescent light bulbs to place our shameful orders for greasy patties and deep fried oils and it's these establishments that are the main cause of obesity in our culture.
For those of us addicted to the taste of fast food, there isn’t a happy and easy answer. The truth is that many people have a fast food addiction that could very well kill them. Fats, sugars, grease, and fried oils activate the pleasure center in our brains. Dopamine is released making us feel calm, happy, and content. This is the same thing that happens when a methamphetamine addict scores a hit of meth, or when a cocaine addict snorts some powdery product.
Biochemically speaking, fast food addiction can be very similar to traditional drug addiction and although the fast food risks may not be quite as dangerous as the risks of many of these illegal drugs, the troubling thing is that fast food is legal and is everywhere. A fast food addict has no where to hide from the cultural commercialism or the marketing departments that drive fast food sales. Most of us pass dozens of fast food restaurants on the way to work. They are everywhere!
So our brains can become addicted to the greasy, sugary content of fast food products, but is there another reason that this food is so hard to resist?
Our sense of taste has evolved over the years to discriminate between foods for survival. Things that tasted bad were poisonous or not very calorie rich, while things that tasted good were calorie dense and this motivated us to eat more of the calorie dense food in order to survive.
Today we have no shortage of food in developed countries, but our sense of taste is still trying to get us to eat food that is incredibly calorie dense. We know that the fast food risks include becoming overweight, obese, hypertensive, depressed, insulin resistant, and more, but we don’t care because of our biological imperative to eat very calorie rich food to survive.
The only way to overcome this is the way that drug addicts overcome drug addiction: going cold turkey, finding alternatives, finding support, and putting in lots of time and effort.
The fast food risks far outweigh the taste of all that grease and salt, but the temptation is too great for many of us to bear so finding alternative foods is a good first step. Healthy foods can taste good, but we may have to eat them for a while before our sense of taste can reset a little and stop craving those high density fats and sugars.
Try going on a fast food sabbatical for a predetermined length of time. In the meantime, look into low fat diet plans or portion control programs and cook foods for yourself that you like. Meals during this period do not have to be particularly restrictive, like salads and lean chicken breast with no skin. Prepare foods you love. The first goal is weaning yourself off of fast food. Then you can slowly transform your home cooking routine into an even healthier version of itself.
The fast food risks are scary, and what’s even more frightening is how difficult it can be to give up this shameful indulgence. But making a commitment and sticking it out will reward you many times over. It will even save you a pretty penny!