When I was overweight, my biggest downfall was fast food. Each week without fail I’d pull in and join the long line of cars at McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, you name it. I’d behold that lighted menu with delight as I contemplated my fast food future. Did I want a McChicken today? Hard or soft shell tacos? What size fry did I want? Coke or Sprite to guzzle down? The permutations of all the options were seemingly infinite. I’d wait with my stomach growling for it to be my turn to talk to that speaker which without fail had a disgruntled, under-paid fast food minion on the other end. The hunger and excitement only built as I’d snake around the perimeter of the building in the drive-thru lane. I would feel my appetite growing the closer and closer I got to that glorious window, anxiously awaiting the moment that hot bag of fried goodies finally reached my eager hands. These trips became a ritual–an unhealthy religion I practiced unquestioningly.

That might sound like an exaggerated recounting of the average wait in the fast food drive thru, but that’s what it was like for me. I’ve been eating fast food since I was kid, although when I was very young it was just a special treat. I remember those rare Fridays when my mom would surprise me with a sudden turn into McDonald’s where she’d spoil me with a Happy Meal (which invariably came with some shitty plastic toy  you could play with for all of ten minutes before it broke). I viewed these fast food excursions as a rare feast, but as I got older that quickly changed.

The Anatomy of Grimace, that creepy McDonald’s character that scared the shit out of everyone.
Image courtesy of GrubGrade.com

The older I got, the less and less fast food became a seldom occurrence and instead became more of a lifestyle choice. It became an easy way out. The change really started in high school when I was working at my first job as a cashier at Sears. As a retail bitch, it’s in your job description that even after the store closes and your cashierly duties are done, you have to help clean up the ungodly mess costumers make in every department. As it would happen, Sears closed at 9 p.m. and most nights I was stuck folding and arranging merchandise anywhere from 10 to 10:30. At the end of my shift–in addition to be worn out and weary of all human beings that actually go to the mall in lieu of online shopping–I’d be starving. The prospect of preparing an entire meal after standing on my feet anywhere from 5 to 8 hours knowing I have to be up for school by 7 a.m. was appalling, so I started taking the shortcut some days for dinner. McDonald’s happened to be right on my way home. As opposed to cooking or reheating something, I could get a ready-made hot, tasty meal in a matter of ten minutes.

That’s really how fast food gets you–its promise of immediacy. None of us are immune to it, either. You wake up late for work one morning, so as opposed to making coffee at home you make a quick stop at Starbucks. You’re driving home from school or work after a long day, and you don’t have dinner planned for the evening, so you stop off at your favorite fast food joint to make your life easier. There’s an ease about fast food that we’re willing to pay for. To be honest, when I was eating fast food frequently, I enjoyed the ideology just as much as the taste of those salty, delicious fries.

When I would eat fast food it would feel like I’m doing myself a favor. I’d think to myself, “If I turn off here and quickly order something, providing sustenance for myself is one item I can check off my list of daily worries.” In getting fast food, finding something to eat was taken out of my hands. It was quick, deceptively cheap, and it’s an option I could choose at any time of the day. That’s another draw of fast food: it’s availability. If you live in an urban area, you can’t drive a few miles without passing up a McDonald’s, a Wendy’s, or a Taco Bell. Everywhere you look, you can be sure to find fast food marketing its philosophy right alongside its new menu options.

Then something started to change. More and more frequently the voice of reason in the back of my head would challenge the fast food values I’d come to embrace. Sure picking up some fast food was faster, but was it worth eating an entire day’s worth of calories in a single meal? Plus, it seems cheap on a trip-by-trip basis, but funding all these fast food runs was starting add up, and I was noticing the damage in my bank account. Most significantly, I began to recognize that after each meal I’d feel less and less satisfied by all the junk I’d just inhaled. It got to the point where the food didn’t even taste as good as it used to. Whether that was actually the case or merely a figment of my imagination brought on by my demystification, I don’t know. What I do know is, at that time, neither the taste or the promise of simplicity fast food provided was enough to captivate me anymore.

This epiphany happened right around the time I was more seriously considering committing myself to eating healthier, exercising routinely, and ultimately losing weight back in the summer of 2011. I’m sure this little breakthrough had a lot to do with the reality that being healthy and eating fast food on a weekly basis aren’t exactly complementary habits. So I said goodbye to the fast food junkie that I was, and I started weening myself off of it. The process of weening didn’t go on for very long before I gave up fast food entirely. What I started noticing was that the less and less I ate fast food, the less I wanted it. When I first gave it up, I can clearly remember the gnawing hunger pains every time I’d pass a McDonald’s when I was hungry (when I started reading The Hunger Games, that’s what I thought the book was about), but I found myself craving healthy food more and more instead. I do admit that sometimes when I catch the smell of those delicious french fries being cooked and salted I can feel myself start to drool a little, but I’m reformed now. I no longer feel the need to eat fast food.

In addition to converting to healthier snacks that are infinitely better tasting and more satisfying than fast food, I don’t miss the deceptive lifestyle fast food was having me buy into. It was making me complacent and lazy where my eating habits were concerned, and quite frankly, I don’t like the idea that the fast food industry was manipulating me into their hand so easily. Don’t get me wrong, some fast food here and there isn’t a felony, but when you stop viewing it as an occasional splurge and start viewing it as a convenience, you might be headed for trouble.

…Let’s get real though: if there was a fast food chain that offered healthy salads, a vegetable buffet (read: broccoli buffet), or some great fruit all on the go, I’d be a loyal fast food costumer once again.

28 thoughts on “Feeling Forlorn & Fast Food

  1. Just the other week, I couldn’t get enough of fast food. I don’t know what happened! I’ve never had that much in my life. I guess a mix of being sick and having no time to cook was the reason….that and extreme laziness….and I have to admit a HUGE craving to stuff my face. Maybe it’s okay if that happens every now and then. Since that week it’s been home-cooked meals galore! Hopefully that binge won’t happen again for at least another year. I felt so yucky after.

    1. Oh, when you’re sick fast food is a lifesaver! The last thing you want to do is be cooking a bunch of food when you feel like crap. For some reason, whenever I’m sick, my tastebuds like stop working, so I just think, why make a delicious home cooked meal if I can’t even properly enjoy it? I think it’s okay in moderation, but since I’ve given it up whenever I consider treating myself I always end up changing my mind.

      1. That’s actually really great! Better to put good food into your body. I wish I had that kind of control, but realistically I love having that hot dog, hamburger, or poutine from time to time. (If you don’t know what poutine is you can check out my newest post).

        Of course, a treat from time to time is nice. I remember being younger as well and my parents taking me out occasionally to McDonalds. It was so exciting! Now I get excited over going out for sushi lol!

  2. You know what cracks me up? Now all those same fast food places feature salads…for the wannabe healthy, discerning eater. What they don’t tell you is that they sugar it all down to make sure that it “tastes” good. So really, not that healthy. (I do admit to having a huge weakness for Wendy’s Baja salad, though)

    1. Exactly! Plus I mean, who should reasonably think they can trust a salad at a fast food place? Those establishments aren’t exactly known to have the freshest ingredients. I just want a fast food place that serves ONLY caesar salad and broccoli, is that to much to ask?!

  3. Personally, I don’t really care for burger-based fast food chains, but damn, I’ll never be able to give up on Taco Bell! Interesting graphic you posted to about the calories per dollar — never really thought about it that way before…(Check out the sodium content on any McDonald’s burger — wow!)

    1. Isn’t it crazy? I loved Taco Bell, man. Those hardshell tacos with the sour cream and tomatoes! The cinnamon twists! Plus, now they have those tacos with the Doritos shell. …Sometimes I think I gave it up at the wrong time.

  4. I have become immune to the lure of the Golden Arches, BK, Wendy’s, etc. . . . and even to most sit down restaurants.

    I enjoy fixing meals with fresh healthy ingredients at home so I can control everything that goes into each dish. And I KNOW that the cook washed her hands before touching my food. 😉

    1. I’m still a hardcore sit down restaurant lover, but those are probably equally as bad most of the time. I just love being able to sit down, pick out something delicious to eat, and have someone bring it to me. I just want a reliable, live-in chef that knows a ton of healthy recipes that will cook for me for free. Now there’s a fantasy!

      1. Like Oprah! I have a copy of “In the Kitchen with Rosie” . . . a cookbook by Rosie Daley, Oprah’s personal chef. It’s filled with delicious and nutritious recipes from soup to nuts.

        I’d also like a personal hairdresser to come in and style my hair every morning. And a chauffeur to drive me to my next affaire.

        *POP* . . . oops, there goes that fantasy . . . I just checked my checkbook. 😉

  5. I was never allowed a fast food meal as a child. In my teenage years and during the few I had more freedom I had an interest in fast foods because of the liberation from my parents and how it felt to eat what i wanted, good or bad. But I have to agree with you, my interest was short lived because I don’t like what it tastes like. I actually believe its all about conditioning your palette to enjoy the healthy foods for your body, Once you’ve done that, your taste buds support healthy eating as well 🙂

    1. Little did you know your parents did you a favor! What gets me now more than anything is the smell. I really think the smell of that food is sometimes even better than how it tastes, if that makes ANY sense.

      1. Oh I have to agree there. The smell of it is amazing. McD’s is my weakness through and through. Just the smell of it makes me crazy. Then I eat it and the taste of it is pretty okay for the first half. By end I feel like I have lead in my stomach and I’ve started swelling because the sodium intake combined with the sugary soda intake makes my body freak the hell out. We didn’t have one when I was younger so it was really a once every few months if we were traveling kind of thing. When I was in college I ate there constantly, The older I get, though, the more I realize that my body just can’t and won’t handle that sort of salt, sugar, and calorie intake all at once without seriously protesting.

      2. Oh, I know what you’re saying about the first half tastes great and then the second half just feels so heavy that you’re stuffed by the end. I definitely don’t miss that feeling.

  6. Fast food was SO reasonable when I was a kid. Our whole family could eat for about $6.00. Yeah..Yeah… so I’m OLD. ha ha. Seriously, I’m only 44, so that tells you have much food has gone up in the past 30 years. I used to adore fast food and was a professional at hiding the evidence! Now I can’t handle the taste because of the salt. It’s a great problem because it keeps me away. Plus it’s not worth blowing a week of hard work right out the dang window !! I have found HOW to eat out.. Wendy’s isn’t too bad with their salads, plain potato and oatmeal. McDonals… Oatmeal. (these places have oatmeal ALL the time!! and Wendy’s has steel cut !) Pretty much though…I stay FAR away. I have GOALS to meet. 🙂

    1. $6.00? Sheesh, I didn’t realize you were THAT old. 😉 Just kidding. I was a professional at hiding the evidence, too! I’m glad I’m not the only one that was doing that. I really can’t have it myself because of the fat, which like you said, is a great problem to have. I wish I liked oatmeal, but it just tastes so bland and gross to me. I take issue with the consistency, too.

  7. I never had fast food as a child-couldnt afford that! Family of seven kids, my mother had to be a queen of the budget. She always cooked us home meals and even when she went to work she would leave food prepared for us so when we got home from school we had a warm lunch.
    Then when I got my own money (and actually a job at McDonalds! which I HATED) and went to college fast food became an every day thing. Once I moved to Europe there wasn’t the availability as it is in the States. You could only find a McDonalds or Burger King in the middle of the city and not in every street corner. So I had to cook more and fast food once again became a rarity. If we did have any fast food it was order out to an Italian or Greek restaurant. Lately though these fast food chains are growing here and I have seen them more and more. I still don’t go in there though. I guess I sort of have that thought about going back to those old habits and well to be honest you only find skinny kids at these places! I’m not kidding. Makes me feel very self concious to go buy a burger at this weight. Perhaps that’s a good thing!

    1. I’m sure the fact there’s less fast food places around town in Europe could explain why obesity isn’t the problem that it is here! As more pop up it’s probably only a matter of time, though. Even when I was a glutton for fast food I’d feel self-conscious in the drive-thru. Whenever I’d order more than usual, when I’d pull up to the window and see the person taking my money, I’d always think, “He’s probably think this fat chick doesn’t need another cheeseburger.” …For the longest time though I’d just thoughts like that out of my mind.

  8. My WordPress name and blog title “Mystery Meat” are ironically relevant to this comment . . .

    I used to be a closet fast food drive thru – funny how these places can’t even spell out the word THROUGH – veteran. Honey, we need milk. I’ll be right back. Can I have a double cheese burger and six piece please? I have to run to the post office. I’d like a chicken quesadilla. Make that two. Gotta run to the bank, they close in 30 minutes! Large mozzarella sticks and jamocha shake, that’s it . . . then dump the evidence at my alibi destination before I went home. Once you stop the madness, you realize how much you were addicted to the fat. Then you peel away the layers and find out why . . .

    1. I saw a falafel place the other day that actually spelled out through… It looked really strange. I was the same way. I’d pick stuff up and eat it on the way home and throw it out before I came in. Ridiculously secretive and totally unhealthy.

  9. We go to the Whole Foods buffet when we are in the area. It’s not very close to us. It ain’t cheap, but it sure feels better than other options.

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