I’ll have Death with that, on the side.

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That is a lot of money.

Can you name an industry which went from $6 billion to more than $120 billion in less than 40 years? How about one whose primary advertising target is children who will grow up to be parents whose children will also be consumers?

In 1970, hungry patrons spent $6 billion on the convenience of fast food. Forty years later, fast food is a more than $120 billion industry. From where is all that money coming?

  • 30% of children’s meals on any given day are fast food.
  • 24% of high schools offer brand name fast foods.
  • More than $10 billion are spent each year on fast food advertising.

Getting What You Pay For

Fast food is high in carbohydrates and fat, the two things which make the body feel full and full for longer. This explains why people are willing to eat what they know is bad for them. What is that getting you?

  • 20% of children between the ages of 6-17 are overweight.
  • Overweight adolescents have a 79% likelihood of adult obesity.
  • Serving sizes are double and triple the recommended daily allowance.

Large portions are a lure for fast food. The gimmick is “Look how much you are getting for such a low price!” To a large extent, it is true.

When you choose to save money by super-sizing your meal, you are ingesting more than the daily recommended amount of carbohydrates, salt, cholesterol, sugar and fat in a single sitting. Depending on your choice of entrée, you can exceed 1,500 calories of the suggested 2,000 per day in one meal.

 What are you really saving?

Any idea what these cost...each?

If you are not putting the money you save into a MSA, you are not saving anything. Americans spend more than $8 billion on cholesterol-reducing medications. This figure does not come close to the amount spent on heart disease and diabetic medications, cardiac care (after heart attack) or weight loss.

Undoing the damage fast food does to your body is expensive and time consuming. Do you want a better way?

Take Action

1. Do not eat fast food today.

You may not be one who goes through the drive-thru daily. But are you one who would pour a bowl of dry cereal for breakfast or a snack? Would you grab a “healthy” granola or snack bar? Is luncheon meat with mayonnaise, hold the salad, on your white bread sandwich? Did you open a can of soup, which is really 2.5 servings? Do you need that afternoon chocolate and peanut bar to make it to five o’clock?

For today, say no. Then, do it for a weekend.

2. Not So Much

That is a big sandwich.

On the days when you are going to have fast food, ask for a small. The small sizes of such items as French fries, soft drinks, shakes, chips and dressed salads are closer to the recommended serving size for a 2,500 calorie daily diet. Rather than loading up on things you do not need, order the small.

Skip the cheese. Melted cheese confuses your body and takes an additional two hours to break down. By the time your body is trying to figure out what to do with the pieces, you are eating again. Your body breaks it all down into fat to store for a time when you are not eating. Be honest. Is that time coming?

Do not ever “super size”. You really do not need three times the serving size. Ever.

Eat more slowly. Your body will realize you are not hungry enough to pack away 1,500 calories in one sitting.

3. One a Week

This is not a good choice.

Trade one fast food meal to a more healthful solution. Even if you are not going to cook or prepare your own food, choose a restaurant with whole foods, non-fried meats and non-fried vegetables. If you cannot pretend to be a rabbit, try better choices like low fat chicken or tuna salad served with wheat bread or lettuce. Order a piece of char-grilled salmon.

4. What about Thursday?

Plan your meals at least three days in advance. This will keep you from getting hungry with no immediate plan. If you know you have a meal planned, you can rationalize being hungry for the extra 30 minutes it will take to fix something far better for you. You will also be less tempted to drive through.

5. Not in MY car.

Stop eating in your car.

  • It is dangerous.
  • You need two hands to drive.
  • You are not watching the road with your hand putting food in your mouth.
  • Crumbs attract vermin.
  • The trash.
  • The smell.

6. Spend wisely.

For the price of a typical fast food meal, you can buy eight to ten servings of fruit or vegetables or three to five servings of meat. How much money can you save by shopping?

7. Brown Bag

Brown Bag Better

Pack your lunch. You can control the foods and the amount you eat. Did you make something delicious and healthful for dinner last night? Leftovers are a great lunch.

8. Dinner Bell

Spending meal time across the table from someone you love can make you eat both better and less. Dinner conversation makes you eat more slowly, which makes you get full before you can overeat. The food has enough time to travel down the esophagus and trigger the CCK reflex, which sends the message to your brain to stop eating.

Cook dinner and eat with someone. Children are someone.

This is easy math.

9. Live Longer

The minutes you save by not preparing your own food are shaving years off of your life. What do you really want to save? Do you want to trade the 30 minutes of meal preparation for 10-20 years worth of prescription intervention or a three-week intensive care hospital stay? Would you like a calculator?

10. Fewer Dishes

Throwing away a fast food wrapper may seem like the easiest way to have fewer dishes. You are looking at it the wrong way.

When you eat at home (or cook at a friend’s home), you can stop eating before your plate is clean. Once you learn how much less you really need to eat to feel full, you will stop wasting the food by cooking less. You can make a meal with far fewer dishes.

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Can you make a difference? Which one of these steps are you already using? Which one will be the easiest for you to implement? Do you have the exercise routine of placing hands on the table and pushing? Name your favorite substitute for fast food. Can you make a difference in your health?

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(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2012
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47 Comments

  1. I am not a fan of many fast food enterprises, and only have Rotten Ronnie’s, Burger King and KFC nearby. I haven’t eaten fast food since some time last summer, as I find it a great place to share a cheap meal with my dogs!

    Reply
  2. Good article; fast food is such a false economy. The kids don’t have it very often, but when they do, they light up like a pinball machine, so you have to know there are some crazy chemicals in those so-called foods. My dad hasn’t been in a McDonald’s for over 15 years.

    Reply
    • To be honest, some of the things which do go into the food would make your fur fall out, LS Bear. Happy Meals average around 55 carbs each. that is a lot of energy for little bodies. Not to mention the 50% of daily sodium and 18%+ of daily cholesterol. Shameful.

      Reply
      • I read in The Omnivore’s Dilemma that the packaging for McNuggets is coated in butane. And they’ve just (voluntarily) stopped adding a slimy pink antibacterial agent that had previously allowed them to salvage inedible meat for use in burgers. But if you offered those burgers to the kids they would want six of them. It’s just awful.

        Reply
        • I am glad the “voluntary” was parenthetical. To my mind, any action made under coercion is not “voluntary”. Law suits and the threat of predatory consumerism (which I endorse) is a form of extortion which makes some of these places get with the humanitarian program instead of the profit-only one. Sadly, it is necessary because the laws do not address the issue with enough authority to make compulsory the avoidance of such nonsense.

          Reply
  3. Okay, you have a point….but you can just bite me really if you try to talk about my favorite which I must have, it is a religion really.

    Sonic Butterfinger Blast is mine four times a year. Never mind discussing with me portion control.

    Reply
    • At four times a year, I think splurging is not so bad. You are employing the less is more routine.

      Reply
      • So you are saying I won’t have to stab you with my plastic spoon? That’s good. I hate violence, especially when it is against those I love.

        Reply
  4. I was in Weight Watchers at age 11. I have tried everything from dieticians to every possible diet. Of course ‘diets’ don’t work or no one would be overweight. Have been overweight my entire life.
    Sadly, this post made me sad for all of us who have literally tried everything, and you failed to mention any mental condition that can influences a person’s weight or eating habits.
    Many people ARE too lazy to cook, or too busy many times.

    For the record I do not eat fast food. Don’t like it (if you read Fast food Nation, and DO eat fast food, this book will completely change your mind heh) and certainly cannot afford it.
    Have spent my life being called fatso fatso by kids and then boyfriends and husbands. Even when I looked great -as evidenced by old photos.
    There is a lot more to this issue.
    Such as having the money to only purchase starchy food and not having the luxury of fresh vegetables, fresh fruit or lean meat. Don’t know the last time I could afford a piece of fish and fresh broccoli -both of which I love.
    Completely agree with your words regarding fast food; not only isn’t it healthy but the only things that make it ‘tasty’ are chemicals. As for the other suggestions they are a given, at least if you have been battling this problem for 40 years and bother to educate yourself.

    Honestly this piece depressed me and made me feel even worse about myself. Having knowledge of all these things, and attempting to practice them for my entire life does not make me any thinner.
    Still love you though Red 😉

    Reply
    • I love you, too, Chica. And this post is not about losing weight. It is about avoiding fast food. I know there are gobs of disorders (both physical and mental) which make losing weight an impossibility. At that stage, eating as healthfully as possible is the only solution.

      I advocate against fast food because at 20 my cholesterol was over 400 (and these were the days before triglycerides were added in the score). Along with hormonal imbalances which make me process food differently than others, the number one contributing factor was fast food with loads of carbs to slow the breakdown of the cholesterol I was putting into my body. The number two was another “totally your fault”: I do not drink water. Water is for washing and swimming. If I was meant to drink water, I would have four feet. (How’s that for honest perspective?)

      When we subject ourselves (and our children) to the endless barrage of hate and self-loathing attached with weight, we are committing abuse. Just as surely as smashing someone in the mouth, the insults and stares and “jokes” are hate-filled and harmful. I am also not a complete dimwit: Me saying it does not make the true hurt go away. Meanwhile, look forward to the body image segment of Identity. I am going to cover this in much better detail, and with tact… Promise.

      Glad to see you today, Rachael 😀
      Red.

      Reply
  5. You must be unpatriotic Red. Didn’t you know that the Federal gummit has declared Pizza a vegetable for school lunches?

    It ain’t a high fat diet that causes all the health problems, it’s the wrong kind of fat and all the sugar and processed starches that are the culprits.

    Bet I can peel a banana faster than you can unwrap a happy meal. LOL And bananas are great because they ain’t got not bones. I put an an organic banana, frozen wild blueberries, and a host of good stuff in my breakfast smoothie. Cereal is yuck and pasteurized milk is even yuckier.

    And I eat one of the healthiest foods known — eggs. Cholesterol? I hope my brain has enough to stave off Alzheimer’s. Statin drugs are not only useless, they are dangerous with horrible side effects. Nope. It ain’t the fat, it’s the sugar.

    John

    Reply
    • Since I got off the statins and went to eating real food, bad cholesterol dropped like a stone. Refined sugar is the worst. And eggs are good for you. Shh…so is red meat. Don’t let that out though…

      Reply
  6. authormjlogan

     /  February 16, 2012

    but…. but… but… vegetable pizza is good for you, right?

    The four food groups are Wendy’s, Burger King, McDonald’s and Taco “fart” hell?

    We’re not eating right?

    ate at Wendy’s yesterday for the first time since… October? We’re done with fast food mostly, and that includes in our pantry…

    MJ

    Reply
    • We still do it a little too often…Mostly when we are on the road between home and hell and the 14 stops between.

      And for the record..The four basic food groups are beans, bacon, whiskey and lard.

      Reply
  7. authormjlogan

     /  February 16, 2012

    On a side note, I need to find that gravitar of an alien insect and change my picture.

    Reply
  8. We don’t eat out much at all, so the fast food thing is not an issue. We might eat at one of those tourist seafood places one time in the summer, but it generally blows our entire food budget for the week. I like candy and will eat a lot of it, if around. Luckily, I just don’t buy it very often. (except now it is 50% off!) Anyways, our lunches consist of leftovers and I eat at one of the big fast food restaurants twice a year. (two youth retreats) When on vacation, we bring lunches along. We travel a long distance and it gets too expensive (plus you feel awful) to stop and eat out at those travel plazas.

    Reply
    • I eat out on the road when it is just the children and I travelling. We have oodles of snacks, but the kiddles need out of the truck about every 400 miles.
      Red.

      Reply
      • We still have to stop, just not for food. They love the adventure of it all and all the free maps along the way.

        Reply
        • I wish we could stop just to stop. With the little ones, there has to be a finite routine when we stop or they do not get back in the truck for the next 400 miles.

          Reply
          • That is where the maps come in, obviously. The travel plazas on the toll road all have them and they seriously come out with their arms full. Anyways, sorry to get off topic. Just don’t call me a troll 😉

          • LOL! No, you are not a troll. My little ones are autistic. If we do not do the exact same thing when we stop, they melt down and will N.O.T. get back in the truck. When I do wrestle them in, they fight and cry for 100 miles.

            It is a special needs thing, not a behavior/boredom thing.

  9. I haven’t eaten fast food in years and am still sick as a dog. Meanwhile, people around me eat like crap, drink, smoke and are merry, happy and healthy.

    Seriously though, I find fast food and the commercials disgusting. I had my share of it in my lifetime, but only when moving to America. To test myself, I broke down about a year ago and had an order of BK onion rings (which were my favorite at one time). I got so sick I have not felt the urge since.

    Getting hooked on fast food is a gradual process. Try feeding it to someone who is not into it/used to it and since it makes them sick, imagine what it’s doing if you eat it all the time. Yes, I saw “Super Size Me,” but could not make it to the end of the documentary. Gross.

    Reply
    • The food makes me sick. I have gotten to where there are very few of them which I can tolerate. And no, they do not all have something edible on the menu. Often, I am grabbing a drink or ice cream (which is not even real ice cream) and calling it a snack until I can have real food.

      I have seen too many young bodies in the morgue. The effects of a constant diet of fast food (even the kind you get at the grocery) are astounding. I liken it to looking at what is under your fingernail under a microscope…once you see it, you will never put it back in your mouth.

      Red.

      Reply
  10. I do not eat fast food. Just the thought of it makes my arteries clog up. When I was young(er), I did the odd quick eat but I prefer to cook at home. I do not buy processed anything. Just thinking about how some people don’t know how much salt is in a processed anything, gives me hives. I also break out in salt. I’ve no idea what a cold cut tastes like these days although I did in years past.

    Good post!!

    Reply
    • I was looking at nutritional (what an oxymoron that is) charts for McD’s. Their big breakfast…94% of the daily sodium allowance and 91% of the fat allowance…in one meal. We are talking about their pancake and egg breakfast. 1,500+ calories. Just insane. My big “don’t put that in your mouth” moment is canned soups. So much stinking salt and fat and 2.5 servings per can (most ppl eat the whole can bc it says 100 calories on the label…per serving).

      This could be another post. Sheesh. Check out “Don’t Put That In Your Mouth”. Click the food tag.

      Reply

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