30 Reasons to Avoid Fast Food (Like the Plague)
by Carla Atherton, Director of The Healthy Family Formula
The way we live in our modern world revolves largely around convenience and speed. Sometime in the 50s, advertising displaying machines that did the laundry and packaged dinners that replaced home cooking started to appear everywhere: the promises these ads made appealed to the increasingly busy family who was finding that their workload was changing as was the nature of their work (for both men and women), and more of it was being done outside of the home.
Through brilliant marketing campaigns, corporations and big businesses convinced us that our lives were too hard, that we needed a break, and that their products would give us more time, convenience, ease, and happiness. They are still convincing us of that. Even governments and their systems, such as the medical system, began to work under the belief that faster is better, convenience is king, and the natural processes of our communities and bodies and family systems should take a side to medication, chemical intervention, and fast food. In the process, our health has become dramatically compromised.
My life is hard? Oh, it is!
Cooking takes too much time? Well, yes it does!
Healthy lifestyles are boring? Well, yes, fries and donuts are so much more fun! And easier!
What if a machine could do everything for you like laundry or writing or cooking or communicating or even walking? I hadn’t even thought about that!
Infections are bad and need to be killed with chemicals, organics are for crazy hippies, home chores are tedious and unsatisfying, nutrition is not an issue when you have pills, pain should be silenced, faster is better…
And this environment of advertising has only gotten worse. Much worse.
Once we are convinced that our lives are lacking, who can resist the lure of buying products that would make it all better, not later, but now?!
Oh, wouldn’t it be easier to simply smoke cigarettes to lose weight, take that pill to get to sleep at night, have the fryer at the local fast food restaurant do all the cooking for me?
I am not immune to these thoughts, myself. I fall back into this trap of thinking sometimes, as well. I was taught exactly those very things having grown up in the 80s when Kraft Dinner and KoolAid were staples, and mom showing up at home from work with a bag of apples rather than a bag of McDonald’s was a major disappointment.
BUT then I have to give my head a shake, change my focus, and ask myself: what is more inconvenient: taking the time to live a healthy lifestyle, rolling up my sleeves, and digging into the workings of what it means to be a human being taking care of my body and my children’s bodies or being sick?
The ads have become self-fulfilling prophecies: health has become hard. Chronic illness has become commonplace, even for our children, and most people feel like crap on a regular basis. Our new normal is substandard. But I would posit that this is because we are going too fast, that we have to constantly battle the lure of advertising and the culture of food we have created, the culture of food in which we are immersed. And the answer? The answer is not to speed up but to slow down. Let life be a little less convenient.
Oh, I Yearn for the Slow, Inconvenient Life
So, let’s turn this on its head, shall we? Using fast food as an example, convenience is not always king, and fast is not always better, especially when it comes to your health. In fact, taking shortcuts like regular trips to the drive through window takes years off of your life and makes the years you are living riddled with disease and illness. Not exactly the outcome we are promised.
We have come to the belief that fast food is kid food, that it is the only thing that can enable us to get supper into our kids due to our busy lives and the way kids eat. I ask you: do we really believe that children are genetically designed to only eat things in brightly colored boxes and bags? Balderdash! Ronald McDonald is not a real person, he is an advertising mascot, and he doesn’t give a damn about your kids.
I know that every parent reading this gives a hell of a lot more than a damn about their kids. If we understand the impact fast food has on the health and wellbeing of our families, then I would bet more people would be in their kitchens enjoying their home-cooked food and each other’s company. We would turn this food culture around and return to real food, fulfilling nourishment, and true vitality.
Behind the Curtain: Fast Food for What It Is
30 Reasons Why NOT to Eat It
- 1. Fast food contains a plethora of chemicals, fillers, additives, and preservatives to improve taste, bulk up the product, and reduce spoilage (because real food is meant to go bad when it gets old). Additives like MSG are not only used to improve taste but to also increase the desire for more of that food; horrifyingly, MSG is an addictive neurotoxin (a neurotoxin excites brain cells to the point of death). Feel hungry a half hour after eating a fast food meal? Eat more fast food than you would a home-cooked meal? Can’t help but turn into that drive through with the munchies? The addictive nature of common fast food additives could very well be why. Really, what these chemicals and additives are covering up is that fast food tastes bad, is not desirable, and what is in it does not hold any nutritional value whatsoever. So, what is the purpose of eating it?
- 2. Fast food contains loads of added salt (and I don’t mean mineral-rich sea salt), cell-damaging oils, and sugar (yes, even in the savory items). An excess of sodium leads to all sorts of trouble such as high blood pressure and mineral and electrolyte imbalances.
- 3. Healthy oils are essential for brain health and development, and fast food is completely devoid of healthy fats. Healthy fats are needed to create proper neurotransmitters in the brain including the happy neurotransmitter, serotonin, the motivator, dopamine, and the chillax neurotransmitter, GABA, and when levels of these neurotransmitters are disrupted, we have depression, aggression, lethargy, and anxiety, the list goes on depending upon the particular mix of imbalances. So, what is in fast food in place of healthy oils? Substandard, hydrogenated, overheated, damaged, GMO, glyphosate-contaminated vegetable oils that cause inflammation, block receptor cites for the minerals and chemicals we actually need such as iodine and thyroid hormone, and pollute our bodies with the burden put on our livers to constantly clean and clear our blood. Since the body makes the very membranes of each cell with fats, when there is a lack of good oils and an abundance of poor oils, the body will make the cell wall out of the poor fats creating non-porous cells that cannot effectively get oxygen in and out. Bad oils and the chemicals they contain make us age faster, look and feel older, and create damage to our very DNA.
- 4. Sugar, oh sugar, let me count the ways. Fast food contains a LOT of sugar, whether if be in the form of added sugar such as high fructose corn syrup or white sugar, or by way of simple carbohydrates such as buns and pastries made from white refined and processed flour or deep fried potatoes that not only have an extremely high glycemic index (turns into sugar in the body rapidly) but often contain added sugar or flour coatings. PLUS potatoes are a highly inflammatory food, and when fried, contain all of the unhealthy oils discussed in #3 above and a cocktail of chemicals that we will discuss in a minute. Contrary to popular belief, it is not fat that makes us gain weight, but sugar. When we are constantly being barraged with surges of sugar, we fall victim to the effects of dysregulated bloodsugar that causes symptoms such as mood highs and crashes, tantrums, brain fog, fatigue, bad skin, and eventually contributing or directly leading to insulin resistance, hormonal imbalances, adrenal fatigue, mood disorders, heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. And chemical sugar substitutes are no better and will still cause weight gain, as well. So, drinking that diet soda is NOT doing you any favours and will introduce yet more chemicals into your body. If you want more information about the deleterious effects sugar has on health, please read my article called The Sugar Aftermath.
So, the copious amounts of salt, damaging fats, and sugar are not exactly the building blocks children need to build and maintain healthy brains and bodies, in fact, each of these items should really be considered poison when in larger than optimal amounts.
Chemicals are not only present because of farming practices and pesticide usage on crops, but are also added to the product to improve taste (MSG, isolated soy protein, and the like), to make the “food” look more appealing (who would eat cheese whiz if it were its natural shade of gray?), to bulk it up (filler in burger patties), to cut costs (apple pie made of apple flavoured turnip), to preserve the product and prevent natural spoilage (nitrates in sausage).
Essentially you and your children are eating a chemical concoction formulated in the lab and created in a factory, devoid of good energy, care and attention, devoid of love.
- 5. The decline in health many of us are experiencing is due entirely to our increasing total toxic burden which includes bacteria, parasites, and viruses; heavy metals; and chemicals. Chemicals we eat every day is one avenue for our ever-increasing exposure to chemicals. Chemicals are not meant to enter the body, and when they do, they wreak havoc by blocking receptor sites for mood-balancing neurochemicals and substances such as iodine (that we need for breast health and the production of thyroid hormone). When they enter the body, not only are they are difficult to excrete, they also have a cumulative effect – that is to say, they build up over time and with each exposure. These are just two examples of what is actually going on under the hood when we are exposed to chemicals through our food.
FACT: I have never seen a fast food restaurant that serves organic food. That being said, we can assume that the food they serve has been sprayed during its growing and transportation. Pesticides such as glyphosate (which is in every roundup ready crop), added preservatives, and chemicals used to hasten ripening or accelerate it pollute the food that is served to you through the drive-through window.
- 6. It’s just plain gross. Fast food companies buy in bulk for the cheapest prices they can find. I can assure you they are not looking for quality. Factory farming practices are often unsanitary and barbaric. If you eat meat, let it be meat from small farms that raised their animals humanely and in clean conditions: your local farmer or an organic farm you trust. Whatever that animal eats, you eat; whatever is inside that animal’s body (such as chemicals, hormones, vaccine ingredients, antibiotics, and other medications), you eat.
- 7. It is possible that it has been irradiated, often microwaved, and stored and/or heated in plastic. Irradiation is a process by which ionizing radiation is used to reduce pests, bacteria, and foodborne illness, to preserve food, and to stop sprouting during transport. A blanket process to do all that?! Sounds great, right?! In addition, many studies and governments deem the practice to be safe. However, “the Center for Food Safety says, ‘Radiation can do strange things to food’ and ‘serious questions remain as to whether irradiated foods are safe to eat’ (http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/1039/food-irradiation). The center says irradiation can destroy the vitamins and ‘ruin, the flavour, odour, appearance and texture of food’” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/food-irradiation-faq-1.3608013). There can also be a false sense of security with irradiation: not all bacteria is killed during the process, and it doesn’t make up for unclean farming and processing practices. See www.organicconsumers.org’s article “What’s Wrong With Food Irradiation” for more problems relating to irradiation. Microwaving damages the molecules of the food and destroys nutrients. Heating, freezing, and storing in plastic releases chemicals into the food.
- 8. It has been made from genetically modified food sources (GMO). GMOs are grown from plants and seeds that have been genetically modified in order to breed traits such as drought and disease resistance, shape, colour, and seedlessness (but aren’t seeds the way plants reproduce?). The ideas behind this process have often been noble, but we really have no idea what GMOs can do to the body. We have evolved alongside the plants we encounter and consume in nature, and when we are consuming an altered form of those foods, we just don’t know how our bodies will react. There is a growing body of research that says that this interaction is causing disease and is affecting our physiology right down to our very DNA. In essence, we are in the middle of a widespread human experiment with potentially massive consequences. See Green Med Info for loads of information about GMO foods and the peer reviewed studies and research that discusses these concerns.
- 9. It is never organic, not even the lettuce. And why is organic important? See reason #5.
- 10. Fast food is not really food in the true definition, it is filler. Food is meant to nourish and give the body the building blocks (nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, protein, and anti-oxidants) it needs to perform everyday functions. Fast food is not only devoid of nutrition, but is actually harmful in that it contains so many ingredients and additives that disrupt the body’s function.
- 11. It makes you feel bad. Come on – why would you want to feel worse after you eat? Shouldn’t food make you feel satisfied and energized, not tired with gas and bloating crashing to the couch or running to the bathroom?! Ever get the wrath (diarrhea) after a fast food meal? Or are you constipated on occasion or chronically so? Or do you alternate between the two? How about rashes? Acne? Eczema? Fatigue? Acid reflux? Brain fog? Bad moods? Hyperactivity? It could be those ingredients that are making you and your children physically sick.
Why might that be?
Well, there are actual physiological processes underway that are either triggered or disrupted by the contents of fast food including digestion, reactions to foods and chemicals, disrupted neurotransmitters, disrupted hormones including sex hormones as well as cortisol, thyroid, and insulin, brain function, detoxification capabilities, assimilation, cardiovascular function, the list goes on. So, the reason we have such a wide variety of symptoms from a diet reliant on fast food is that fast food messes with the very functioning of our bodies and can strike anywhere.
Alright, I think this is enough for this article. Stay tuned for part two where I continue to go through this list with more physiological reasons to avoid fast food, such as:
- 12. Fast food is highly inflammatory.
- 13. It disrupts the immune system.
- 14. It damages the digestive system.
- 15. Fast food is addictive.
- 16. Even the fresh fast food has travelled great distances and has lost a massive amount of its nutritional value when it had very little in the first place.
And will continue with some reasons that are energetic, social, and environmental:
- 17. Our choices are not our choices but a result of clever marketing. Are we OK to let our health be dictated by companies and corporations?
- 18. There is no energy in the food. It is, essentially, dead food.
- 19. It destroys the environment through packaging materials, production processes, and support of substandard farming practices and animal treatment.
- 20. There is no satisfaction in eating fast food, and if there is, the satisfaction is short-lived and is most times due to the chemical high we get when we eat it.
- 21. It is a quick fix.
- 22. You miss out on the beauty of sharing meals and nourishing your family in a satisfying way.
- 23. The practice of turning to fast food leads to a mental and spiritual disconnect from nourishment.
- 24. It also leads to a disconnect from family and community rituals.
- 25. It encourages us and our children to treat our bodies like garbage cans (no reverence for self and self care).
- 26. It disrupts behavior, learning, and mental clarity.
- 27. It contributes to ill health and big health issues and a future of coping with consequences.
- 28. Fast food robs us of our health and significantly contributes to long-term ill health.
- 29. Yes, fast food is fast, for sure: it is the fast track to illness, disease, and substandard health.
- 30. Our children need us to take the lead.
As well, in part two, I will also share some startling stats that I think you will appreciate such as:
Questionable ingredients (do you know what meat is in that hot dog and how some of these foods such as processed meats are considered carcinogenic?)
AND we will also discuss some solutions. How do we eat well and for stamina, health, and energy, and not go crazy trying?
Get ready to ditch the drive through!
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