As you know, I am a recovering fast food addict. My drug of choice—a 10 piece Chicken My Ass McNuggets, Super Size Fries, large Strawberry Shake, and two—not one—apple pies to go. Just typing it makes me want to get up and head over to McDonald’s this very instant.
Overcoming my addiction and dependency to fast food has become one of the most challenging feats in my life—and occasionally I relapse.
For many of us who are lucky enough to still be working, fast food is a necessary convenience. For those of us on a limited income with more mouths than just our own to feed, fast food is the difference between eating and not eating.
Today, to make the same 10 piece meal you’d get at KFC, El Pollo Loco, Lousianna Fried Chicken, Churches, Popeye’s, and yes—Jim Dandy’s Fried Chicken (for my old school folks), you’d spend damn near $40 dollars on all of the ingredients. When you’re on a tight budget, why spend $40 when you can spend $9.99 plus tax and spare yourself the trip to the store, cooking, and washing dishes?
Like cigarettes, we know fast food is bad for us. We know it when we pull into the drive thru, we know when we’re placing that order, and we know when we take the first bite into that order of fries. And like with smokers who conveniently turn a blind eye to the surgeon general’s warning on that pack of fresh Newports and change the channel when that one commercial comes on about quitting smoking, we still eat it.
It took a lot for me to get a grip on my fast food addiction. Just this morning I had to talk myself out of going to Burger King and getting a Crossandwich after dropping my godson off at the airport at 6 a.m. in the morning. As I drove past the Burger King, I just looked at the empty drive thru with longing eyes, but I kept on going. I heart willpower.
Fast food is not only a convenience food for a lot of us, it’s comfort food. I swear, whenever I am pissed off or upset, nothing makes me feel better than eating fast food. Of course, I feel like shit afterwards and swear that I’ll never eat it again. It’s a vicious cycle.
Well the beautiful thing about a new year is that unlike other times of the year, we have more of an incentive and more willpower, strangely enough, to challenge ourselves to drop old habits.
There’s no better time to try and stop eating fast food than today. I am personally challenging myself to see how far into 2010 I can make it without going to McDonald’s, Jack In the Box, Popeye’s, Carl’s Jr., Wendy’s, Tam’s, or Burger King. Since McDonald’s was originally my drug of choice, I stopped eating there a long time ago. In fact, it’s been so long I stopped counting the months. But even though I broke up with McDonald’s, I have to admit that I’ve been secretly seeing other fast food chains on the side when I find myself in a hurry or my stomach’s grumbling. I still cave into the pressure of fast food.
But it’s 2010 ya’ll and like the most of you, my inspiration has been elevated to levels not seen since the beginning of 2009.
Below I compiled of list of helpful tips that I used to kick my McDonald’s habit and that I am currently using to quit fast food altogether.
Like with anything, depending on your lifestyle, work hours, budget, and the number of mouths you have to feed, this may or may not be doable for you. Find something that is. I am an advocate of tailoring plans to fit the needs of individuals. Unless you’re realistic about it it’s just not going to work.
If you have some tips, please share them as well. The more support and ideas, the better for all of us.
Tips on Breaking Your Fast Food Habit
This is going to be hard, but to get you started you need to rent or buy the following films: Fast Food Nation, Super Size Me, and Food Inc. Watch the films, more than once if you have to. Soak it all in, don’t turn away from the graphic scenes. You need to see what you are eating, how it is made, and the affect it has on your body.
This is going to be hard too, but you need to go to your favorite fast food place and order your burger of choice and fries—but don’t eat it. I said this was going to be hard, lol. Take the burger and fries and put them in the refrigerator and just leave it there. You can put the food in a Ziploc bag if you so choose to in an effort to avoid unwanted visitors. But I want you to see just how long it takes before that food spoils. I guarantee you this time next year that while one of those fries could be considered a deadly weapon and puncture a lung if used appropriately—hard as a rock, that same burger and fries will be in tact. The lesson: if it doesn’t disintegrate outside of your body, what makes you think it will inside your body?
I have found that keeping fruit and yogurt handy has saved me from many a trip through the drive thru. When the craving hits, I reach for a banana or a cup of yogurt and then it’s gone. For me it’s fruit and yogurt, for you it might be something else, the point is to always make sure you have something healthy that you can snack on in the house, office, and car for when those cravings attack.
Go old school. Find a lunch pail of your liking and put it to good use by making your lunch. I’ve been doing this for a while now and it’s really helped not only my eating habits, but my finances as well. Now if you’re going to pack fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, and a biscuit, then just take your ass to McDonald’s and stop wasting my time and yours. Packing a lunch doesn’t mean you get carte blanche to pack whatever you want to eat, the goal is to pack a lunch that’s healthy.
For my late night snackers, I know what you’re going through. It can be the middle of the night or late in the evening and bam—the craving strikes. Instead of putting on your coat and heading to the drive thru in your head scarf and pajamas, make yourself go to bed. That’s what I do. I just make myself go to bed or in some cases, back to bed.
A friend of mind recommended that I start to eat 6 small meals instead of 3 regular meals a day. I have to say that works for me when I do it. I am not hungry on those days that I follow that regimen. How I usually work it is that I eat like 20 minutes after I get up, I eat again before I go to work, I have a mid morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, dinner, and an evening snack. It seems like a lot of eating but if you’re eating the right stuff it’s actually not a bad route to go.
Speaking of meals, they were spot on when they breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You are less likely to pig out if you eat a well balanced breakfast, a lesson I had to learn the heard way after damn near biting off a co-workers head in the middle of the morning for not refilling the paper in the copy machine. My breakfast of choice in the Winter is Cream of Wheat or Oatmeal, turkey bacon, egg whites, and orange juice. I like to keep it old school.
Water. I have been known to and still use water to fill me up when I get cravings. Water has a way of making you feel full, especially cold water.
Coffee. Coffee drinkers can take delight in knowing that drinking coffee when you get a craving will kill that craving right then and there—which can be a good thing or bad thing depending on how you look at it. Coffee vs. fast food, for me, coffee wins.
If you HAVE to eat fast food, and I mean have too, I recommend El Pollo Loco chicken and Subway. Now let me be clear, I am not telling you to go and get the biggest burrito from El Pollo Loco and scarf it down or a foot long sub loaded down with everything. Be reasonable. When I go to El Pollo Loco, I order two chicken breasts and two 99 cent Loco Salads and call it a day. When I go to subway, I skip the bread and turn my sub into a salad with no dressing and get a bad of original Sun Chips. If I am feeling especially greedy, I will order a cookie or two from Subway with my meal.
Like I said before, if you have something to add or something that’s worked for you, don’t be stingy—share it. In the meantime, I am going to finish working on a poster to deliver to my local fast food chains that has my photo on it and the words “Do Not Serve This Person She’s Fat Enough.” Not sure if they’ll be willing to put it up, but it’s worth a try.
Good luck. It’s 2010.