Thursday, September 13, 2012

Food Rules: Food So Fast It Makes Your Head (and Stomach) Spin!

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I studied abroad in Australia the summer after my junior year of college. While I saw lots of kangaroos and other exotic things typical of Australia, I also encountered a lot of chickens. Not the kind of chickens you would imagine - the cute little guys clucking around in the chicken coop. No, this was more of the Kentucky Fried variety. Not cool, Australia, not cool.

Kentucky Fried Chicken has laid it's claim on Australia. There are so many that it's actually frightening. The rate at which fast food restaurants have taken over our country (and now the world) is totally alarming to me. This unfortunate phenomenon brings me to the next food rule I'd like to discuss from Michael Pollan's book Food Rules...


It's OK to laugh out loud. It may sound comical and obvious, but it's the truth! Let me tell you why... The whole point of food is to provide your body with the necessary nutrients to function. Fast food and processed food provide little to none of these things. 

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Our concept of 'food' began to change in the 1950's, with the advent of TV dinners and fast food restaurants. America had been through some rough patches in the previous decades and now it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy the convenience of a microwave dinner or a made-to-order meal from the drive-thru window. Life was good. Health stats... not so much.

As soon as Americans began consuming foods that were highly processed, containing preservatives, artificial flavors and additives, the health of the general public began to take a turn for the worse. If you've ever seen the 2004 documentary Super Size Me, these health repercussions should be painfully obvious. In the film, Morgan Spurlock ate McDonald's 3 times a day for his experiment. Almost like clockwork, he started to experience major health problems. Granted, the average American doesn't eat fast food 3 times a day (I know, I know), but his experiment did make the point that fast food consumption only does bad things for your body.

Fast food and processed food have direct links to obesity, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, higher risk of heart attack, increased risk of developing allergies and possible sexual dysfunction. I don't know about you but this doesn't sound like a Sunday drive through the countryside to me. It sounds like a life spent in the doctor's office or waiting in the pharmacy line. It sounds expensive and it sounds debilitating.

Now if health risks aren't enough to keep you from that glorious Big Mac (believe me, I've savored a Big Mac or two in my time), then maybe the thought of its immortality will. You and I both know that real food goes bad, often quickly. It wilts, decomposes or grows mold. Studies have been done on the buns at fast food restaurants and in one study, the buns stayed good for up to two decades... that's 20 years, folks! Real food wouldn't come close to that. 

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But it doesn't stop at the buns... burgers contain excessive amounts of sodium, fries contain all the bad fats (like omega-6 oils) and even chicken nuggets have harmful additives that can affect your health. You can go for the salad option, but once you've added the dressing, you're still done for!

Listen, I grew up at McDonald's. I have vivid memories of eating Happy Meals and running around on the playground. I also grew up in the South, surrounded by Chick-fil-A's. I'm not going to deny that a chicken biscuit tastes like heaven, especially when you're on the run.

But the point is this... The choices you make today regarding what you feed your body directly affect the way your body will treat you later. If you give your body the love and respect it deserves, then it will serve you well AND you will reap the benefits of a happy and healthy life.

The good news is once you start eating real food, you'll probably be so disgusted by your former favorites that you won't even be tempted to hit up the drive-thru. Your food cravings will begin to change as you alter your diet for the better. I guarantee it.

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