What role should fast food play in our lives?


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Junk food, fast food, processed food—whatever you choose to call it, it is everywhere. The proliferation of fast food across the globe has caused a sharp increase in obesity, particularly in the Western world, and according to the Australian government nearly 25% of Australian youth are considered overweight.

Whether or not fast food is good for us, it is omniscient and we are confronted by its smells and advertising daily. So how do we realistically approach the fast food leviathan in our daily lives? Here are a few ways to wrestle successfully with the junk food beast:

  • Don’t be too rigid: While fast food should in no way be a part of your daily diet, there is nothing wrong with indulging yourself every once in awhile. Whether it is to satisfy a craving or to save time when the family needs dinner at the end of a long, stressful day, give yourself the green light to stop at Hungry Jacks every once in awhile.  A healthy diet means balance and balance means it is ok to swing in the bad direction every once in awhile.
  • Plan you meals: Most people choose the fast food option because it is super convenient in our time-strapped world. One way to avoid falling into the pit of junk food is to plan your meals. Make a list every weekend of dinner’s you want to eat the following week—dinner’s that are healthy and balanced. Take the weekend to then shop for your supplies so that you are prepared during the week. An added benefit planning healthy dinners is that they can turn into healthy lunches the next day.
  • Exercise: What does exercise have to do with the role of fast food in your life? A lot, actually. Exercise requires you to be more conscious about what you put into your body. If you exercise, you will need to build healthier eating habits, and you may find that you aren’t so interested in processed foods. Exercise also keeps you healthy and in shape for when you do have your occasional junk food slip up.

Fast food should play a minor role in your life, but not best supporting actor—more like one of the names that flashes up on the credits at the end of the film. You don’t have to be dogmatic about avoiding fast food, but if you are conscious about what you eat and work to build healthy eating and exercise habits, then junk food will naturally be relegated to its proper place—movie nights and stress overloaded days.

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What Fuels Our Love Affair With Junk Food?


YaiSirichai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is no secret that people love junk food. Aside from the high rates of obesity sweeping across the Western world, evidence of our worship at the junk food alter is displayed in the amount of fast food chains and companies churning out sugary sweets and processed salty snacks. We all know that there are absolutely no health benefits associated with candy bars, French fried, and cupcakes, and yet we continue to eat them to excess. But why?

Nutrition experts believe that a variety of factors go into our love of food that is not good for us, most notably psychological factors: we crave unhealthy foods when we are unhappy, stressed, or manically happy. Junk food is a comfort food-it makes people feel good, even if only for a brief time. Time is a luxury in modern life and is a quick fix for our stress or inability to focus on eating healthy and cooking nutritious meals.

But there may also be an evolutionary reason that we crave junk food. According to Dr. Leigh Gibson, a Reader in Biopsychology at Roehampton University, cravings can be linked to prehistoric times when humans needed to acquire foods high in calories for survival. Craving high calorie, junk food type foods meant that you could go longer between meals when food was an uncertainty. The problem today is that society has evolved too rapidly for physiological evolution to catch up. In the privileged Western world, food is in excess, but we are still wired to crave it as if it were scarce. In tandem with our psychologically stressed lives, this creates a recipe for disaster.

So how do you avoid the junk food pitfall? There is no secret to avoiding those sweet and salting foods. Like most other things in life, eating healthy is a choice that is reinforced by a daily, conscious effort. A nutritious diet and exercise are the keys to living a healthier, happier life, so it is important to maintain control over your cravings for junk foods-they are a quick mental and physical fix that contribute to long-term health problems like diabetes and heart disease. Still, don’t feel guilty if you find yourself craving a bag of crisps or a Mars bar: our love of junk food is a part of our biological make-up. But if you believe in mind over matter, then you know that you can curb your junk food cravings and stay on the healthy lifestyle path. There is nothing wrong with indulging yourself in a sweet or salty treat, but it shouldn’t become a lifestyle.

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