Can you or should you eat fast food and still lose weight? Alternately, if you are trying to eat a cleaner diet to lose or maintain weight, can you still eat at fast food restaurants?
Although this is a decision for each individual person, I did eat some fast food while I was dieting, but found myself eating less and less throughout the 14 month period that it took me to lose over 150 pounds. It was a conscious choice that I made as I learned more about how fast food affected me emotionally and physically.
One thing to consider is how you view fast food. When I was 300 pounds, I used fast food as a as friend of sorts. It was a salve for emotions, a way to combat boredom on a long commute, or just as a “fun” pick-me-up.
I honestly enjoyed driving up to the window of my favorite fast food obsession, I mean restaurant, and considering what I would get. I never thought anything of handing over $5.00 for hamburgers dripping in grease, French fries smothered in salt, and sugar-filled milkshakes. Of course at the time, I didn’t think about the food in those unflattering ways. Instead I bought into how to advertisers portrayed those same foods. Juicy, value-sized, delicious, refreshing, or crispy. I never thought of fast food as dangerous for me or addictive in any way.
As I began to seriously lose weight, I actually planned (there’s that important word again) whether or not I would eat at a fast food restaurant. Honestly, if a friend wanted to meet for lunch, it was often the cheapest option, which says something about the state of our food supply, but that’s for another day.
In order to eat fast food without overeating or consuming my whole calorie allotment in 20 minutes, I learned to completely change my attitude towards fast food. I stopped looking at the fast food meals as a “treat” or a “reward” or a chance to eat like a pig, and instead looked at the fast food visit as:
1) A regular meal to be fuel my body.
2) An opportunity to practice making good food choices in a challenging situation.
It’s definitely not easy to make good choices at fast food restaurants, but at least today there are some fast food chains that do have healthier options on their menus. Back when I was losing weight, there was no fruit instead of fries option, and salads were filled with fried chunks of meat instead of grilled options.
I learned that my attitude towards the food was a huge determining factor in how successful I was. The more realistic I was and the more careful I was, the better choice I made.
Over the years following reaching my goal weight, I stopped visiting fast food restaurants almost completely, and today you may see me in a fast food restaurant once a year or so. When we travel I pack lunches and when friends ask me to lunch I suggest an afternoon coffee instead of fast food.
If you do still eat fast food, I’d encourage you to visit each individual restaurant’s website and educate yourself on what are the healthier options and what to stay away from. For example, a chicken salad sandwich at Chick-Fil-A has more calories than the fried classic chicken sandwich. That’s something I wouldn’t have guessed if I hadn’t done my research.
So, is fast food evil? No, not really. Is it impossible to eat without gaining weight? No, not at all. A better set of question to ask yourself may be whether you are emotionally and physically able to make good choices at fast food restaurants and whether or not you really need fast food as part of your diet. No matter what your answers are to those questions, balanced eating always requires planning and preparation.
What’s your take on fast food? Do you eat it or not? How often? Different choices these days? Diane