Are You A Fast Food Junkie?

“I don’t care what’s in it. I just like the way it tastes.” 
Have you ever heard those words or said them yourself? I certainly have. There have been numerous occasions I am ashamed to recall, where I knew I should have looked at that label, but I didn’t. Why? Well, you know why! But for those of you who don’t know why, the reason is this: I didn’t want to learn exactly what I was eating (the fat, calories, sodium, additives and other junk)because I knew that if the ingredients were bad, I wouldn’t want to eat that thing anymore. I wanted to stay in the dark about the facts so I could continue with my bad behavior and enjoy that thing.
What I know now is that learning about the substances I put into my body is a positive thing. The knowledge I glean can help me make more nutritionally sound choices, I will be healthier for life and feel better, too. But if I still choose to eat the bad stuff, well, at least I know what I am feeding my body.
If you would like to know more about the impact fast food has on your body for example, you can easily obtain this information. There is much evidence about the negative long-term impact it has on one’s health, and you can find out in different ways (labels in the restaurant, Google, blogs or other dietary websites).
And while we’re on the topic of fast food, a very entertaining book about this topic is, Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want To Know About Fast Food, by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson. And a DVD you won’t want to miss is “Super-Size Me”.
Food quality and good nutrition are not things fast food restaurants are known for. You may be shocked at how this food is processed along with all the artificial flavors and colors added to it. If you really love your fast food but know it isn’t good for you, then try to cut it back by just one time per week. So if you go 4 times, you will only go 3. Then go from 3 to 2, and so on. You will find that over time, you will lose your desire for it and feel so much better.

How Can I Lose Weight By Eating More?

Seems impossible, but it’s true. When I say eat “more”, I mean “more frequently”, not “more quantity” in a single meal. But by the end of the day, the total quantity of food eaten might actually increase compared to the total quantity eaten with someone eating fewer meals per day.

Here’s how it works. I’ll show you with an analogy and a multiple choice question:

Consider a steam locomotive that is powered by burning coal. How often and how much should you put coal in the furnace to insure the longest, smoothest ride, in addition to the longevity of the engine?
a. The total daily amount of coal is placed in the furnace at the beginning, middle OR end of the trip
b. The total daily amount of coal is placed in the furnace at the beginning AND the end of the trip
c. The total daily amount of coal is spaced out, starting from the beginning of the trip and placed in the furnace at regular intervals throughout the trip

This was a gimme. I know you guessed “c”, because it makes sense, doesn’t it? If you didn’t guess “c”, post a comment, and I’ll explain it.

Our bodies work the same way as this locomotive, and they function best with small amounts of food eaten at frequent and regular intervals.

So how do you get there from where you are? How many meals do you eat per day, on average, right now? 3? 2? It doesn’t matter. Just begin by increasing that number by 1. Work with that number of meals for a few weeks (~21 days to establish a habit) and see how you feel. I’d bet that you begin to look forward to the meal, and your body might even be hungry for that meal!

But how do you lose weight this way? The magic is in the metabolism. When you eat smaller, frequent meals – every 2 1/2 to 3 hours – your metabolism changes. It speeds up, because the body is like that locomotive. And when your metabolism speeds up, guess what? You burn more fat at REST! You lose weight almost effortlessly. The effort you put in is in the planning and preparation of your meals.

If you are skeptical, try this for 21 days and let me know how it works for you.

Fast Food Addiction?

I admit, I have never been one to frequent any fast food chain for a meal. In fact, the last fast food meal I can remember eating was when I was in High School. I ate a hamburger, fries and shake while sitting in the establishment. I remember not eating for the rest of the day, I was so full!

I didn’t acquire the habit of eschewing fast food restaurants because I had a pristine diet; it was a matter of money for me. However, I am glad that it happened the way it did, because I don’t have the addiction to fast food today. And yes, I call it an addiction. Let me explain why I think it is so.

Have you seen the movie, “Super Size Me”? Or have you read the book, Chew On This? These are two sources that peaked my interest earlier in my life, and they led me to look for answers in other places as well.

I have learned that there are so many additives in the ingredients of fast food. What is an additive, anyway? An additive is any salt,  preservative (BHA, BHT), nitrate, nitrite, artificial color, artificial scent, artificial flavor, filler and emulsifier – the list could go on. And they seem to be getting longer and longer, too! Most of us probably know nothing about any of them, so we tend not to think about them. But that doesn’t change the impact those additives have on our bodies. If I were to guess, I would say that they are either unhealthy or nutritionally unnecessary – at best – and, at worst, harmful to our body and our health.

That’s the physical part. But the physiological part is that some of these man made ingredients can cause an addictive reaction in the consumer’s body, causing them to crave more.

Let me ask you a question. Do you think these fast food companies intentionally put these things in the food so that you will buy more and more of their food? Don’t put this past them! They are out to sell and make a profit, and your health has nothing to do with it.

You don’t have to be a chemist to know that these things can have a negative impact on your body. And if you decide that you don’t want to contribute to the profits of these establishments and contribute to your ill-health, it may be hard to completely eliminate the habit at first. Suffice it to say, the less you eat processed foods, the healthier you will be.

Here’s something to try for a month. Let’s say you eat fast food 5 times a week, Monday – Friday. What if you were to cut it back to M/W/F? On T/Th, you could brown bag it and stay in the office,  or you could get a smoothie. If you did this, you would cut back this unhealthy habit by 40%!  Now that’s a change that would get results! Then, after that, if you liked how your body responded to this new habit, you could just make Fridays the fast food day. Wow! I would love to hear feedback on this experiment, so let me know your thoughts. Good luck!

Circumstantial Triggers

   How do you react to sudden, unexpected “events” in your life?
For some, these “events” – whether good or bad – can trigger an impulse in us to eat. 
   For example, if our boss gave us an unexpected bad review, we could take that home with us and eat over it. Or maybe we got stuck in a traffic jam and were late for an important meeting. The frustration with this has the potential to stay with us all day. What if we had a fight with our spouse that morning, or experienced any other unexpected unpleasant situation out of our control? Is the food a stress-reliever for you in these situations?
   When we are caught off-guard with life’s “bumps in the road”, and if we already have a tendency to abuse the food, then any food can become a trigger, and this is a circumstantial trigger. 
   Circumstantial triggers can cause overeating of any type of food, leading to a portion control problem. And this problem can be more of a behavioral issue rather than a substance one – or, it can be both, depending on what food is consumed. In either case, if we are prone to reacting to these events by overeating, then what we really need to do here is recognize our emotion preceding the first bite and then deal with the situation differently.
   Here is an exercise: take a moment to list at least two circumstantial triggers you have had recently, that you ate over.  Simply becoming aware of the things that bother you will be your first step in overcoming the tendency to eat over them. Listing these triggers will become red flags for you to recognize, so that in the future, you can avoid getting into trouble with the food. 

Behavioral Triggers

Behavioral triggers are behaviors that cause and encourage unconscious eating. Unconscious eating is eating without realizing how much is being consumed. Behavioral triggers involve the act of eating with a specific kind of activity simultaneously. This person can eat and eat, but doesn’t realize how much s/he is eating. They might not care, either, about how much they are eating. Their minds are elsewhere when they are eating. Hence, the amount they consume winds up being more than what they needed. 

Now sometimes, a person might want to engage in unconscious eating. This might be an escape or a stress reliever. But the problems begin when the weight piles on, and some decision must be made to deal with it.

Trigger behaviors can include eating a bag of chips in front of the TV or eating at the computer while you do work. These types of triggers are often done in isolation. One may even plan to have time alone in order to do this.

If you engage in behavioral triggers, you have two choices:
1.Continue on the way you have been going, continue to gain weight and stay in denial that there is a problem. Note here, that this is a decision: it is a decision to ignore the problem.

2.Change the behavior in some way. You can cut back, you can change the food or the activity, or you can stop doing them together. However, if one attempts to stop the food, but continue the activity, there will be a void. There will still be that urge to eat while engaging in the activity. Something will have to replace the food.

If you have opted for #2, in the case of television, simply turning off the TV might do the trick. But in the case of computer work (that is probably a necessary thing), something will have to be substituted. 

Try keeping a large glass of water right next to your computer. You might also try brewing a cup of hot tea to sip on while you work. Regardless what you change, you will notice that something is different at first, and there will be some discomfort. Move through the discomfort and know that it will dissipate with time. Good luck!

Situational Triggers

Some foods may not be triggers, but the impulse to overeat or binge may be a result of a situation in one’s life that occurs periodically. For example, a situational trigger can be work-related, where one has a regular meeting that causes stress. It could be hiring or firing of an employee, or even a particular event where loads of food are brought in from an outside source.
     Another trigger situation could be going to a party and “socializing” right by the food table, making it an easy temptation to indulge in too much food.
     The person who is prone to these situational triggers is automatically going to fall into the pattern of overeating in these cases, unless they are aware of what is happening. But as you can see, situational triggers don’t have to be negative to have a negative impact on one’s weight loss goals. In fact, the positive events on one’s life can be the worst culprits!
     Take a quick inventory of a situation in your life, where you are tempted to eat for no other reason than the fact that you find yourself in that particular situation. Once you are aware of your tendencies, you can make decisions to change your behavior.