Confessions of a Health Coach – Why Do I Like Fast Food

fastfoodnationI was on a road trip…starving. Nothing for miles. LOTS of miles. The first thing that popped into my head was, “Please let there be a Taco Bell or Burger King somewhere soon…”

For realz.

After 20 miles (I know, right?! STARVING!), I finally saw a sign – a literal sign – that said “Burger King 4 miles”


I put my hair in a baseball cap. Donned my glam sunglasses. I was incognito.

I looked left and right.

Is anybody watching me?

Certainly people would know it was me with my signature MIDWYF license plate on the Subaru. What would people think if they saw me eating at Burger King? No one would ever sign up for my Urban Wellness Club or do a cleanse with me. There would be articles about my being a fraud and a hypocrite.

Awww fuck it, I’m way too hungry.

And I know that I am actually not that important…so the likelihood that the paparazzi was spying on me were very, very low.

OK…I admit to some embellishment. I didn’t actually put up my hair and don sunglasses…but I sure felt like it. I mean, I talk with clients and patients for hours about eating real food!

But this is real life.

I pulled up to the ordering-speaker-pole-thing, not bothering to check out the new offerings of french fry burgers or whatever else the industry bothers to develop. I ordered my standard fare for emergent fast-food stops: a double Whopper with cheese, small fries, and a water, no ice.

I then did the classic American thing and after going through the drive-through, I pulled over and parked so I could eat…or in this case, scarf. I pulled off the top part of the bun (I figure that at least helps a little bit, lol) and chomped down. Once done with that, I hit the road fishing for fries in the bag along the way.

It always surprises me how delighted I am to find the extra fry at the bottom of the bag just when I thought I finished them all 😉

Now, while I will pick Burger King over McDonald’s any day, I admit there is a toss-up between BK and Taco Bell, which allows me to avoid the horrific fast-food meat and order something somewhat tasty with just beans and cheese in it (I never order the hot sauce anymore…it’s probably still in my system from my teenage years with all the chemicals in it).

I knew I was not in the land of In-N-Out Burger, which is hands-down my preferred fast food road trip stop. I would have been wishing for one of those if I had been.

In-N-Out is only found in five states: California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and Texas…all states I frequented for rock climbing road trips except for Texas. This is because fresh ingredients are part of it’s “thing.” They use no microwaves, heat lamps, or freezers(!!!). The meat, which are house-ground patties of regionally sourced chuck – are grilled, the lettuce is uber crunchy, the tomatoes are (shock!) juicy and sweet, and the gluteny buns are toasted with a nice crisp on the edges, and pretty epic for a fast-food bun. Plus, they have grilled onions and a secret menu, which makes me feel very cool when my ass is numb from driving for 9 hours.

If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll take it from Eric Schlosser, author of the infamous book Fast Food Nation, who said this about In-N-Out: “It isn’t health food, but it’s food with integrity…It’s the real deal.”

I would have definitely preferred an In-N-Out cheeseburger, animal style.

But enough of this fast food review. The reason I am telling you this story is this:

I have found that my long road trips have become a secret way for me to eat crap and kind of enjoy it.

What’s up with that?

I know I could pack snacks and prepare for the road trip. To be honest, this is what I do most of the time. But…I admit that when I don’t, or when we’ve eaten it all and need to stop for more food, I am secretly (well, not-so-secretly after this blog post;) excited.

Why do I like fast food?

I think it’s because when I was growing up, fast food was a reward. Once a week my dad would take me to Taco Bell and I’d order a Burrito Supreme and absolutely savor the yumminess of peeling back the foil wrapper and biting into soft tortilla with special sauce and sour cream…we hardly ever ate those ingredients in our Filipino household (BTW the Philippines is the only country where their own fast food restaurant – Jollibees, which has things like spaghetti with vienna sausage – beats out McDonald’s).

Every now and then my mom would drop off Burger King or McDonald’s as a treat for my lunch – I could smell the fries in the hallway where parents would leave bags of food on a designated table for kids to grab at lunchtime. I felt so special! I had holes in my shoes, but dammit, every now and then I’d at least get some fast food for lunch!

Fast food became not about the food, but about the way I’d feel rewarded…for being a good student, a good daughter, a good whatever.

It was about me feeling good about me.

I try to remember this whenever I feel like giving in and not eating my kale chips and hummus dip on the road, and it usually keeps me from pulling over for a quickie at In-N-Out or BK.

It’s also really easy for me to make healthier choices after I’ve done a cleanse, which is why I do them regularly. Fast food actually sounds sickening to me most of the time because of those regular cleanses (and my all-to-detailed knowledge of what it does to our bodies). So I try to do them at least 3 times a year. In fact, one of the reason I started offering them to y’all was because I wanted accountability to do them all the time!

Still, when I’m tired after driving a long distance, or if I was too rushed to prepare my road food, I do give in at times.

I’ve found that is it key to remember it isn’t the occasional pit stop that will make you unhealthy – it’s the choices we make every day that determine our health…and happiness.

It’s also important to remember why the food can have such positive emotional connotations: the food-addictive ingredients, the childhood memories – whatever it is for you.

The worse thing would be to beat yourself up about it and eat it. Studies have shown that people who believe food will have a bad effect on them actually have worse symptoms afterwards than those who don’t – a type of nocebo effect.
IN_pyramid_1109_smallI’m sharing this story with you because it is really really hard to make healthy choices every day. I get it.
It’s especially hard when we are feeling bad about ourselves, or feeling tired, lonely, stressed, or unloved.
The last thing that needs to happen when you feel bad already is to start beating yourself up about a poor choice.
Instead, see it for what it is: a poor choice. You are not a bad person. You simply made a bad choice. And sometimes, that choice didn’t even have that many options!
So let’s you and me grab that In-N-Out when we have to, and for the rest of the time, let’s cultivate our primary foods – those things that nourish us without having to eat them: healthy + fulfilling relationships, regular physical activity that’s fun, a fulfilling career, and a spiritual practice.
Prioritizing these things in your life will help your body make that fast food you eat on the rare occasion have only a transient impact, sans guilt.
Please share with me below about your experiences with fast food – was it a reward for you as a kid? If you find it a guilty pleasure, what do you think is at the root of that for you? What are YOUR fave fast food splurges? No shame here…only real life giggles!

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