The scent was incredible. Fragrant, salty; it smelled like fond memories of childhood. Yankee Candle could make a scent out of it, and I would buy them in bulk.
The scent was the familiar scent of McDonald’s french fries. It was waiting for the 11:08 Babylon train to leave Penn Station, a man sat down across the aisle from me. We were similar: Headphones in, backpacks in tow. We both took out books first, then our MacBooks.
I began to wonder.
In the past two days, I’ve seen two McDonald’s-related pictures on the interwebz which portrays our cultural climate towards fast food consumption. There are fast food restaurants everywhere you go. (Shut up, Antarctica.) Seriously, here’s a map of the United States based on proximity to McDonald’s locations:
In 2013, there isn’t a single person in the world that will tell you that eating highly-processed, breaded, fried, sugar-and-fat laden “fast” food is healthy for you.
Seriously; find somebody that will actually tell you that fast foods on a regular basis is a good idea. If you do, they’re either an nutrition professor who’s trying to prove a point about calories, or an employee of your preferred fast food chain.
Barring asshole academics, which we’ll get back to later, there are very few cases when we can logically say that Big Macs on the reg are a good idea. We know this, but if you look at commercial success of these restaurants and our national overweight/obesity rates, we continue to eat these foods. However, we don’t want anyone to know. We want to represent ourselves as the hyper-healthy, the ones that are attuned to our body and our training and our diet. That’s why photos like these two exist:
This representation that specifies McDonald’s applies to fast food and overindulgence as greater domains, and many of those sharing these photos do so under the pretense of motivation, typically as self-motivation or for those with whom they interact. They self-represent themselves as living a lifestyle of health or hotness, or they do it to shame others into avoiding those foods. We assume that’s a logical approach.
Unfortunately, this isn’t about what we perceive as logical. It’s actually rather illogical, as we seldom respond favorably to these messages; we’ve become immune to them, or they’re functioning on a higher level.
We mindlessly throw out phrases such as, “Everything in moderation” as if that means everything in the world is okay. Everything in moderation is great, unless we’re talking about lead paint or nuclear radiation, and then I don’t think that we want everything in moderation.
That phrase isn’t right. But we don’t need another phase.
We need to shift our mindset from this all-or-nothing, either/or approach to one that sees and embraces those gray areas in between. I’m not advocating regular fast food consumption, just as I’m not advocating rigorous adherence to a diet or training program that may not be the best for you.
Going low-carb, high-carb, gluten-free, Vegan, Vegetarian, Bacontarian, Keto, Paleo, or a bizarre combination of all of those may not be the best for you. Big Macs may not be the best for you. But…
If you can enjoy a smile during your commute home because you grabbed a burger and fries, then all the power to you. It’s called a Happy Meal for a reason. It satisfies an urge, a need. Sure, that satisfaction may come from millions of dollars of research from food scientists that are trying to make that meal as enjoyable and addictive as possible. They’re doing their job. So are you.
Your job is to live the best life possible. If to you that means crushing burgers, then go to town. I can encourage you to move well, get strong, and fuel your body so you feel healthy and vibrant.
It’s not all about pain and sacrifice, nor is it about gluttony and guilt. Find a happy medium that doesn’t vilify those who are at a different point in their path towards health, wellness, or fitness.