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.
2 Replies to “You Should Be Lovin’ It.”
I like your point about enjoying your food, appreciating the tastes and flavors. I’ve heard that’s one of the reasons why obesity rates are lower in France (for now): people value what they are eating and the experience is a positive one. Eating a toast with fois gras and a glass of champagne, a camembert with red wine: it’s a pleasure. Also food is so freaking expensive there.
But when you write “It satisfies an urge, a need.”, I think that’s interesting too. We get so used to satisfying our needs right away, especially when it comes to food. Feeling a bit hungry, just grab an energy bar or anything sweet. I’m often telling my (5-year old) son, “you’re not going to die if you’re hungry for a little while, you can wait”. And if you wait, insulin kicks in, your body uses your food stores or what not (you can probably explain this better than me). That’s what I like about intermittent fasting – for me though. My son still gets all his meals, I only try to get him not to snack constantly.
Matlo, thank you! I love that international insight. There’s such a disconnect between eating for enjoyment, eating for fuel, and confusing where we’re obtaining our pleasure from as a culture. It’s interesting that intermittent fasting can be met with such love or such outrage, as we’ve grown up in the developed world to think that we should always have food available or the end is near.
I’m not fond of the attitude that “Food is only fuel” because it fails to recognize the normal human enjoyment that eating fives us. I simply wish we could learn to favor quality over quantity, something that it seems that the French have figured out and that Americans have long struggled with.