Stop eating fast food in three steps

This is the second part in the series, “How I quit eating fast food”. If you think it might help others, please consider sharing it via Digg, StumbleUpon, or your favorite social media tools. Thanks. And don’t forget to check out part 3, “20 tactics to kill the fast food habit“.

fast food imageJust because it’s toxic doesn’t mean it’s not tasty.” – MastersInTheMaking.com

As I made clear in part 1, I think it’s fair to say that I have an issue or two with my lifelong personified compadre, Fast Food. That’s not to say that it’s my ONLY issue (oh and by the way, speaking of issues, a big “thanks” to the coiners of that ubiquitous ’80s phrase, “global thermonuclear war” for ruining my trust in humanity – Nice work), but in my opinion the fast food hang-up really does have the possibility of killing me in a hurried, greasy fashion.

And if I have one rule in life, it is that when I go, I do not want my mournful passing to be in any way associated with Grease. And thus why I am neither an auto mechanic nor John Travolta.

Further, to prevent a future experience that includes balloon-like medical devices being inserted near my nether-regions in an emergency effort to clear out my brittle arteries, I have quit frequenting fast food restaurants since the beginning of the year.

How am I doing it, considering I seem to get the hankerin’ for Kentucky Fried Chicken every few months as if there is some sort of time-release chicken nugget flavored tablet wedged somewhere in my right parietal cortex?

fast food image

If you read nothing else, read this

In my opinion, there are very few things in life that you can give up permanently. Does fast food in all of it’s forms fit that category for me for all Eternity? I can’t say – I don’t wear that cologne. But for right now, I have decided to exclude it from my diet altogether (both fast food AND cologne) to allow myself to create the HABIT of eating better.

For me, the only way that I can do this is to say no to fast food completely. Who knows; at some point fast food may become “real food”…But from my vantage point today, I highly doubt it. For now, I’ve decided it doesn’t fit the current picture of my life.

In other words, giving up fast food is a reasonable goal for me, today. Where you draw your own line is, well, your own business.

How to quit eating fast food

There are three parts to this process for me: Educate, Decide, and Act.

Step 1: Educate – myself.

I chose these aspects to focus on in particular:

  • Health: This one is obvious. Fast food is, by nature, almost always not “real food”. It is industrially produced using steroids and genetic alteration to make animals grow unnaturally fast and fatter, antibiotics and pasteurization to cover over the lack of sanitary conditions and healthful feed practices, and nearly every unsavory bit of the animal is used, all for one purpose: To keep the price insanely low. Fast food is not formulated for good health. It is designed to keep the corporation wealthy by convincing us to support that idea with our dollars.
  • Ethics: Put simply, how you spend your money affects many others beyond you, and shows who’s values you support. Example: When the food is grown outside of this country (and sometimes here too), some child’s mother or father is carrying vats and canisters of chemicals that we would be very afraid of, all to spray on that Whopper’s lettuce to kill things and make other things grow faster. But as long as we don’t see it, we don’t have to think about it. Every year the fast food industry generates millions and millions of tons of waste globally. I have decided, for me, that I don’t want to be part of that if at all possible. I don’t need to join some activist group to make a difference; I just need to change where I put my money.
  • Budget: Contrary to what most people believe, eating fast food is not the cheapest alternative. You want cheap? Rearrange your schedule just a little bit to make your own food. The fast food corporations have been incredibly successful at convincing us otherwise. Learn to cook. Save money. The easiest way to do this? Make enough dinner for leftovers for lunch the next day. It’s not rocket science; it’s just common sense.

Step 2: Decide. For me, I did the following things first:

  • I made my decision exclusively personal. I decided what was right for me, and me alone. I’m not even imposing this rule on my family – they are just following suit. For me, I feel right now as though I have to stay away from fast food joints altogether because I’m too susceptible to temptation. That may not be your situation.
  • I chose the timing, and acted accordingly. For a few years I didn’t feel like I could do it, even though I wanted to try. For example, when we moved back to the Pacific Northwest, I knew that during the stress of moving, it was NOT the ideal time to make a big change like giving up fast food. So I waited for a little while, let life settle a bit, and eventually changed my circumstances so the timing was right. That said, I made it a BIG priority so that it didn’t just get swept under the carpet. It is certainly a balancing act here; and it is only what worked for me. Other folks may need to just say, “it’s never going to be a good time, so just do it.” That works too. But in all honesty, for me, timing has been a factor that I can’t ignore.
  • I decided which foods that are available to me that had the most negative impact on health, my local environment, and our global community – and which of those foods I could live without. For example, while I definitely support the idea of buying local, coffee beans simply do not grow here. And I like coffee. So, I decided to buy only Fair Trade coffee, preferably shade grown. While the “best” decision from a purely ethical standpoint may be to simply give up coffee, I didn’t go that route. I fall somewhere in the middle, which to me, is better than just giving in because I don’t want to give up my morning cup (or 3).
  • As dramatic as it might sound, I decided that eating poorly, and in particular, industrially produced fast food, would ultimately hinder what I want out of life. I want to live a long, healthy life. I want to be able to run alongside my son, racing him until he can beat me (at which time I will quit racing him JUST before he actually wins. Or claim that I am injured.). I had to make a choice, deciding whether or not my diet was supporting these desires. I educated myself, came to some personal conclusions, and decided to make some radical changes. Sounds cliche I know, but in truth, it is the biggest driving force behind the change – the desire for a longer, healthier life with my wife and children. I am convinced that fast food, at least in my case, does not compliment that picture.

Your decisions points will differ from mine – these were just a handful that I used, and that I remember. Your mileage may vary.

Step 3: Act. If you’ve read a few other Almost Fit posts, you are probably aware of the fact that I spend a considerable amount of time these days thinking about what I eat. The more I read, and the more articles I write, the clearer the picture becomes. I took charge of my choices and acted on my convictions. In other words, enough thinking. Time for some doing.

In the final part of this series, I’ll show you 20 tactics you can use to kill the fast food habit. It’s working for me so far.

Ed. Note: I’ve decided to break this post out into a 3 part series – the next one was just too darn long to include in this one. Revision on the fly. Gotta love it.