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Fast Food Is Okay?
By Seth Meyers   View more articles by this author
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October 26

You may have seen a popular 2004 documentary called “Super-Size Me,” a commentary on how eating McDonald’s fast food causes weight gain and a host of other health problems.  The film, directed by Morgan Spurlock, confirmed what everybody's believed all along: fast food is bad for you.  Though "Super-Size Me" offered exciting celluloid fodder, I felt in the same breath that the documentary was unfair.  We watched as the film’s main character ate super-sized versions of everything – sodas, burgers, and the list goes on.  Certainly, not everyone who drives through McDonald’s must order so excessively and recklessly.
Having trained in nutrition and obesity at a major metropolitan medical center, I learned about a balanced diet and the importance of exercise.  I also determined that fast food – as a rule – is not necessarily self-destructive.  The issue boils down to what fast food you eat.  Recent research by Bowman and Vinyard in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition confirms this, finding that negligible amounts of milk and fruits were consumed at fast food restaurants.  In light of the recent focus on health in America, fast food restaurants have answered our call and put healthier fare on their menus.  Today, at a lot of fast food chains, you can find more salads, wraps, and fruit than ever before.
Before you go to cognitive extremes and tell yourself ‘no more fast food EVER!’ remember that one of the keys to losing weight, keeping it off, and living life healthily is balance.  A once-in-a-while dessert plan, for example, has better odds of lasting in the long run than a no-more-desserts plan.  Similarly, if you’re on the run and want something to eat on the fly, allow yourself on occasion to cross the threshold or patronize the drive-thrus of the fast food chains.  When you do so, opt for something healthy and think about portion control.  Look for any type of vegetable on the menu – and potatoes don’t count, thank you – and get a bottle of water or juice as opposed to the mouth-watering cokes they advertise. 
On your worst day, you may feel tempted to gorge on fast food and soothe your mental ills with deep-fried love.  If you’ve had one of those days where you really need some fries, learn to eat – and think – in moderation.  Start thinking in terms of what mental health professionals call the Harm Reduction Model.  According to this model, you would do the healthiest thing possible along an overall unhealthy spectrum.  Taking our example of fast food, you would order the smallest size of fries and force yourself to have a salad with it.  The Harm Reduction Model argues that this behavior might not be ideal but says it's, at least, a step in a healthier direction.
Again, when it comes to losing and keeping weight off, you must learn to think and act in moderation.  Going to extremes – and forgoing fast food forever - may feel tempting but this coping style may not prove to be your friend in the end.

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Comment by mitchm
22 Feb 2015 01:29 AM
Totally agree here. Moderation is the absolute key. Having a fast food plan helps. I always like the taste of Burger King plain burgers -- not the over the top cheese, sauce and bacon covered versions. Every now and then, when the craving hits (most often on a Saturday afternoon), I will drive through a BK and get a plain burger and a diet soda. No fries. It is pretty much the only time I order a burger out and same for diet soda. I am still averaging 1.2 lb/week weight loss even with this occassional indulgence.
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