I can say without hesitation that fast food helped me get fat.
That statement, however, is not me casting blame on the fast food industry for my problem. Although their food is laced with crack to keep you coming back for more (well, if crack = salt, sugar and fat), I can’t hold them accountable for my actions. Ronald McDonald and Wendy didn’t sit on me and force feed me burgers and Frosties until I was obese - I made that choice for myself.
Now, I will take them to task for creating a mass-appeal product that is simply too much for the average human diet. No one needs a value meal that contains nearly a day’s worth of calories in one meal. I mean, “calorie dense” is an understatement when it comes to fast food; laws of physics are bent to jam that many calories into something so small.
But the truth is, fast food is all around us. It’s convenient, it’s quick, and it’s tasty. Even if you’re not addicted to the stuff, many of us still have to rely on it for an on-the-go meal now and then. And while I would love to tell everyone to boycott fast food until the restaurant chains vow to make their items less junk and more food, I know that fast food is a hard habit to break.
If you’re a slave to the Burger King, it’s still possible to enjoy your burger without damaging all the hard work you’ve put into getting healthier. I believe it’s all in moderation.
Want to know how I still eat fast food and keep losing weight? I’ll share with you my own personal rules on visiting the drive-thru:
1. Double-anything is too much. (And “super-size” makes more than your meal larger.)
If something starts with the word “double” then chances are it’s too much food. Double cheeseburger. Double whopper. (Or TRIPLE whopper!) You get the idea. Twice the burger for just a little more money might sound like a deal, but twice the calories won’t do you any favors.
Same goes for super sizing your meal – do you really need a popcorn bucket size serving of fries and a 32 ounce drink? Get the single size sandwich and go with the smallest combo for all the taste with less impact to your waistline.
2. Fries are a side, not a second entree.
If your fry box is as big as or bigger than your sandwich (and that sandwich isn’t a double, right?), then it’s too big. Think of it this way: if you order a cheeseburger and large fries, you’re getting more calories from the fries.
3. A milkshake is not a drink. It’s a second meal.
I love milkshakes. Especially when the shamrock shake is in season. But at McDonald’s, the smallest shake (without whipped cream) will still add 420 calories to your meal, and a large could be over 1,000 calories! Do you really want to go through a day’s worth of calories in one meal?
If you really have to have something sweet, go for a kiddie ice cream cone at the end of the meal for only 45 calories.
4. Fast food restaurants can find a way to make a salad bad for you.
So you vow to eat better and decide you’ll stick with the salads when going out to eat. Smart move, right? Well, maybe. You still have to be careful with which salads you choose. For example, Wendy’s Baja salad (with dressing and tortilla strips) will cost you 730 calories. Sure, the vegetables are healthy for you, but you could get fewer calories with a junior hamburger and value fries.
My advice? Read nutritional information carefully and go for a large salad if you’re really craving a salad. Or split your interests and go for a junior hamburger and side garden salad with low-cal dressing.
5. Kid size portions are often just right for an adult.
I’ve heard a lot of people complain that kids’ meals are too high in calories for a child. Coming in around 550 calories or so, these critics may be right. But a kid meal can be just the right portion size for an adult. A 4-piece box of chicken nuggets and small fries with a water is just enough to feel full without overdoing it. Switch out the fries for apple slices for an even better choice. Bonus: some of the toys can be cute!
6. All rules were made to be broken on occasion.
Look, fast food is sometimes hard to resist. I know this. And breaking that addiction can be hard, too. There will be days when you really want that milkshake. Or when you must have those large fries.
To that, I tell you: it’s OK.
Really. As long as that craving isn’t hitting you every day, and as long as you adjust your eating for the remainder of the day (or even the next few days) to counteract the caloric damage, I say it’s fine to indulge now and then. Holding yourself back from everything you love will only make you miserable and more likely to fail.
If you eat well 90% of the time, what’s wrong with a little indulgence for that other 10%? It’s how I lost 80 pounds (so far!) and while I still eat fast food, I’ve been slowly weaning myself away from the addiction by following these rules.