I Run the Fast Food Gauntlet and (Barely) Win - Mercy Medical Center

I Run the Fast Food Gauntlet and (Barely) Win

Posted on: July 23, 2013

Life is forever fraught with adversity. I recently heard a great quote about this in a movie: “Everything works out in the end, so if it’s not working out, it isn’t the end!”

At first I found this comforting. Sort of like, hang in there, everything will work out. Then I realized it was saying, “All of your adversity will be over when you are dead.”  Not sure how I feel about that, but a crazy week has left me grumpy and cynical.

CSI’s Grissom Lives at My Place (and That’s a Good Thing)

I was short a person at work this week, which created a lot of extra stress for me. I got sick. My son started marching band practice and passed out at the second practice. The band director called to say she thought it was a seizure. The weekend brought our local community festival where I had to deal with a parade (people throwing candy at me), a carnival (people deep frying every delicious thing I could think of), cooking dinner for 9 people, fireworks with my kids and three others, and my in-laws peppered throughout the whole thing.

So, it was hectic to say the least. I had another emotional eating incident. It was just two ounces of leftover sloppy joe and au gratin potatoes. Not a huge deal, but disappointing to say the least. My wife totally busted me. Over the years she has turned into our very own Grissom from CSI. She could get up in the morning and – just by analyzing crumbs, silverware, trash, and a variety of fridge clues – she knew what I had eaten the night before. She got up this week and knew exactly what I had done. As a result, I now have signs all over the kitchen, drawn by my kids, reminding me not to eat!

I was sick for part of the week and had a hard time drinking the OPTIFAST shakes. The plan has “contingencies” for when you are sick. Let’s just say I ate a lot of broth and sugar-free popsicles this week. I am attributing this week’s progress to the fact I was sick. I hoped to lose 5 pounds. Instead I clocked in at 3 pounds (okay, 2.8 – but who is counting?). So, for the record, that’s 17.8 pounds in two weeks. I am really going to stick to the plan this week and hope for that 5-pound loss next week!

The Overwhelming Presence of Fast Food

Last week I talked about emotional eating triggers, referring to how I turn to food when I feel like I’m treading water emotionally. This week, I would like to talk about a different kind of emotional eating. I’m not sure what to call it. Second-hand eating? Marketing induced hunger?  How about proximity-based hunger?

Let me clue you in on my problem. I have two routes I drive to and from work. The route I travel more often has the following:

3 McDonald’s

2 Burger Kings

1 Arthur Treachers

1 Long John Silvers

1 Taco Bell

1 Wendy’s

2 Pizza Hut Wing Streets

2 Subways

1 Dunkin’ Donuts

1 Arbys

8 assorted pizza places

3 take-out Chinese

1 take-out Indian

1 tiny, greasy spoon almost across the street from my office that has hands down the best “Vegas Style” breakfasts around

The other route to work actually has more places than I can mention.

To top it off, not only must I pass all of these establishments, but I must avert my eyes from their enticements!  They don’t stop the “2 Sausage McMuffins for $2,” “2 Whoppers for $5,” “50-cent boneless wings,” or the absolute biggest slap in the face, “New! Key Lime Donut!”

Really? Really, God? I know I am supposed to be tested. I know you won’t put more on me than I can handle, but why would you allow some person at Dunkin’ Donuts, at this particular point in time, to invent a key lime donut?

It seems that at every turn, someone who doesn’t even know me wants me to eat. Not only do they want me to eat, they want to remove almost every obstacle to putting the food in my hands. The food is cheaper, more delicious, more available and better advertised than ever.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those anti-fast-food crusaders who believes we should have a vegan juice bar on every corner. I think that fast food has a place in our society and our diet. I think in moderation, like almost everything else, it is quite an enjoyable way to eat. It is a treat, just like ice cream or candy.

I know what you are thinking: “Sure you like fast food, Eric. You are fat!”  The truth is I really didn’t eat much fast food on my road to obesity. Occasionally a breakfast on the way to work as a treat, sometimes as a lunch treat, or for dinner with the family when something comes up and our day is too complicated to cook. Fast food was an occasional part of my life. But I sure do miss it now!

I can willfully admit that, despite my love of fast food, its prevalence and availability make it very VERY difficult for those of us trying to lose weight. When I watch TV, every other commercial seems to be about food. I flip through the channels, and I’m inundated by shows about food. I mean, even non-food shows can be dangerous. I’m not allowed to have alcohol. Have you ever tried to watch Mad Men without drinking!?! My daughter has made it her career to jump up when a food commercial or show comes on, place her hands in front of my face and scream, “Don’t look Dad! Change the channel!”

I Triumph Over My Mind and Taco Bell Marketing

My problem with fast food is that when I drive past these places, my imagination starts to work. I see the Long John Silver’s sign and I immediately start to remember the tactile experience of biting into a piece of their batter-dipped, deep-fried, fishy goodness.  That burst of saltiness, then the light, greasy burst of fish flavor, and then the rich, mellow flavor of the fish itself. Then my stomach rumbles – not from hunger – but from some messed up form of muscle memory. Then a protracted and agonizing battle begins between the parts of my brain my stomach controls and the parts of my body I control. In the end I win, but that feeling in my head reminds me of a hamster repeatedly throwing itself against the glass of the tank it’s in. My hands do their job and just keep the car on the road as we cruise past.

So far I am winning the battle, but just barely.  The other night on my way home I started to give in to the voices. I pulled into the Taco Bell drive-thru almost without realizing it. I was picturing the guilt I was going to feel after eating a beefy-nacho-stuffed griller (or whatever they are calling it now), but I knew I was about to do it anyway. I realized I pulled in because I really felt emotionally hungry; I wanted to have something good to eat on the drive home because I had a bad day. I pulled up to the magical food order screen, where all my desires are transformed into a plastic baggie filled with scientifically engineered goodness. What did I do? Check out my receipt.

This is the single saddest Taco Bell receipt of my life. I ordered a large Diet Pepsi. This amazed even me, because the order taker wasn’t keen on letting me get away with only a drink.

“Are you sure you don’t want some food with that?”

“Yes, I’m sure, just the drink.”

“Our beefy nacho stuffed grillers are only a dollar until 6 pm!”

“No, just the drink.”

“How about some volcano nachos?”

“Please, just the Diet Pepsi.”

In the end I persevered. I sipped on my diet soda (it had caffeine, but I was pretty sure I was under the daily quota) and drove home. My tummy got a little treat, my need to eat (or drink) on the way home was sated, and – best of all – I felt good when I got home. My waist is shrinking, my gait is straightening and my weight is dropping. All is right with the world.

Oh, and by the way, Wendy’s has its pretzel bacon cheeseburger for a limited time only; Burger King has its new rib sandwich and sweet potato fries; Long John Silver’s has the Big Catch Basket (now with 30% more) for $4.99; and Taco Bell has its special $1 happy hour from 2 – 5 pm, just in case you are hungry on your way home.  

Every week, guest blogger and Mercy Weight Management client Eric Buwala shares his view on the weight loss journey. We invite you to read all his posts. Click to visit the Eric Buwala archives.

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