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LJ Idol week 16: breaking the fast
I have not eaten any fast food in a month.

The thing is, I like fast food, and always have. In recent months I made stops at least once a week at Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Carl’s Jr, Wendy’s, Long John Silvers, and McDonald’s. It’s hard for food to go wrong when it contains large helpings of fat, salt, sugar, and cholesterol. The convenience is also a huge plus; being able to hit a drive thru and eat in the car between two destinations adds time back into my day. And it’s cheap.

But I know it’s not good from me. Watching the movie ‘Food, Inc.’ last month reinforced the knowledge that not only is fast food not good for me, but it’s not very good for food in general. So I decided to set myself a challenge. I wouldn’t eat any fast food in February.

I actually set myself several February goals having to do with fitness and healthier eating. February goals seemed easier than New Year’s resolutions. This way I was only trying to do something for 28 days-- four weeks exactly. That seems reasonable, right? Having an end in sight made a few of the more difficult things, like giving up fast food, well - palatable.

The first week was easy. I was newly committed to the idea, and still mostly at home so preparing my own meals was easy. I did go out for one really good cheeseburger at a little neighborhood restaurant to remind myself that I was giving up fast food, not all burgers and fries.

The second week still wasn’t bad. I went back to work, and had to plan for the few meals I wouldn’t be eating at home. I was still resolved, but the Jack in the Box across the street from the rehearsal hall was starting to look better.

The third week rehearsals started, and for the first time I worried I wasn’t going to pull this off. Being in full time rehearsal means I eat at least nine meals a week away from home. This requires a lot of planning, and is usually accomplished by some combination of frozen dinners, leftovers, and eating out. The little strip mall across the street has several restaurant options, but you have to walk past the Jack in the Box (and that smell of french fries) to get to any of them. I found myself looking longingly at drive thrus and wanting to detour, even though I already had food to eat, or even if I wasn’t hungry. I kept reminding myself that the cheeseburger I had eaten at the neighborhood restaurant was so much better than anything I was going to get fast, that it was worth it to wait. The habit of fast food was more ingrained than I realized.

Now I’m at the end of week four, and I did it. No fast food for a month. Yay me! When I started this I thought I’d celebrate by heading to a restaurant with a drive thru on March 1st, just because I could.

But I’ve realized that I’m craving the convenience of a drive thru more than I’m craving the food. Having spent a month looking for other options I found out that everything I regularly eat at fast food restaurants I can get somewhere else, and while it may cost a bit more it also tastes so much better that it’s worth it. Even my boyfriend has lent a hand and twice made pot roast in the past few weeks so I’d have particularly yummy leftovers to look forward to instead of more fast food.

I won’t say I’ll never eat fast food again. I’m sure some day my schedule will be crazy and the convenience will be impossible to resist. But I’m going to continue my fast food fast for as long as I can. My month without drive thrus taught me that the value menu isn’t the most valid choice.

***This is my entry for LJ Idol this week.  Special thanks to my boyfriend for his editing assistance.  I'll post a link to the poll when it goes up (if it goes up) later this week.  Thanks for reading.***

I am like you. I eat it because it is so convenient. I know I can cook food that tastes just as good, but some nights, I just don't wanna cook.

Though you do have to be careful. Some sit down restaurants are actually much worse than fast food. For instance, a double cheesburger from Mcdonalds has around 380 calories. A cheeseburger at Chili's can have over 1,000 calories easily. I learned all this from Eat This, Not That and becuse I find nutrition of so fascinating...

It's so true that by the numbers the sit down restaurant's meals can be even worse. But honestly I'd rather get one really amazing cheeseburger a month than 4 or 5 mediocre ones, and I figure the calorie crunch for that one burger is worth it. Of course if I decide to seriously start counting calories again, that might change.

This is great! And I think a good motivating tool for other people who wish to take on such an endeavour. I liked your take on the topic :)

Thanks! I've always thought goal setting in small chunks works better, if anyone wants to do March with me I'm all for it. I also need to finish an update about how the rest of my February goals went, this Idol topic managed to fit right in to something I was already planning to write, which never happens.

I don't eat a lot of fast food but every once in a while the overwhelming desire for McDonald's filet o fish takes over! hahaha.

That is exactly my weakness at McDonald's too! And I figure if I'm totally craving something it's worth just eating it. But I was eating a lot of fast food because it was there, not because I wanted it, so hopefully this fast can flip that around.

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Wow no coffee to go either? That's intense.

By the end of the month I noticed how much better all my food had been than the fast food, which makes continuing this fast easier.

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Yeah, I started cutting down on fast food at some point too. It's at the point where it doesn't do as much for me, even though I still like it? But I know it's not actually GOOD, and I would rather eat "real" food. I still get it occasionally, however, and I, uh, still love me some Taco Bell.

Exactly. I crave Taco Bell sometimes too, and if I'm actually hungry for it I'll probably still eat it. But otherwise I have to remind myself that there's an actual Mexican restaurant exactly the same walking distance from the theatre as the TB and it's better. Easy does not have to be king.

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Thanks - it's rare that the topic lines up so well with my real life.

A gluten free diet is hard, it's amazing how carefully you have to pick your food and read labels. I don't envy you that at all. I just have to remember that the easy choice isn't always the good one.

I had subway today. I feel semi-guilty, but it actually was healthier than the alternative-doctor's office visits usually involve a big meal-so I look at it that way. My mother stopped on the way at McDonalds for breakfast and I skipped it though, which makes me feel somewhat self-righteous (a tendency I have to watch). I'm starting again though this month, generally. I didn't do too great last month. It sounds like you did really well though. Yay you!

I actually don't count subway as a fast food restaurant, though I suppose it is. For me, a restaurant has to typically have a drive thru to count. You still have to be careful at Subway but it's much easier to eat well there. Good for you for skipping the McD's breakfast!

Your last month has been much more stressful than mine, so I think being a little shaky is allowed. I'm reupping all of my goals for March too so we can keep going together.

Man, I have so ENTIRELY been in that position.

Good for you holding out for that month. Best of luck keeping it up!

Heh, I think most of us have fallen into the black hole of fast food at one point or another.

Thanks! We'll see if I make it through technical rehearsals this week.

I used to be a fiend for KFC but then I cut it right out, cold turkey. I didn't have it for about a year and when I did have it, it was suddenly not as exciting as it had used to be. And now I almost never crave it. McDonalds and BK are also pretty much once-yearly things for me as well now.

Although sometimes, I can't resist going in and just getting a small serve of fries ...

Mmmm KFC, another restaurant I visited a lot. Yeah it's amazing once you don't eat fast food for a while how much less exciting it is. It seems like they put some additive into the food that makes you want more and more, but once you break the cycle you can stay away.

I have a feeling that fries may be my occasional downfall too, we'll see.

*grins* I've definitely been here. I broke myself of the habit a couple of years ago (I quit eating out *period* for a month or more to save money), and even though I still stop in occasionally, the food no longer tastes the same - it's just ...empty, now, almost.

Good for you for doing something good and healthy for yourself. Rock on. :D

I'm hoping that I can hold this fast long enough to get to the point where the food doesn't taste the same.


We eat out maybe once a month, it's our little treat since we generally can't afford it. I've been doing really good but I'd been craving tacos and Micky D fries. I know that over all we're doing much better by not eating it all that often but once in a while is just soooo good. :)

I'm glad you made it through the whole month. :)

I think it's worth letting the cravings win occasionally, but only very rarely. Right now while I'm trying to reset my taste buds I need to just stay away.

Thanks. I figure now that I've told this many people I've quit fast food I have to stick with it.

Good for you. It's hard to do. Those cravings can be quite strong.

We have cut way way back on fast food around here.

Pizza is a rare treat indeed.

Well done you.

I couldn't believe how strong the cravings were in weeks three and four, it really surprised me. But hopefully I'm past the worst of it.

Good for you for cutting back too, I would imagine with kids it's even harder. Thanks!

Good for you for sticking it out! And also for thinking so rationally about things--no, fast food isn't the best food, but you also recognize why it might be appealing sometimes. I liked your pragmatic outlook.

Well I've tried to give up fast food for more emotional reasons in the past and failed every time. Finally realizing that it's mostly about convenience and time gives me two specific things to work on, instead of 'fast food is the devil'. Thanks!

The convenience is definitely the appeal of fast food for me. I like to cook and I love having yummy homemade food, but when I'm running around from place to place and short on time, those fast food places look more and more appealing... and when I'm hungry and tired and have two babies half asleep in their car seats, it's so much easier to pick up some chicken nuggets and fries than to worry about cooking.

I don't really love to cook, which has always been part of my issue (though my boyfriend does like cooking which is working in my favor). But you've got it exactly right, there are days you need to eat and don't want to put any effort into it at all. I'm hoping that with a little bit of planning up front I can avoid those situations more often.