Does eating fast food cause obesity? Will I get fat if I eat a burger from McDonald's? Should we not encouarge kids to boycott Tim Hortons so that they will not gain weight? What if we decide to eat fruits all day and not eat chocolate or cake? Will we be healthy and lose weight? Commercials should stop telling us to buy their foods, right? This will stop obesity from occuring! Right? Maybe not...
You are probably familiar with the phrase 'obesity epidemic'. This refers to information that shows that over the past few years, obesity is on the rise. Researchers and medical professionals alike (along with parents, teachers, teens, and many, many people!) like to blame the fast food industry for this problem. They say that restaurants like McDonald's and Burger King, along with desserts like cake and pizza, are the cause of this problem. Their solution? Discourage the consumption of fast food! After all, if fast food causes obesity, the rational solution is to boycott it all together. But wait for a second. Are we not forgetting that obesity, like many other things, is not caused by ONE factor?
What causes obesity? We don't really know, to be honest. But we DO know that it is caused by many different things. Genetics, lifestyle, work, peer pressure, the media, and food availability are some factors. What does this mean? That eating fast food alone is not the cause of obesity. Of course, eating too much fast food, like anything else, can contribute to weight gain. Why? Sometimes, food that is not made in the home can be saturated with oil, butter, or other fats that can have negative effects on one's health. But, that is not to say that eating out occassionally is harmful. In fact, it is quite normal to do so, and is 'okay' to do in moderation. The problem becomes significant when one eats consistently out and does not balance this with an increase in excercise or an increase in consumption of other foods, such as whole grains, fruits/veggies, etc. In simpler words. eating out once in a while will NOT make you fat. Take a look at the picture to see how many factors are related to the development and maintainence of obesity.
In fact, to a certain extent, a low-fat diet is harmful. We need fat in our diets for some vitamins such as A, D, E, and K. Fat is an insulator, protects our bones, and can even serve as an energy source in desperate times. Low-fat diets are associated with an increase in adverse health effects. If this does not make sense, think about what happens to ED patients: they lose so much weight and do not consume enough lipids in their diet that their bodies begin breaking down muscle and proteins for energy, they starve, and they become very ill. Again, remember that everything is healthy and even 'okay' - and needed - in moderation.
Let's return to the 'obesity epidemic'. What I want you to get out from this post is that fast food or certain foods alone cannot cause obesity. This is why it is wrong for the media/others to focus on JUST fast food as the sole purpose of obesity. I, being recovered from ED, still consume fat/oil/chocolate/cake/cookies/pizza/burgers in my diet. But I do so in moderation. AmI unhealthy or fat? No. But the media makes it seem as though eating at McDonald's automatically makes you fat or a big. They scare us with pictuers of big Macs and then frighten us with storeis of heart attacks. In a way, they are right that too much fat/cholesterol can lead to heart attacks and other health issues. But will eating out once in a while do so? No. Is eating out the ONLY way that people come to struggle with obesity? NO. Why, then, does the media focus on fast food? Because it is easy for them to do so. It is easy to use this 'shock factor' to make people interested. Imagine what happens when parents hear 'Burger King makes your children more likely to have heart attacks at age 30!'. Parents will be frightened. It works well. So, in a way, this is a smart technique used by the media.
BUT what makes it so foolish is that INFORMED CONSUMERS (which you should be by now, considering that you have read my blog and have heard all my rants about the media/body image/food!) know that this relationship between fast food and obesity is not a CAUSAL relationship. Remember that association does not mean causation. Yes, too much fat in the diet is associated with heart problems, but so is a diet that is too low in calories in fat (as an example, my heart was failing last year because I was eating so little). Too much cholesterol is associated with gallbladder problems, but so is too little fat. Too much calories can contribute to obesity, but too little calories can cause kidney failure and death as well (again, think back to my story last year).
What's the message? BE AWARE. Do not let the media or other 'professionals' convince you that fast food alone is what is causing the obesity epidemic. If that were the only reason, obesity would be easily solved by eliminating all fast food. But that is not the case, because we know that obesity is caused by many different inter-related factors. The media, sadly, is always looking for quick and easy ways to make money, and it does this by telling us that we need to stop eating McDonalds and Starbucks because they are making us all fat. Well, after reading this post, you are hopefully convinced that they are not correct in making this assumption! Next time you watch TV or hear an advertisement about obesity/fast food, really think about what you are watching. What is the message saying? Does it make it seem as though fast food/fat/oil is the cause of obesity? You will be surprised to see how common this is. Now, you are more aware. When I was sick, I failed to realize how much the media and health professionals dwell on this. Now, in recovery and more aware of these things, I have come to see that my lifestyle and health are related as a WHOLE. One burger will not suddenly make me obese. People who are overweight are not just overweight because they eat too much fast food. Again, it is about the person's lifestyle, as well as their genes, environment, etc.
So....is fast food BAD? I think I have made my answer pretty clear...what do you think?