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How to Tell if You're Addicted to Fast Food

Updated on December 4, 2012

Several Things Fast Food Restaurants Won't Tell You

Did you know that fast food may be addictive, possibly as addictive as cocaine in the human body? When I first heard that I was surprised. Well, sort of surprised. I always knew that I craved fast food, especially certain specific menu items - but an addiction? Seriously? I found this hard to believe so I started a quest to find out more.

A study conducted in 2011 by the Archives of General Psychiatry found that fast food can be addictive. This study found that cocaine and high-fat/high-sugar fast food affected the brain in very similar ways. I began to think about how many times I actually ate food from a fast food type restaurant. I realized that I frequented these places several times each week.

I also recently discovered some rather disturbing information about fast food - even the so-called "healthy" choices available at many fast food restaurants today. DId you know that just one typical fast food meal has enough fat, sugar, sodium and calories to meet - or exceed - the recommended daily allowances for these substances? Find out more about this - click here.

I wanted to know if I was indeed addicted to fast food. Was this just a strong craving - or was it something more? Perhaps this addiction was the reason I had gradually added on a few extra pounds every year and why I was carrying some extra weight . Maybe this addiction was the reason I would drive several miles out of my way to find a particular fast food restaurant. I wanted to know more. What follows are the signs and symptoms I saw in myself.

I am not saying that all of these signs or symptoms necessarily mean a person is addicted to fast food. For me, these signs were a revelation and helped me address and fight what I considered to be an addiction to fast food.


Signs You May Be Addicted to Fast Food

Sign #1 - Fast food is on your mind a lot of the time.

I found myself thinking about it at various times throughout the day. If I heard an ad on the radio or television, that made my cravings even stronger. I didn't think eating this way was getting in the way of my work until I noticed I had put on a few pounds and I always felt a bit sluggish for the remainder of the afternoon.

I also worried constantly about what I was eating - I knew fast food wasn't good for me. These thoughts led to a lower self-esteem and the extra pounds only confirmed that I wasn't concerned enough to change my eating habits. I looked forward to a fast food lunch and/or dinner every day.


Sign #2 - Emotional eating.

I worked in the advertising department for a big national corporation so I knew all about stress and anxiety. I also had some unresolved emotional issues form my youth that added to my anxiety.

Fast food was one way I used to "medicate" myself against all of this. Fast food made me feel better about myself, or so I thought. At the very least, it made me feel good, at least during the time I was eating it.

A lot of people eat as a response to negative emotions every once in a while - that is very normal. I was doing it every single day, sometimes two or three times a day. Since I was consuming high amounts of fat and sugar each day, my body became chemically altered. I needed those chemicals to boost endorphins in my brain to function at a normal level - and I was addicted to them.

Sign #3 - Eating fast food alone.

This was a big tip-off for me and I was so surprised that I had not recognized it until it was pointed out to me. I wanted to eat fast food and I wanted to eat it by myself. I didn't want people to judge me by the amount or type of food I ate. I always ordered from the drive-thru window and ate in my car alone. I never told anyone about how much I ate, I was always very vague. I would say "I had a burger," when in fact I had several.


Sign #4 - Inability to stop eating fast food.

I can remember a certain favorite fast food taco that I used to love so much. I could eat 12 or more of these in a single meal. As I ate through them, I would remember starting to feel full after the third or fourth taco.

I loved eating these so much, I simply ignored the full feeling in my stomach. I really didn't want to stop eating, I knew these tacos were bad for me - but I chose to keep eating. This was a big sign for me that I was addicted to fast food.

Sign #5 - Eating after you feel full.

This is one of the insidious little things about fast food that really shocked me. Fast food is typically very dense and has a lot of empty calories. It is also loaded with ingredients that trick the brain into thinking the stomach is full. As a result, I could eat more food and would feel hungry after a very short period of time.

I was regularly eating to the point of feeling too full or even sick, and I realized I had a problem. I didn't get to the point of purging or using laxatives after eating fast food - if you are at that point, you likely need to seek professional help.


How many times each week do you eat fast food?

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Fast Food Addiction - Really?

Look, you can call it whatever you like. For me, I called it food addiction. I needed that fast food fix every day in order to be happy and continue working (at least that's what I thought).

If you see yourself doing some of the things listed above, at the very least it may be time to reassess your behavior and your eating habits. Maybe you have a small problem, maybe you have a big problem and you need to get outside, professional help.

There is no shame in asking for help - we all need it at some point in life. I hope this article has been helpful to you in helping you see that you - or someone you know - may indeed have a problem with fast food. The main thing is to get help if you think you need it.

Talk to your friends, family or healthcare professional if you think there might be even a small problem.



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    • MKayo profile image

      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      Gypsy Rose Lee (love that name) and SkeetyD - Thanks for taking time to read my Hub and for your insightful comments!

    • SkeetyD profile image

      SkeetyD 4 years ago from Barbados

      This is some scary information. Fast food as addictive as cocaine. Wow, has this been linked to the obesity 'epidemic' and the news likes to call it? I appreciate the information, great hub!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Interesting. I have known people who can't live without fast food. I live in a great place 'cause even though we have lots of fast food restaurants in the city I live in the suburbs. Fast food places far, no car and I have stopped eating fast food altogether. But you have good points to consider for those who are addicted. Passing this on.

    • MKayo profile image

      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      Billybuc - Yes, I never thought of it as an addiction until I realized I could see I was doing things that people who were addicted to other substances would do. I also have an addictive personality, considered fast food an addiction and have since eliminated it from my diet (like you). Thanks for the read and comment!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting. I like fast food but I have pretty much eliminated it from my life now. I have an addictive personality but fast food has never been a concern for me.