ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Beat Your Fast Food Addiction

Updated on May 24, 2014
Fast food addiction is a real problem for some folks.
Fast food addiction is a real problem for some folks. | Source

New Report: Fast Food as Addictive as Cocaine or Heroin

According to information from a recent study published in Nature Neuroscience, different types of fast foods and junk foods may actually be hard-wiring our brains to develop cravings for these foods.

In this study, pleasure centers in the brains of laboratory rats were overstimulated from eating fast food. These reactions and changes in the brain chemistry were found to be similar to the reactions in the brain caused by heroin and cocaine. Read more about this study here.

Over time, the brains of these laboratory rats became so overstimulated from the fast food that their brain chemistry was altered. According to Associate Professor Paul Kinney at the Scripps Research Institute, the test rats actually needed more and more of the chemicals found in their fast food diet to feel normal.

The rat's brains were actually altered, changed by the consumption of fast food. They became reliant on the regular consumption of a specific substance to make them feel better. Sounds like fast food can indeed be addictive.


Are fast food restaurants aiding and abetting fast food addiction by offering Super-sized portions? These may trick diners to order just one large item rather than two smaller items.
Are fast food restaurants aiding and abetting fast food addiction by offering Super-sized portions? These may trick diners to order just one large item rather than two smaller items. | Source

Are You Addicted to Fast Food?

Addiction is a very strong word so let's start this section by defining an addiction.

According to Webster, an addiction is defined as a "compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by tolerance and well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal."

Other definitions include the "persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful." According to this definition, fast food can be addictive.


Symptoms of Fast Food Addiction

In order to determine if you (or someone you know) is addicted to fast food, simply look for the symptoms of addiction. First, is food always on your mind?

If you want to find out if you have a fast food addiction, look for the common symptoms.
If you want to find out if you have a fast food addiction, look for the common symptoms. | Source

If you are thinking about eating more fast food all the time or worried that the fast food you eat is bad for you and may cause problems with your ability to work or affect your ability to function in family or social relationships, you may have a problem with fast food addiction.

Other symptoms of fast food addiction include the desire to stop eating fast food but having no control or ability to stop, eating fast food in secret, lying about what you have eaten or regularly eating fast food beyond the point of feeling full.

One final symptom is eating fast food due to emotional stress. Sure, we all eat for this reason on occasion, but if you find you crave or need fast food regularly when feeling anxious, depressed, lonely or bored - you may have an addiction to fast food.


Fast Food and Financial Concerns

Let's face it, eating out frequently is expensive. The average cost of a fast food meal today is between $7 to $9 (USD) per person. If you eat out three times per day that come to about $24 per day, $168 per week per person.

Feeding a family of four on all fast food fare could easily run over $670 per week - that comes to $2,688 per month.

Fast food addiction can cost a lot now and in long-term health problems.
Fast food addiction can cost a lot now and in long-term health problems. | Source

Even eating out just half the time runs around $1,344 per month for a family of four. The cost of groceries for that same family of four is going to be far less.

Changing from fast food to food prepared at home will have an immediate positive impact on your financial situation.

Even if you can survive on the dollar menu for a long time, the over all financial cost of future health care is going to cost you.

A fast food diet high in sodium, sugar and fat is inevitably going to lead to the development of one or more health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or even cancer.

Think of the long-term cost of surviving cancer and the financial strain that this could potentially place on you or your family.


Fast Food and Health Concerns

Speaking of health concerns, I don't need to tell you that a fast food diet is going to lead to developing some future conditions and diseases that are going to be expensive to manage.

Heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and various types of cancer are all included among the many health problems caused by consumption of large amounts of foods high in fat, sugar, carbohydrates and sodium.

Even if you have great health insurance, the average out-of-pocket expenses for some cancer patient runs around $18,000 - that's on top of the expenses covered by health insurance. I am a cancer survivor and I can tell you it is an expensive disease to manage and defeat.

The long-term costs for managing diabetes, high-blood pressure or heart disease may also be quite significant.



How to Kick the Addiction to Fast Food

So, if you have decided to conquer your fast food addiction, you're going to need to take some action.

Let me suggest something that worked well for me in my fight to eliminate fast food from my diet.

First, collect all your fast food receipts for the past week (or a typical week of fast food habits), total the amounts and divide that amount by two. For example, If you spend $25 a week on fast food, half of that amount would be $12.50.

Next, get the $12.50 in hard cash and place that into a ziplock bag, This is your fast food budget bag. Use this money in any way you like for fast food during the upcoming week. When the money is gone from the bag, your fast food eating days for that week are over.

This teaches you to ration your money and helps to cut your addiction to fast food in a gradual manner. The following week, cut the amount of available fast food cash by half once again. In just a few weeks, you'll have successfully cut out fast food altogether.

Fast Food Addiction Science...

Is Fast Food Addiction Real? You Decide.

Reliance on a substance to alter the way you feel or alter the chemicals in your brain to "handle" difficult situations is a sign of addiction.

If you're using fast food to deal with your problems, you may have a problem and it is especially important that you seek help from a professional.

Talk to your doctor, healthcare professional or a registered dietician who specializes in eating disorders (also known as disordered eating).

The information in this article is provided as a information resource only. This information should not used for treatment or diagnosis of any medical conditions. As a first step, always consult your physician or healthcare professional before making any decision or assessment regarding any possible medical condition.


Take the Fast Food Poll...

How many times do you eat fast food each week?

See results


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • MKayo profile image

      MKayo 4 years ago from Texas

      Keeley - I was hooked on fast food for many years. Last March, I watched a documentary titles, "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead." It changed the way I look at fast food. I have been off it for about 5 months. Now, every time I eat fast food, it really makes me quite ill. Now, I juice at least once a day and feel so much better. Best of luck to you!

    • Keeley Shea profile image

      Keeley Shea 4 years ago from Norwich, CT

      I love fast food but try hard to stay away! Tastes good but nothing about it is good for you! Great article.

    • bizna profile image

      JUDITH OKECH 5 years ago from NAIROBI - KENYA

      Fast foods are sweet and tempting. But i resolved only to eat them when am held up in a fix and cannot find any good food and of course if am very hungry that i cannot wait.

    • KatSanger profile image

      Katherine Sanger 5 years ago from Texas

      I admit; I still love fast food at times. I don't think it's bad in moderation, and one way to help reduce how much I eat is to order the kid's meals. It means less junk food, costs less, and limits your options a lot more, making it easier to give it up. For a while, I would eat it once a week; now it's more like once every few months.

    • MKayo profile image

      MKayo 5 years ago from Texas

      Botipton - thanks for the read and nice comments. Glad to hear you're off fast food!

    • botipton profile image

      Bo Tipton 5 years ago from Cecilia, KY

      Very important hub. We made the switch away from fast food a couple of years ago. Now we only eat fast food when we are away from home and it is eat something now time.

    • MKayo profile image

      MKayo 5 years ago from Texas

      Peachpurple - Appreciate the read and positive comments. Glad to know this info has caused a change for the better in you! Best, M

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 5 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i eat fast food once a month. Yeah i heard lots of stories behind the origin of how the food is being prepared and the high calories, cholesterol, disease, obese, weight increase....many more. Just for the kick, once a month, a burger and fries. Will try to cut down next year. Great job

    • MKayo profile image

      MKayo 5 years ago from Texas

      bb - Thanks for the read. I always look forward to your kind comments on my work!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I gave up fast food about three years ago. I might stop three or four times a year now instead of weekly....huge savings in money and I just feel better. Important hub my friend; good job!