I am a recovering McDonald’s addict. I have been clean since January 2013. It sounds a little extreme but I really do believe that we are always recovering from these bad habits that become an unhealthy part of our being. Always fighting the relapse that could occur. The definition of addition is “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” Just the first portion, ‘the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice.’ It wasn’t a day to day decision, it was just what I did. It’s terribly embarrassing to admit how often I ate McDonalds for a quick meal. More lunch breaks than not and too many between jobs or just tired and hungry dinners were poor quality over salted hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and French fries. I can’t put my finger on exactly why but McDonalds was my habit or practice of choice. There was something about McDonalds that just tasted the best, felt the best. I came across the occasional person who ‘didn’t eat fast food’ and for a moment I would feel a ping of guilt knowing how often I did but immediately figure they didn’t really understand. I have to think most addictions work this way. You meet someone who doesn’t smoke, drink, shoot up, whatever your drug of choice is and you feel a moment of jealously, guilt, longing to know how that feels and then turn your attention to your next fix.
The internet is a powerful tool and on just about any given day, you can find an article on the Yahoo homepage about fast food or just the processed foods that have become a normal part of our everyday lives. Something in January 2013 made me decide I needed to try to break up with McDonald’s. I had not been counting calories yet and I just can’t put my finger in my memory on what it was that made me decide to give quitting a shot. I think I was starting to get bitten by the being a healthier person bug and that was the most obvious of my terrible habits. I decided to get smarter and I got a salad at the golden arches once and I quickly realized even that was a bad idea. I mean you wouldn’t continue fueling your car at the same convenience store where you know your dealer hangs out when you are trying to cut ties with the dealer who only wants your money and doesn’t care about your well-being. So there it was, I decided McDonalds was totally off limits in my life. I’m fairly competitive, even if there is no competition. Once I conquered one week without McDonald’s, I wanted to make it two and before I knew it, I was at a month and nothing would have been worse than starting my count back at day one. As the months increased, it got harder and harder to think about going back to day one and it got easier and easier to keep going, not to mention I was also counting and logging my food and exercise and was seeing results that were far more enticing that the drive thru. Trust me, I still eat burgers and fries, even chicken nuggets. These days, chicken nuggets are of the grilled variety from Chik Fil A, a few times a year and burgers are real meat and spices that we make at home. And French fries…well I do have a bit of a French fry weakness still but I either make them at home myself or if I do order them in a restaurant, it’s to go with smart options, not to accompany a greasy processed ‘meat’ patty on a white roll, and I certainly don’t shove them in my face while driving my car.
I’d like to think if I tried McDonald’s food now, I wouldn’t even like it. But the truth is, I’m not sure if I would or not. I fear that I would get wrapped back up in the old life and start eating it regularly again. Most people can eat McDonald’s every now and then and continue on with their life fairly unscathed. That’s the difference with an addict though, moderation doesn’t exist. Especially when traveling, a fast food meal happens from time to time but I’m careful. I try for Wendy’s where I can get salad or chili or Panera for a decent salad or even Subway where I can get lots of vegetables. On the rare occasion that I find myself at a fast food burger joint, I make sure it’s a chain I don’t have access to at home. There is something about being somewhere I can’t access in my daily life that allows me not to be tempted when I see the next McDonald’s and to keep the experiences totally separate in my mind. At first, I had to be sure I always had something at home that I could easily eat or cook because if my other option was the drive thru, I had to have something at home that would win that battle. Like the second half of the definition of addition, I was trying to minimize the severe trauma caused by the cessation of my negative habit. Now, I don’t even bat an eye when I drive past the golden arches. Stopping doesn’t even cross my mind in fact, I likely pass often without even realizing it.
I used to call myself a picky eater, which was probably true to a degree, but I think eating too much McDonald’s made me not realize how much I liked other things. Without so much ‘crap’ clouding my taste buds, I’m free to experience foods I always assumed I didn’t like.
Whether or not it’s truly an addiction, I think we all have something that we allow too much power in our lives. It could be sugar, salt, soda, or maybe you’re enslaved to the drive thru too. It’s so hard to imagine you could come to a place where you don’t even care about that something you thought was impossible to go a day without. The best advice is that it’s a battle each day. Each day gets easier, but it has to be a conscious decision to ‘get clean’. There are times I’m with others and I don’t want to be the difficult one so I say we can eat anywhere, I can make just about any restaurant work but not McDonald’s. I’m not willing to make that work into my calories for the day, because ultimately, I’m not willing to make it work into my calories every day and I fear that I wouldn’t know how to stop.