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Why You Should Consider Leaving Fast Food Alone

Just because some food is cheap and convenient, that doesn't mean that it means you any good.

Wellness

"Fast food. Hamburgers, French fries, and soft drinks are typical fast food items. Fast food is a type of mass-produced food designed for commercial resale and with a strong priority placed on 'speed of service' versus other relevant factors involved in culinary science."—Wikipedia

So, here's what I'm hoping. I'm hoping that even if you're gonna wish that you could un-see all of this info by the time you finish reading this, that you caught this article before you go on your next lunch break. I say that because, if you're in the habit of running out to a local fast food joint to get a bite, you might want to rethink that plan.

Now before delving deeper into why I say that, let's do a quick review of some fast food places that ain't McDonald's, Wendy's or Arby's. In-N-Out. Panera Bread. Wingstop. Boston Market. Moe's Southwest Grill. Noodles & Company. Chipotle. Jason's Deli. Panda Express. Starbucks. Your beloved Chick-fil-A (which was voted the #1 fast food place this year). If you Google a list of popular fast food chains, these are going to be on it. The reason why I didn't go with a Popeye's, Sonic or Pizza Hut is because those are pretty obvious, right? But for whatever the reason, when a lot of us go to Panera or Chick-fil-A, we think that it's "the other fast food". I'm not saying that some places aren't healthier than others, but when it comes to choosing between what's best for your health (and wallet), nothing beats preparing your own meals.

Health-wise, you're about to see why, if folks in drive-thrus know you personally, it really is time to spend more time in grocery stores (or farmer's markets) instead of fast food restaurants.

Fast Food Affects Your Brain

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Something that a lot of fast foods have in them is saturated fat (and fatty acids). The problem with that is when too much of it is in our system, it can cause us to experience impaired memory or to even for our cognitive function to get all sluggish. Some other things that saturated fat puts us at risk for is weight gain and heart disease.

Does this mean that you can't have a burger or milkshake ever? No. What it does mean is in order for you to remain relatively unaffected by saturated fats, you should consume no more than 10 percent of them a day. And a burger combo is a heck of a lot more than that.

Fast Food Attacks Your Teeth and Bones

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Contrary to popular belief, it's not actually sugar that leads to cavities. What causes them is a combination of bacteria, acid on the enamel of your teeth and a vitamin deficiency. Three things that you can do to combat all of these issues is to brush and floss your teeth after every meal, take a Vitamin D supplement and consume (more) bone broth, and cut back on acidic foods like soda and carbs; especially soda because the citric acid that's in it is the most corrosive that there is (by the way, if you're wondering which soda does the most damage, check out "70 Most Popular Sodas Ranked by How Toxic They Are").

As far as your bones go in general, fast food is a no-no because it leads to obesity and obesity can directly affect bone density. Who wants weak bones? Exactly.

Fast Food Wears Your Kidneys Out

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If there's one thing that fast food contains a ton of, it's sodium. As a result, we end up dehydrated, bloated and constipated with an elevated blood pressure and kidneys that have to work harder than they ever should. In fact, if you are someone who is prone to kidney stones and you're also someone who eats combo meals a lot, those two things typically go hand in hand. From what I hear, everything about kidney stones suck. Wouldn't you want to avoid what causes them at all costs?

(If you'd like a list of other types of foods that produce kidney stones, you can check one out here.)

Fast Food Wrecks Your Hair, Skin and Nails

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If you're someone who has acne-prone skin, you've probably been told that chocolate and greasy foods like pizza are to blame. But there are actually studies that indicate carbs are the real culprit. The reason why is because carbs causes our blood sugar levels to increase; when that happens, breakouts are sometimes the result. Actually, one study revealed that kids and teens who have fast food, at least three times a week, are more likely to develop eczema.

Also, because fast food is not usually loaded with iron (like say, a salad is), that's why it's not the best thing for your hair (low iron can ultimately lead to thinning and even bald spots). Also, since fast food isn't all that big on Vitamin C, your hair, skin and nails aren't able to get the collagen boost that they need on a daily basis if that's constantly what you're putting into your system.

Fast Food Makes You Anxious

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Something else that fast food lacks are omega-3 fatty acids. We need those because they improve the health of our eyes, fight inflammation, reduce our risk for contracting autoimmune diseases and reduce our chances of having an age-related illness (like Alzheimer's disease). One more thing—if you battle with anxiety, omega-3s are able to lower those symptom-related issues too. Since reportedly 1 in 5 Americans battle with some sort of anxiety disorder, this is certainly good food for thought. Literally.

The kinds of foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids include eggs, walnuts, wild rice, oysters and flax seeds. I'm not sure what fast food restaurants are in plentiful supplies of these things so yeah, this is just one more reason to stay out of their drive-thru lines.

Fast Food Messes with Your Fertility

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If you're trying to get pregnant, this is just one more reason to stay out of fast food places. Fast food is highly processed, and processed foods typically contain something known as phthalates. What's that? It's a chemical that totally disrupts the hormonal balance in your system. If your periods are irregular and your hormones are all over the place, that's going to make it difficult to conceive.

Something else that's pretty jacked up about phthalates is, if you're exposed to high levels of them, you could also put your baby at risk for having birth defects.

So yeah, if you're trying to conceive and currently have a French fry in your hand, hopefully this motivates you to toss it into the trash.

Fast Food Dyes Can Make You Ill

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Before I get into how the dyes in fast food can jack you up too, another read that's totally worth your time is "Fast Food Is Actually Unhealthier Today Than It Was in the 80s". One of the reasons why this is the case is due to all of the preservatives that are in today's fast foods. Anyway, as if all of the red flags that you've already checked out aren't enough, something else that should give you cause for pause is all of the artificial coloring that goes into fast food.

C'mon, surely you don't think that Fanta Strawberry soda is naturally red or Dr. Pepper is naturally a dark caramel color. And speaking of the shades of caramel that you see, there are studies which indicate that it carries the human carcinogen known as 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI); in rats, the consumption of this has sometimes led to cancer. Again, another solid reason to take a fast food pass.

Fast Food Can Kill You. Literally.

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OK, so if you somehow like your burgers, fries and shakes so much that you somehow found a way to rationalize your way out of all of what I just shared, be prepared for this drop the mic moment—"Eating Ultra-Processed Foods Increases Death Risk by 62%". Yep. You read the title of that article totally right! And what technically qualifies as being an ultra-processed food? Brace yourself—chicken nuggets, white bread, frappuccinos, energy drinks and bars, sweetened cereals, fried chicken, potato chips, frozen pizza, packaged snacks, fries, biscuits, soda and pretty much any other kind of food that contains a lot of sugar and/or preservatives, artificial flavors, and colors. Is your favorite fast food restaurant good enough to die before your time for? (The answer to that is a firm "hell no".)

Whew, that's a lot of drama to take in. And, just like Rome wasn't built in a day, neither was going from eating fast food a few times a week to not consuming it at all. But remember that a lot of the fast foods that you like, you can still have so long as you're willing to prepare them yourself and make them differently. For soda, add some juice or lemon and lime to your sparkling water. For fries, bake potato wedges in your oven. Turkey and bean burgers are good beef burger alternatives. A homemade dark chocolate and banana smoothie is much healthier than a Sonic shake.

Bottom line is, when it comes to fast food and what it does to our bodies, all of them ultimately bring new meaning to "haste makes waste". Fast ain't always good, y'all. Choose (to eat) wisely.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

10 "Healthy" Foods That Actually, Well...Aren't

10 Foods You Should Eliminate From Your Diet If You're Trying To Lose Weight

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Plantain Flour, Spirulina & Other Uncommon Foods To Add To Your Diet

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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