The costs of convenience is higher than any scientist can calculate. This is because fast food negatively impacts on three important realms of human life.
The first outcome is the individual. People are fat and getting fatter, sick and getting sicker. There are now more fat people than there are malnourished people. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease and more are spreading with western culture. This unbalance feels not just unjust, but insane. It dishonors human life.
The second is upon the land and the animals that are now concentrated in contaminating numbers. Eating meat causes more greenhouse gasses than using fossil fuels. This influences not just the livestock’s suffering, but the food borne illness and the quality of the land and surrounding ecosystems.
The third cost is to the community and planet. Feeding seven billion people is a true challenge. Even with fatter people, there are still many elsewhere who are starving. And climatologists and anthropologists alike wonder if a heavy crash is coming due to disasters, droughts, famines and epidemics resulting from these multi-factorial influences.
To have a healthier relationship with food requires that people recognize the patterns they are presently habituated too, and as with any addiction, they admit it. It is more difficult to change eating patterns than almost any other human weakness. Food most definitely has a real power over people. It is necessary to eat to live. Paradoxically, to live well, people must eat healthier diets that affect not just body, but self esteem, will power, healthy body size, and even social lifestyle.
Humans evolved to live closer to the sources of their food, and now disconnected from sunshine, soil, grazing animals and serene bucolic settings, they make up for that psychological loss with binges. They also evolved to crave sugar and fat for high energy and stored in times of need. When this craving to fat and sugar became known to profiteers, it was inevitable that profits would increase, as well as clothing sizes and carbon footprints.
Advertisers and corporations know that fast food and processed food is bad for people. They use that knowledge to optimize and market their “healthy” and “low fat” products. At the same time, they continue to market fat and sugary food by its flavor, reward factor, evolved cravings and social enjoyment. Marketing encompasses every aspect of food and beverage from serving size (super-sizing was a marketing bonanza) and atmosphere. Most fast foods, for example, heavily target children with clowns, puppets, toys and even playgrounds. Parents’ behaviors are reinforced destructively when such food is convenient, low cost, and highly popular.
These sneaky tactics create psychological barriers to people and erode self esteem. Most people are aware they are being led by their taste buds and indulgences, but they enter revolving doors of low self esteem and feeling guilty that can be instantly (and temporarily) displaced by having a fat, or sugary, treat! How junk food is associated with peer belonging, seduction, pleasure and sex would take a whole other article on the subject; the issue is hot and juicy.
To break this cycle takes extreme concern and will power. People can be reinforced by spending time outdoors, feeling the dopamines of activity and fresh air as alternative rewards that pay huge dividends. They can help children break the fast food and junk food habit by rewarding kids not with fatty food, but with outings, adventures, healthy picnics in natural settings of beauty. People that participate and share in activities with others such as gardening, hiking, swimming, cycling and just spending time outdoors have higher quality lives, less fat and more social support.
These days, with so much emphasis on personal rights of the individual, people often lose sight of the fact that a relationship to food is also a relationship to the earth. Being aware of cherishing and protecting community, supporting local farmers and knowing wildlife, animals and their ecosystems, puts people back into the reality of life’s interdependent and sensitive systems.
At the core of human psychology and sociology, people wish to contribute to a sustainable system. They gain satisfaction from wise choices, and they feel good about providing family and community with quality rather than junk.
They also feel improved self esteem when not being a victim of a destructive system that exploits air, water, soil and food sources, such as animals, or displaced forests, prairies, and other threatened ecosystems. And best of all, they prefer not to be victims themselves of high pressure fast food lifestyles. One can then really assess the real cost of fat and sugar to human health, and not just be a duped victim of the modern age and its destructive diet.
Individuals can choose not to be exploited by those who profit from human bad habits, and from feeling like they themselves are a part of the problem. It is crucial to realize that for more than a million years, the human relationship to food was also to the surrounding world. It was a relationship of great appreciation, challenge, reverence and sustenance centered on sharing the “bread of life.”