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3 Surprising Impacts of Fast Food

(Note – this is written based on my understanding of a video I watched. If I got anything wrong, that’s on me, not the people who made the video.)

I’m sure you’re all familiar with fast food – it’s hard to avoid. And the reason why it’s so popular is right in the name. It’s fast.

I get that this time-saving can be important to people, and sometimes you don’t have a lot of other great options. For example, when I was in college, I didn’t usually have much time between my last class and evening band practice, so I got food in the student center. And the fastest, easiest option was Burger King, so that’s what I had most weeks on band night for five years.

With that speed, though, comes some well-known problems. A lot of food packaging (especially plastic), meals that aren’t as nutrient-dense, and often meals that include a lot of meat from factory-farmed animals (bad for the animals and the environment).

But what you may not know is that being surrounded by fast food can negatively impact you much more directly.

Patience, who needs that?

I found out about these impacts from a SciShow Psych YouTube video, and it boils down to the fact that fast food makes us impatient.

Even more surprising, at least to me, is that you don’t have to eat fast food to feel that impatience. You only have to be exposed to it through ads or seeing fast food restaurants in your neighborhood.

As I thought about it, though, it made sense. People turn to fast food for convenience because they don’t have time to prepare food for themselves (or that’s one reason). So, seeing fast food restaurants may remind you, at least subconsciously, of everything you had to do and how much you have going on in your life and do you really have time to cook a meal or slow down?

Plus, if everyone else is going fast, don’t you have to as go fast to keep up?

Go faster!

That impulse to speed up was one of the things researchers found when studying the fast food connection. Seeing logos for fast food companies, even when they were too fast to register, made the people in the study read faster.

This type of exposure to logos could also encourage you to drive faster or get more upset if you have to slow down due to a traffic jam or accident.

In fact, being around fast food restaurants may encourage you to try speeding up all areas of your life. And at first, that may sound like a good thing. After all, so many people wish they had more time, and if you get things done faster, that gives you more time, right?

Maybe, but maybe not. The old adage “haste makes waste” exists for a reason. I know when I’m rushing, that’s usually when I spill something on my shirt or make some other mistake that I need to spend more time correcting than if I’d just done it right the first time.

But this impulse towards speed also has another major drawback.

Roses, what roses?

You’ve heard the phrase, “Stop and smell the roses,” but living in an area with lots of fast food restaurants makes that harder to do.

Again, this isn’t related to eating fast food, simply being around the restaurants. Researchers found that those who lived in areas with lots of fast food places had a harder time savoring experiences.

If you considering becoming more impatient and feeling the need to go faster because of seeing fast food restaurants, not being able to savor things makes perfect sense. You can’t slow down enough to truly enjoy anything if you’re always looking at your watch or thinking about what you need to do next.

Be aware and stay mindful

Knowing and being aware of these impacts can go a long way toward counteracting them. If you find yourself getting impatient or trying to rush through things, try to remember that this impulse may simply be a product of where you live or what you’ve seen, and that it’s okay to slow down.

This also makes being mindful when eating even more important. If you can slow down enough to cook something (even if it’s simple), think about where your meal came from, and appreciate the food, that will help you relax.

Then you can carry that more relaxed pace with you, so hopefully you can withstand the pressure to rush and savor other moments of your life.


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