THE BLOG

Health in the Time of Fast Food

11/25/2013 01:45 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 05:59 EST

There was a time when I used to eat McDonald's. I ate a lot of it.

It started small. My parents got it for me as a treat every week. Friday after school was my four-piece Chicken McNugget, fries, and Coke night. I would rush home, my Happy Meal buried under my arm, throw it all onto a plate (no need to make it fancy), and sit in the living room, just living it up with my good friend, fried food. I look upon those nights fondly. They were the days before the words "bad for you" entered my food vernacular.

As time went on, my body was not able to process the fine, fatty goodness that I had loved as a child. Oh Lord, did it feel fantastic going down, but once it had taken its rest in my stomach and intestinal track, all hell broke loose. The pain, fear, and self-loathing spiraled out of control every time I put a Chicken McNugget in my mouth. I felt like I needed to go to confession every time I lost control and stopped beneath the golden arches to breathe in the sweet, succulent smell of McDonald's signature french fries. I'm not even Catholic.

At the time of my diagnosis, I knew that all of that had to change. My diet would no longer allow for McDonald's, KFC, A&W, or any of the other fast food conglomerates that had been a staple of my childhood. Raw, organic nutrition was the way of my present and future. Naturally, my first reaction was to cry.

How does a person begin to be healthy? The first step is to admit that you're unhealthy. That's easy enough. All of my doctors were telling me that was the case, so I could go along with that. The second part is a bit more challenging: Create an action plan. I'm a pro at creating plans for things that I have absolutely no intention in following through with, so that step was covered. The third is by far the worst: following through. I had forgotten that without the third step, the second step was meaningless. Panic set in.

The word "diet" is an ugly, ugly word, so I tried my best to eliminate it from my vocabulary. I tried to use the word "adjustment" instead, hoping that it would dissolve my mental block. That was just as awful. Nevertheless, I knew that this was all in the name of my well-being, so I made a commitment to myself. I would choose healthier snacks when I was hungry and make it a habit to carry these snacks with me during the day. I would prepare healthy, protein rich meals myself. Above all things, I would avoid the golden arches at all costs.

Wouldn't it have been nice if I had stuck to the plan? It really would have been. Within three weeks of the plan being made, I was in line for an Egg McMuffin, convincing myself that it was the siren's cry within the bowels of the restaurant that had made me do it. The nearest Catholic church was only a block and a half away, so I could make a stop there after work.

Three doctors, five nurses, and a nutritionist couldn't have told me what my body told me later that morning. I was so sick that I needed to leave work. It felt as though a gremlin had crawled down my throat and made its way into my stomach, clawing at the lining with its sharp little talons. Confession wasn't necessary this time. The sin was too great to be absolved, and I needed to atone for my terrible eating habits through good old fashioned karma.

Once my strength had returned, I cradled the plan within my malnourished arms and promised it that I would do better. I went back to the healthy snacks and did some serious research, finding substitutes for my old cravings. It wasn't easy and my body seemed to rebel at first, but in time, I not only adjusted to my "adjustment," I loved it. The healthy foods in conjunction with my yoga routines made me stronger and full of energy.

Most of all, I realized one very important thing: I had to forgive myself for my cravings. We all have bad habits, little addictions that creep into our psyche every time we feel low and want to feel anything else. McDonald's was mine, but with diligence, practice, and a little self-love, I was able to conquer the addiction and propel myself into recovery. It took time, but I'm proud of myself for doing it. Everyone should be proud when they find out what being healthy means for them.

I will admit, I wanted some McDonald's while I was writing this. Instead, you'll be happy to know that I am taking a bite of organic Greek yogurt topped with whole grain granola. It may not give me the immediate satisfaction of a fast food binge, but I can guarantee that I am going to feel a heck of a lot better afterwards. I still visit the memory of my four-piece McNuggets with fond love, but I think I'll stick to my granola and yogurt. In the end, I'd rather be healthy.