Unfortunately, it is true that habitual fast food consumption can lead to fast food obesity. While it's a convenient way to get meals on the run, there are also a lot of opportunities for unhealthy eating. It's not just the nutrition itself, but the unhealthy habits you form. "The Fast Food Nation" book summaries it well, saying we've all become accustomed to wanting things in life to always be right now and at our fingertips. That's clearly not the way to obtain the best nutrition, and this rapid method of eating can quickly pile on the pounds.
Healthy Choices Become Unhealthy
Even when you opt for the healthiest selections at our favorite restaurants, those healthy choices can easily become unhealthy very quickly. For example, salads start out healthy, but high fat dressings, croutons, bacon bits, fried proteins and other garnishes can quickly make your salad high in fat, sodium, sugar and processed ingredients.
Sodas Pack on the Pounds
While you choose the healthiest food selection at your favorite lunch spot, you also can't resist the soda or fruit juice that goes with it in the "value pack." Sodas are high in calories, sugar and have no nutritional value. Juices, if 100% fruit juice with no additives, may provide some nutrients, but are still very high calories (that can easily pack on extra pounds of which you are unaware).
Super-Sizing Becomes a Bad Habit
"Do you want to super-size that?" is an effective sales pitch that gets us to purchase more than we should be eating at a "better price." You've convinced yourself that it's the better deal. However, it defeats all your healthy efforts of portion control. We all typically eat larger portions of food than we need anyway. The idea of super-sizing being a "deal" is just a good way to trick you into the bad habit of overindulging--a sure way to watch the scale rocket up.
Hidden Sodium and Salt Abound
It's the best kept secret in the fast food industry--add sugar and salt to everything to make it a little more enticing. If it isn't bad enough that most of the food is oversalted in the cooking process, many of the sauces and breadings contain extra salt or sugar to help entice the taste buds of fast food eaters (used to highly sugared and salted foods).
Tastebuds Become Dull
As your fast food diet increases and your tastebuds become accustomed to additional fats, salts and sugars, you crave more of those unhealthy flavors that soon mask the true flavors of fruits, vegetables and whole grains that used to satisfy you. The effect is that you find yourself struggling not just to make nutritious decisions, but to say no to your newly developed craving for the unhealthy flavors.
Convenience Becomes King
Ultimately, we can become complacent in our meal efforts. Because the convenience of fast food fits our lifestyles so well, it becomes too easy to opt for it (than to shop and cook for ourselves). While our intentions started healthy, convenience wins in the end.
Occasional fast food eating doesn't have to mean you're developing a habit that can lead to obesity. But being aware of the fast food pitfalls, and not forming dangerous habits, will go a long way in keeping you on the right track.