Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fast Food Conditioning

You are driving anywhere with your kids and suddenly they start.."I want McDonald's", or "Look Sonic!" or any number of fast food places until the din is so loud from the back seat you are tempted to use that age old parenting technique of "Don't make me stop this car!" What causes our kids to be so "addicted" to fast foods? Well, I think we do. The American diet is currently composed of take-out, fast food that is dangerous to our health. We all know this, yet we do it anyway. Why is that? Are we just stupid? We consistently refuel our bodies with nutritionally low grade products due to perception, I believe.
We think it is way more convenient to just stop by and pick up something on the way home from work or run out a grab a quick lunch to bring back to the office and eat over our desks. We believe this is not only faster but cheaper as well. After all, who has the time to cook? Plus, we as Americans overall have a general dislike of a culture of cooking. So, with all that being said, it has to be better for us, right?
Ok, here's the deal. Habitual behaviors come into play here with a vengeance. The brain is a funny thing. It creates "neural pathways",(just call them roads) based on what we learned as children. These set "roads" make it really difficult to change behavior, especially since we have been taking this road for 20 plus years. Many of us were conditioned as kids to prefer sweet or fatty foods as a reward or a treat. Case in point? The Easter Bunny. He brings chocolate candy! Birthdays are a celebration of cake and ice cream. Christmas and Thanksgiving send us over the edge on any diet with copious amounts of mashed potatoes, pies, cookies, cakes, high rises of candy' stuffing, and on ad nauseum. Our brains will prefer to take the road that relates feeling good with eating foods we are familiar with and that are high in fat, sweet and extremely high in calories. And the more we take this road, the more ingrained the turn becomes, so that our vehicles naturally go there almost on their own. Maybe it is time to take a new road once in a while. By doing this we will gradually build a new way home and a new road to health. If we as adults think we are beyond change, neurscientists confirm anyone can build new pathways just by sheer repetition. The brain learns. So, either we stop the clamor from the backseat for Mickey D's now or we are looking at a generation of grandchildren that may resemble the folks on that fated cruise ship in the movie "WAll-E". Make a change for you, but remember you are teaching you children every day simply by the choices you make. Teach them to take a new road once in a while. The scenery may be the best they have ever seen, and the destination can be better enjoyed if they are healthy when they get there.
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1 comment:

  1. just saw something is evening on 60minutes on "slow food" a women named alice walker(?) or something out of San Fransisco has taken on this fight for "nourishing the young generation" through fresh organics and working to get veggie gardens in the schools there for a class, a sort of new way to look at home ec! good timing ont he blog!