In relative terms, the easiest way to see your body disintegrate from one of a college athlete to one who cannot even finish 15 minutes of a workout is to take up smoking. Even when you quit smoking, the effects can linger for years unless you do something to reverse those effects.
It is hard to make the argument that eating fast food would have the same effect that cigarette smoking would, but I would make that precise argument. For several years during my late 20s, I lived one block from both a convenience store and a McDonald’s. On a nearly daily basis, I would stop by the convenience store to pick up a pack of Marlboro Lights and then swing by McDonald’s to pick up a meal.
Around that time, I was smoking at least two packs a day. My poor diet of McDonald’s (and Burger King and Wendy’s and so forth) did not cause significant weight gain, so it never occurred to me that I needed to improve my diet. I was always a lean person, and because I still had a distorted view of myself as some sort of athlete, the fact that my weight didn’t increase dramatically tended to bolster my view that I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
Super Size Me
In the famous documentary Super Size Me, the commentator noted that McDonald’s label some customers as “heavy users.” That was me. Among other facts were those related to the number of calories in a McDonald’s meal. For instance, you would have to walk seven consecutive hours to burn off a meal consisting of a Big Mac, Super Sized fries and a Super Sized Coke. Another fact was that only seven items on the menu at the time of the documentary did not contain sugar.
Obviously, obesity in general is a problem, but even when a fast-food diet does not cause obesity, the diet can zap much of your energy, endurance, and vitality. I can recall frequently eating a McDonald’s meal and then lounging for a long period of time after that. It never gave me much of a boost and instead provided false comfort. I was usually smoking heavily after I ate those meals.
The danger of fast food hit me after I quit smoking at the age of 31. My weight then was about 190. By the age of 32, I was 200. By the age of 34, I was 215. By the age of 35, I was 220. That was my weight when I nearly collapsed on a tennis court after playing for only about 30 minutes. When I finally decided to turn everything around in terms of my health and fitness, this college athlete’s body was 27% fat.
The Harm Isn't Permanent (or Doesn't Have to Be)
As with smoking, the harmful effects of a poor diet do not have to be permanent. However, as with smoking, I had to completely swear off fast-food restaurants and instead adopt a healthy approach to my diet. By my 36th birthday, I was back to 195, though more transformations to my body would occur when I adopted some other changes to my lifestyle.