We call it junk food but we keep eating it. We know it is unhealthy but we keep buying it. There is something inside our mind that cannot make us avoid McDonald’s French fries or KFC chicken wings. We prefer to drop into one of those fast food restaurants, set all over the UK, instead of cooking something healthy. People call it lack of time, I call it lack of interest and information.

There are a lot of statistics that show how dangerous it is eating fast food. The first evidence, from the National Obesity Observatory, shows that adults who eat this kind of food have an excess of sugar and fat that can cause diabetes, hypertension, and certain cancers. The same happens to children: in the UK, around one in five children aged 5-15 are overweight. This is, in particular, because of takeaways, that are full of fat and salt, but low in fibre, fruit, and vegetables.

There are plenty of documentaries and films that show the problems that fast food can cause. One example is the very famous American documentary Super Size Me. After one month of eating only McDonald’s food, Morgan Spurlock perpetually felt tired, hungry, and he became addicted to this type of food. It had the power to make him feel happy, and it changed all his nutritional values. This documentary makes us aware that there are 30,000 McDonald’s restaurants in 100 countries and it feeds 46 million worldwide daily, that’s more than the whole Spanish population. 

In 2014 the density of fast food outlets varies between 15 and 172 per 100,000 of the population, a very large amount. On my way to university, I see the street overcrowded with fast food restaurants. The University of Cambridge carried out research regarding the prominence of fast food establishments. They took 5,442 working adults (26-62) who live in Cambridgeshire, and asked them to look at the fast food outlets close to their work place and their homes. The researches revealed that these people are exposed to 9.3 takeaway food outlets at home and 13.8 at work. It shows that the more fast food restaurants are located near your job the more are your chances of struggling with obesity. Moreover, fast food, encourages to ‘Go Large’ and pay for a larger serving for only a few pence more. But not so many people know, for instance, that half a gallon of soda (1.89 lt), is equivalent to forty-eight teaspoons of sugar.

UK research that has been carried out has found that creating a restriction of the number of fast food outlets around offices and homes can combat obesity. But, of course, these outlets do not intend to close: they are making large sums of money. In fact, British people spend, on average, £1,320 per person annually on fast food restaurants, buying 12 meals every month, with Londoners spending more then double the national average on takeaways every month. 

On the other hand, it is also true that nobody tells you to eat junk food: you eat what you want. In fact, there are many alternatives that should be taken into account. People usually have half an hour for a lunch break, and so prefer to buy food from the closest fast food outlet that, of course, will be full of fat and sugar. It is very interesting what Kellie Hill, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner at The Right Plan, says regarding this: ‘As the number of restaurants and restaurant visits have increased, so has chronic health problems and obesity rates. Restaurant portion sizes have quadrupled in the United States. The solution is to take back your kitchen, packing healthy lunches and snacks’.

In the UK the biggest consumers are 25-34 year-olds. Forty-nine per cent of this age group, who spend £2,626.92 a year, buy this food because of lack of time, or lack of inclination to cook at home. 
But it is also true that simply making a couple of sandwiches or packing last night’s dinner remains is a very quick, easy, and cheaper alternative. 

At school it is the other way round: children who eat school meals tend to have a healthier diet than those who eat takeaways or packed lunches. But the decision to eat school meals decreases when children go from primary to secondary school. In fact, most secondary schools allow children to go out for lunch, giving way to more of a likelihood for obesity. To overcome this problem, the government has been urged to scale back the large number of takeaways near schools, to create a healthier environment.

Another factor that has to be taken into account is social class. It is a common perception that poorer individuals eat unhealthy food, however, a new study from the University of California has discovered exactly the opposite. In fact, they have found that the higher the income, the more families buy fast food.

People eat to ‘refuel’. According to Ritzer, research found in 2011 indicates that ‘McDonald’s is a place to fill their stomachs with lots of calories and carbohydrates, so that they can move on to the next rationally organized activity. Eating to refuel is far more efficient than eating to enjoy a culinary experience’. This is why people keep buying it: it is easy, you do not have to put in any effort, and it has a good taste.

The pleasure of eating is ending. People are continually rushing in day-to-day life, and have no time to sit and enjoy a healthy meal. Indeed, ‘Slow Food’, a non-profit organisation, founded in Italy in 1989, is trying to promote people to eat healthier meals, and make time for them. Slow Food are working to help people enjoy food through the understanding of its taste, quality, and production. It is a big step, but the statistics are clear: people prefer eating fast food.

Health is not a joke, what you eat has a great importance on your life. As Virginia Woolf in A Room Of One’s Own (1929) claims: ‘One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well’. Start today, and change your diet.


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