Monday, December 10, 2012

Expatriate in a Fast Food Nation: A Year Without McDonald's

You might think it's kind of silly, but I am really sort of amazed at what has happened since I made my decision.

So, what's the big deal?  Well,  it's probably not a big deal for some of you, but I haven't eaten at a McDonald's in one year, and my children haven't eaten at a McDonald's in one year.

It wasn't anything I started out doing with any particular goal in mind.  It was just that every time we went past ANY McDonald's, Paige would get very excited and say, in a sweet sing-song voice, "Hello, Old McDonald's!  Hello!"  it was cute at first, coming from a 3 year old--but then I started thinking: my gosh, we eat at McDonald's at least once a week. In fact, I myself had probably eaten at McDonald's once a week, in some shape or form--whether it was for a Salad, a Sausage Biscuit, McNuggets, or Quarter Pounder-- since I was 18.  There was something very comforting about it, and no doubt I associated it with great memories of my childhood. 

The thing is, my childhood ended a loooooong time ago.  And it's not like I've eaten super healthy for the last 20 years. I'm pretty sure I was eating to try to get some of those really good memories back, because let's face it, certain food has that power.

So I thought to myself, is this what I want my daughters to get excited about?  And where is this going to lead them?  Are they going to be eating at McDonald's once a week when they get older?  Do I really want to lead them to that?  One question snowballed into another.

It was just one little decision, made as I was crossing an intersection, one random day last January.  I just thought, okay, let's see if I can stay away from it.  A week turned into two, two weeks turned into a month.  Then February came, and I hadn't even had so much as a taco at a fast food place.  After a few months, I thought, "hey, I bet we can stay away from McDonald's for a year!  I wonder..." and here we are now, a year later, no McDonald's!

Now, I won't lie and say I haven't eaten fast food in the last year.  Sure I have. What I am sointrigued by, however, is that by removing McDonald's from my options, I have not only reduced going out to eat over all, but I have begun to make much better choices at the now-shrunken list of VERY few fast food places we do eat.  When I ate at McDonald's, in my mind, any fast food out there was okay to eat.  I didn't care if it was Carl's Jr or Taco Bell or Jack-in-the-Box.  When I stopped eating at McDonald's, I became much more "discriminating" as far as that went; it wasn't a conscious effort, it really just naturally happened. 

How do I eat now when it comes to fast food?  How do my kids eat?

For one thing, we eat it maybe twice a month If that.  It just depends on what we're doing or where we're going. 

I haven't eaten a restaurant hamburger (fast food or otherwise) in a year.  And one of my favorite things to do in the past was to get a double quarter pounder with cheese (or double w/cheese from Wendy's), take off the bun, and eat it with a fork and knife.  I just haven't done it; it seems so weird to say that now.  

French fries are out.  Unless I'm at Sonic, when I get small tots, I never order french fries.  They're not good anymore, so to me, they're not worth the enormous calorie count.  

We generally choose Chick-fil-A or Whataburger, but there are decent options at Sonic and Wendy's, too. 

I don't ever feel obligated to get a "meal".  If I just want a drink, I get a drink.  If I just want chicken, I get chicken. There have never been any hard and fast rules. Just don't get me started about the Chicken Fajita Taco, my absolute favorite from Whataburger and just a little over 400 calories.  Best lunch/dinner ever! Have you ever had Wendy's chili poured over a baked potato??  It is DELICIOUS! 

Yes, I still eat like crap sometimes, but far LESS crappy than I used to, and that is such a huge step for me.  The decision to cut out McDonald's has encouraged me to make healthier choices, not perfect choices!  I am mindful (my word for 2013, btw) of the calories and sugar that I and my family are taking in.

Better yet, I am showing my daughters that attachments do not need to be made to fast food, and that ultimately we are in control of what we put into our bodies for fuel.  I really didn't want them to grow up thinking McDonald's is a staple food source in our lives, and yet, that is exactly what the executives at McDonald's Corporation want us all to think.  Does this mean I will never eat McDonald's again?  Never have another bite of a McRib or Quarter Pounder? Well, that's kind of silly, isn't it? I don't want to put myself under that kind of obligation.  However, if I don't, well, I don't, and that's just the way it is.

My new goal is to get my kids to eat the grilled nuggets at Chick-fil-A.  A step at a time!  We do eat our chicken first, and then they can have their waffle fries, but generally by the time they get through their nuggets they don't have a whole lot of appetite for fries, so I purposely remove about 1/3 of them before I give them to the girls.  They never know, and half the time, they leave some behind anyway.  

(BTW, Matt was not part of this, but by osmosis or association or whatever LOL, he severely cut down on ALL fast food and rarely ate at McDonald's)

So here's to a year of pushing myself even further.  Who knows with what I will next challenge myself?  Kind of exciting!