Oct 22, 2009

Caffeine, Refined Carbs, and Saturated Fats

Last weekend, out of boredom, and running out on DVDs I rented 'Super Size Me' from the school library. These movies (or sort of) are not my type because they always try to tell you something you like is bad for you. Well, my 2 year history of renting 2 DVDs every weekend had depleted the library collection, so I can either take them or watch pirated, grainy downloaded movies.

And it did told me that something I like is bad for me. No kidding, we all knew this coming since Mum and Dad start going 'organic' and all the family eats for dinner is steamed vegetables and steamed tofu. However, we still frequent the global chain store every now and then - friends gathering, birthday parties of our 3-year old nephews, just for a quick bite before a movie etc. Their idea is very simple - create 12 menus, mass produce lots of fries and contract Coca Cola to supply an unlimited fountain. Advertise aggressively, and get an entire generation (now approaching two generations) to live with it. In fact, thanks to them, we won't get hungry anywhere in the world. Just spot the golden arches and head in. And the familiar colors, scent and food will greet you within minutes.
‘Super Size Me’ is about a guy, inspired by two obese teenage girls' lawsuit against McDonalds, decided to try a 30-day regime of McD-only food to see if McDonalds is poisoning, fattening and causing disease to all its consumers. Needless to say the 30-day regime proved very harmful. The director/producer experienced constant mood swings, signs of addiction, chest pains, insomnia, gained a lot of weight (I can remember exactly how much), and blood tests showed liver damage resembling an acute viral infection.
The outcome is within my initial expectations. We all knew almost everything served under the golden arches is unhealthy - caffeine, fats, refined carbs, sugar and salt. But, after my first mid-term on Monday I questioned myself again and again - will you give it up completely? I found it difficult to yes.
McDonalds had been with most of us since we grew up - something like the cinema or the beach where you reward yourself once in a while. Every visit there after something gained - a victory, birthday parties, or a post-exam celebration had slowly shaped our minds into learning the Big Mac and large fries are rewards of hard work. We look forward to these rewards in times of hardships, and of course, when we abstain, the mind will wreak havoc for the weak-willed.
Is this an addiction, you ask? Well, psychologically this is simply a behavior we learned and memorized unconsciously ever since we're small. The same thing for our craving for fatty and sugary foods - milk that we drank from infancy to childhood shaped our brains into learning high fat food is associated with comfort and security (the ancient wiring of the human brain). Subsequently, when we experience depression or break-ups, we crave for this source of learned comfort - ever heard a simple way of losing weight is remain optimistic and cheerful?
However, as a responsible doctor to-be, and as discussed and agreed by the movie, fast food may provide a quick fill-up, it is not a sustainable diet. On average one meal at McD equals two home-cooked meals - so you can do the math yourself. Occassional indulgence is fine as long as you exercise regularly (3 times a week for 30 minutes minimum), and if possible, never up-size the coke or the fries. And forget about ice-cream if you want a six-pack.
Finally, to avoid our children becoming like us, avoid McD visits or make them a minimum. We are stuck in this mess, and have difficulty pulling of now. But we can teach them to rely less on such cheap, unhealthy comfort.
So, a Filet anyone?