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Confessions of a fast food junkie

By Staff | Feb 27, 2009

Something people might be surprised to know about me is that I’m a fast-food junkie.

I grew up 50 miles from the nearest fast food joint, and getting to go there was a real treat. Now when I’m within a three-mile radius of a popular fast-food restaurant, I can hardly resist. It’s a weakness of mine. My dad used to joke about having to fight the steering wheel every time our car came near a fast-food place.

I know the Big Mac jingle by heart. You know the one — “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce…”. I’ve left Burger King with one of those silly gold crowns made of flimsy cardboard. And don’t even get me started on which place has the best French fries.

I know how bad it is for me. I know all the problems with fast food, yet I covet those trips through the drive-thru lane like a kid at a candy store.

Just in case you weren’t aware of all the worst waistline offenders, Men’s Health magazine puts out a list every year entitled, “The 20 Worst Foods in America.” They break it down into a categories such as worst dessert, worst pasta, worst pizza, worst steak, worst sandwich and so on, including the granddaddy of them all. The worst food in America for 2008 is the Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries with Ranch Dressing. This well-deserved list topper is basically a heart attack on a plate with 2,900 calories, 182 grams of fat, and 240 grams of carbs. Those carbs alone would make the doctor who invented the Atkins diet roll over in his grave.

This weapon of mass construction is the caloric equivalent of eating 14 Krispy Kreme doughnuts, before your dinner arrives. Even if you split this so-called “starter” with three friends, you’ll have downed a meal’s worth of calories.

It would seem only natural for a magazine such as Men’s Health to focus on such a list. I read the list, and I’ve never tried any of the 20 worst foods in America, so could I really be doing all that much damage with the occasional Big Mac and fries?

A few years ago fast food restaurants were required by the government to post, or at the very least, make their nutritional information available to their customers. So ignorance is no longer an excuse.

I’m aware of the calories in a Big Mac. I’ve known the number of fat grams in a Whopper. But still I can’t stay away. I think if I had to find the power to give up fast food altogether I could do it, but I choose not to. I know fast-food is addicting. I realize regular consumption can cause serious health problems. I know fast-food addiction is a serious problem. I would never make light of how fast-food is a major culprit in the overwhelming obesity problem in this county.

But I’m really talking about an occasional trip that satisfies the casual user like me. I guess, in a way, it’s a comfort food for me. When I was a kid, it was a treat to make McDonald’s one of the stops on our trip from the farm to the big city.

As the famous movie line goes, “You had me at hello.” I guess you could say they had me at Happy Meal.

Mullally is a Tribune writer.

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