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article imageOp-Ed: Fast food reduces your ability to enjoy life? Apparently, yes

By Paul Wallis     Jun 7, 2014 in Lifestyle
Toronto - Of all the information available about fast food, a new study may well be the most disturbing. The new study by University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management indicates that fast food can actually reduce your ability to appreciate pleasures.
Science Daily:
The findings revealed that people living in communities with higher prevalence of fast-food restaurants were significantly less able to enjoy pleasurable activities that require savoring, even when controlling for economic factors of the individual and the neighborhood. The study's authors propose that's because fast food can incite people to feel more impatient, diminishing their ability to slow down and savour life's simpler joys.
The working backup for this idea, ironically, comes from the fast food industry itself. High energy colours designed to keep people moving through fast food outlets, and a culture of “boom and zoom” eating on the run are very much in sync with this finding. The psychology of fast food, in fact, is pretty well known.
Initially, the trade-off of convenience for food quality didn’t bother anyone. The quality of the food, however, and the notorious “super-size” effect is turning fast food from a convenience for the public into an enemy. Add to this a food-induced fidgety psychology, and you have the makings of a real cultural problem, and a real disincentive for people who are tired of having their psychologies manipulated.
Conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) relate in part to attention spans. Impatient people, by definition, aren't necessarily paying attention to anything except the things they are being impatient about. Their attention deficits are induced, in effect, by local conditions. An almost universal impatience-inducing food culture, therefore, has an obvious impact on behaviors.
The remedy for this “frenzied food” psychology is simply to have a sit-down meal. The theory is that creating space and time for eating has the exact opposite effect. As a matter of fact, it’s also best dietary practice. Giving yourself time to digest is better for your digestion than instantly burning calories and running around all over the place.
The problem for the fast food industry is yet another negative perception. Parents with kids who have ADD are certainly not going to be enthusiastic about food which makes the problem worse. People who have digestive problems, (aka most of the human race, thanks to lousy, literally "half baked" dietary intakes and cheapskate, crap-laden semi- food products) are going to be even less inclined to buy food which upsets them mentally as well as in a digestive sense.
One of the more lethal findings of the research was this interesting indicator:
Pictorial reminders of fast food in its ready to go packaging were enough to raise people's impatience and interfere with their subsequent enjoyment of photos of natural beauty or an operatic aria.
However, study participants shown pictures of the same meals on regular ceramic tableware -- the kind you might use at home -- showed higher levels of enjoyment when experiencing these savoring activities.
If you’re getting the impression that the mood makes the meal, you’re quite right. Different environments, therefore different reactions, makes a lot of sense. The fast food industry is spectacularly out of position for suddenly reversing its culture. The average fast food outlet can’t afford, and isn’t geared, to turning itself into an haute cuisine restaurant. They don’t even have the space to do that. Imagine a McDonald’s full of slow eaters. It’d be a nightmare.
Exactly why things which people are supposed to enjoy suddenly become less enjoyable as a result of merely eating in one way or another deserves investigation. It may explain quite a lot about our endlessly neurotic society, and the pervasive general impression the quality of life is nothing like what it should be.
Do people get affected by simple triggers that make them ignore basic pleasures? Does this culture carry through to the “mindlessly busy” ethos of the workplace environment?
One thing for sure — society does not benefit from a large number of impatient people whose priorities are focused on hamburgers, rather than quality of life. More research obviously needs to be done, but it looks like a weak spot in human psychology has now been identified.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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