We’re scarfing down fast food to the tune of $110 billion per year, with more than 25% of the U.S. population eating fast food everyday. In the pursuit of the convenient quick fix, our eating habits mirror our instant gratification credit card habit.
With every delicious morsel of fried, fatty, salty, quick food we’re also taking one more bite toward depression and death. Those who make a habit of eating doughnuts, pizza, burgers and other fast food and commercially baked goods are 51% more likely to develop depression than those who eat little or none. The more you eat, the more likely you are to be depressed. You’ll be down in the dumps and will also cost your company and yourself plenty of money. Untreated depression costs the U.S. economy “$51 billion in absenteeism from work and lost productivity and $26 billion in direct treatment costs.”
On top of that cheerful little helping of monetary knowledge, fast food eaters are more likely to be single, have poor diets in general, work more than 45 hours per week, and smoke. Scientific research also specifically links fast food consumption to obesity and type 2 diabetes. Authors of one recent research paper estimate that the annual direct (medical costs from obesity and related diseases like diabetes, etc.) and indirect (missed work, transportation, etc.) costs to the U.S. economy from obesity are greater than $215 billion.
It’s not just monetary costs that we’re paying for our addiction to fast food. As a result of being overweight or obese, 2.8 million people worldwide die yearly. Additionally, 35.7% of American adults are obese and 17% of those aged 2-19 are obese.
We’re eating ourselves into depression and death on food that flavor- and nutrition-wise don’t hold a candle to healthier options. Why? Because it’s convenient and addictive. In other words, it’s a dependency and self-control problem. The more we eat, the more we want and the more reliant we get on others making food for us. We’re not disciplined enough to get up a little earlier, plan ahead a little farther, or shop a little more to buy and prepare food that nourishes us. We instead want the quick fix.
It’s a pattern we see repeated in our spending habits. Americans have more than $2.5 trillion in outstanding consumer credit (debt not secured by real estate). Around $1 trillion of that debt is in student loans according to the latest estimates, but the rest is made up from things like credit cards (more than $771 billion), home equity lines of credit, auto loans, and other short- to medium-term lines of credit. Like fast food, debt is also linked to depression. It makes sense, just like eating fast food consistently leads to dietary dependency, spending more and more leads to a lack of financial control.
We’re buying ourselves into debt and eating ourselves into the grave for instant gratification. It’s unsustainable and unhealthy, so what can we do about changing behavior?
- Look at things from the perspective of future you. Fast-food-eating, credit-card-abusing future you is a fat, sick, depressed, broke old fogie. Financially responsible, better eating future you is a still an old fogie, but he’s healthier, happier, and able to do what he wants cause he’s not in debt up to his eyeballs.
- Approach eating and spending habits from a cheap versus frugal point of view. Frugality values quality over quantity whereas being cheap leads to lowest cost dictating all spending habits. Sure it’s easy to buy fast food or pay with a credit card, but the health problems and financial instability are going to cost you heavily.
- Learn from the wise. Charles Dickens said, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”
- Understand that sacrifice leads to greater gain. Saving up for something or putting the effort into packing a nutritious meal delays gratification, but you’ll put more value on something you’ve waited for and you’ll taste the better results. Faster and easier isn’t always better and the ability to delay gratification is a sign of intelligence.