Health problems caused by fast food are extremely dangerous. Before you finish reading this essay 5 people will be dead because of its effects. And I’m bearing the brunt of a string of terrible choices I made over the course of the last eleven months. Thinking retrospectively, I’m not entirely sure what drove these choices, but I’m now paying the price in full.

In the earliest months of 2020, I acquired a destructive addiction to fast food. Eleven months later, I’d spent almost two thousand dollars quite literally feeding this addiction.

In January of 2021, I received word from my doctor that the habitual consumption of junk food had taken its toll. If I didn’t take immediate action to turn back the clock, the health problems caused by fast food on my body would be long-lasting, and potentially fatal.

Fast food, rapid damage

Admittedly, I’ve never shied away from a quick ‘takeaway’, as we call them in the United Kingdom. As an adult, I’ve been more than partial to my fair share of kebabs, pizzas, burgers, and the real problem here, fried chicken. I wasn’t naive; I knew the damage that could be caused by eating so much fast food, but I often pushed those thoughts away. It wasn’t very often that I felt bad about demolishing a six-piece fried chicken meal.

However, a mostly sedentary life over the last year or so has ultimately led to considerable weight gain. I’ve always been quite a ‘stocky’ individual, but these days it’s more broad-bellied than broad-shouldered. It was all too easy to pick up the phone and open UberEats or JustEat to order a meal. Instead of wasting time cooking, I could have someone bring memy food, right?

I had too much time on my hands, and enough money that ordering food every few days wasn’t a problem. Finally, the addictive nature of the food itself proved to be the perfect catalyst to advance my self-destructive situation. The real issue, as I’ve stated, was fried chicken. It was one of the most affordable things on the menu, it was quick, and the local ‘indie FC’ place made some delicious food.

On average, a piece of fried chicken contains around 250 calories. And I’d eat three to six pieces every single time.

Word from the doctor

In the closing weeks of 2020, I started experiencing some symptoms that were less than pleasant. I was constantly exhausted, kept experiencing headaches, and often had a bad stomach. As you could have easily guessed, I weighed more than I ever had before, and my skin wasn’t faring too well. And yet, I was still ordering fast food whenever I felt hungry but too lazy to cook.

I went for a blood test in the final week of 2020, and it was just days ago that I received the news from my doctor. My cholesterol level was ‘dramatically and worryingly high for someone of my age’. To explain, I’m only 27 years old, and my cholesterol is abnormal and spiralling out of control.

More health problems caused by fast food

Now, I’ve obviously heard of cholesterol but I wasn’t really sure what that meant for me. It turns out that yes, it’s really bad news.

  1. Simply, cholesterol is a type of fat that exists in your blood. It’s manufactured naturally by your liver, but it’s also introduced by foods, with some having a much higher cholesterol content than others. It’s also worth highlighting that there are two types of cholesterol: LDL and HDL. The latter is beneficial for your body, as it removes pollutants and bad cholesterol from your bloodstream.
  2. However, the former is a damaging type of cholesterol, and it’s what heavily impacts the human body. Over time, high levels of this cholesterol will harden and clog your arteries, leading to heart disease and stroke. And what’s one of the leading causes of high LDL cholesterol? Fast food.
  3. Worse still are trans fats, which are artificially-created fats heavily employed in the manufacture of most unhealthy foods. They’re most commonly found in cakes, biscuits, microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas, and fried foods. Trans fats are one of the human body’s most aggressive enemies and are considered the worst type of fat you can consume. They rapidly raise levels of LDL cholesterol while actively suppressing HDL cholesterol levels.

Therefore, all of that chicken that I’ve been stuffing away for the last year has well and truly caught up with me, and for good reason. I’ve put myself in an extremely dangerous situation and have nobody to blame but myself.

What happens now

The good news is, cholesterol can be managed, but it requires a complete change of lifestyle. I have to take my sedentary self away from the desk and start exercising regularly, and intensely. I’ll also need to rework my diet and introduce the foods that provide high levels of HDL cholesterol. This includes high-fiber foods, oily fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts, and pulses.

The bad news is, you can’t guarantee this hasn’t already had a lasting impact on my circulatory or respiratory systems. The biggest killer in the world is heart disease, and mismanaged cholesterol is one of the leading causes. It’s estimated that in the United States, more than half a million people die every year from heart disease. That’s one person every thirty-six seconds.

That won’t be me.

I can change

When I walked into 2021, it was with a newfound determination to succeed. I started writing on Medium and decided to strengthen my online presence and freelance offerings. Within me is the ability to change myself; I’m fully aware of that fact. Although I’m not alone in trying to achieve this, I feel this journey of self-improvement relies on me, and nobody else.

One of the best things I’ve done in the past couple of days fully accepts that I have, or had a real problem, and an addiction. I accept that, and I realize that all I can do now is try to turn back the clock. There are hundreds of millions of people out there with similar circumstances to mine, and I hope an article like this wakes them up a little. This isn’t the end of the world for me, but it’s a serious jolt from reality.