Seeing fast food logos and advertisements can reduce people’s capacity to enjoy life’s pleasures, says a new study. Canadian researchers found that, when people were exposed to fast food symbols (in particular, those of McDonald’s), they were less able to enjoy beautiful pictures of nature and also beautiful music.
Even though fast food restaurants are “designed to improve well-being by minimizing time spent on mundane chores,” just seeing the Golden Arches “may ultimately undermine the surplus leisure time they permit,” according to the researchers.
The reason? The very sight of fast food logos actually sets off “a sense of impatience” that can “prevent people from savoring the enjoyable moments life offers serendipitously,” as Julian House, Sanford E. DeVoe and Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto write in the study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Whether we are in a city or a suburb, or anywhere in the world, it’s hard to avoid seeing the Golden Arches, Starbuck’s green mermaid or advertising for fast food restaurants. Given the ubiquity of fast food businesses around us, we don’t have to eat a single French fry to feel out of sorts, according to the study.
A German artist in Cologne has an antidote. He’s been whiting out parts of fast food billboards and putting recipes on them, a straightforward way to remind people that, yes, there are plenty of other things to eat than a McProduct.
Instead of the “King des Monats,” the “king of the month” burger, the unknown artist suggests turkey and zucchini fried rice or spaghetti. As FastCoExist notes, “it just goes to show that while fast food companies may market themselves based on convenience, it really isn’t that much harder to keep some putenschnitzel (turkey) and zwiebeln (onions) in the fridge.”
Granted, fried rice isn’t the most healthy item to eat. But the artist’s “revisions” of fast food billboards more than make the point that “food doesn’t have to be super-processed to be convenient.”
Making your own meals takes time but doing so of course lets you know what is in the food you’re eating. If you’re someone who likes cooking, the simple tasks of chopping vegetables or stir-frying them can be relaxing in and of themselves. Being mindful while making your meal is the very likely the opposite state of mind that of a fast food worker frying up frozen potato strips and worrying about how they’re going to make a living wage.
“Chewing gum can reduce cortisol levels by 16%”; “At least two vacations a year can cut heart attack risk by 50%”; “Singing along to your favorite songs can lower your blood pressure”; and “People who attend more church services tend to have lower blood pressure.”
These suggestions for fast food employees to in essence “whistle while they work” more than suggest that working in a fast food restaurant for very low pay is not only stressful, but very bad for workers’ health.
In the time you’re waiting in the drive-thru line (and being bombarded by fast food ads) while some less than happy worker fills your order, you could be assembling the ingredients for a simple pasta dish with a salad that uses up your leftover vegetables. Which do you think will make you happier?
Photo from Thinkstock
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