< Back to Blog

What “Fast” Has Done to Us (and How to Fix it)

A recent Alternet article featured some intriguing new research that suggests that fast food makes individuals impatient and strengthens their desires to complete tasks as quickly.

According to the study, exposure to fast food – thinking about it, eating it, ordering it, or simply seeing a fast food logo – leads to a desire to take the quickest path toward fulfillment of desires. Saving for retirement? Don’t drive by the golden arches. If you do, you’ll be more likely to splurge on short-term pleasures and blow your nest egg on a fast car or a pair of strappy Louboutins.

But what role does fast food play as a cause of these new cultural mores? Is it to blame, or is it just the run off of a fast track world?  “What we can infer from our studies,” the researchers say, “is that exposure to fast food and related symbols reinforces an emphasis on impatience and instant gratification, and that fast food can have a far broader impact on individuals’ behaviors and choices than previously thought.”

Devoted to & Consumed by Fast 

It’s the zeitgeist of the age: college grads have been stigmatized as wanting to make the big bucks rather than climb the career ladder (did someone say Wall Street?); our kids are blamed for having too much too fast when it comes to consumer goods and brand names; we text and email and wonder why no one responds within minutes (Are they terribly sick? In some sort of dire trouble?); and technology is based on instant gratification: why wait for the new iPad when you can get it the day it hits shelves?

Alternet’s research implies that through exposure to fast, we stoke our fiery desire to live fast. It makes sense that fast food – food that is available everywhere to eat at any time – is a cog in this wheel of impatience. Imagine – we can be biting a burger within seconds of asking for it at a fast food counter or drive-thru! What might seem like speed-of-light magic to other cultures and other ages is just a part of American life. Regardless of where the cause ends and the effect begins, it makes intuitive sense that our want-it-now culture is a monster that feeds on itself simply because we live in it.

Must We Accept the Fast Monster?

Slow foodies say no way. Here are some gateways into immersing in slow and beginning to counteract the tidal wave of fast:

First stop is Slow Food. Slow Food says it is attempting to renew America’s food traditions and regards Slow Food as an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It also deems itself a global, grassroots movement. You can find out more close to home by joining a local Slow Food chapter.

Next up is Slow Food International. This organization paves the way for those looking for other ways counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

Now you’re off and running. Remember too, slow food doesn’t have to mean waiting around for your food – the “slow” in slow food often refers to the way it is produced, not prepared, Alice Waters has said. See what this fresh, local food evangelist is up to now.

Get Great Recipes & More Each Month!

Sign up for occasional emails with recipes, health and nutrition tips, and more.