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The Fast Choice is Rarely the Healthy Choice – for Your Relationships, Emotions and Body

As an intern in my twenties coming off a night of call with the weight of the hospital off my shoulders, I would crave for a hashbrown and Sausage McMuffin on my way home to sleep. Though my hunger was soon satisfied, I eventually recognized I wasn’t renewed by fast food and a quick nap.

We all know that fast food (processed, sugary, fried, fatty or salty) makes for poor fuel and nutrition. If we hold off the urge for a quick fix, we can let the craving pass and make a healthier choice.

The same holds for the other quick and convenient fixes that have become the habits and norms of daily life. Consider the “fast foods” of our friendships, activities, emotional needs and rest.

The Need for Real Friendships

A hundred Facebook friends or Instagram followers cannot replace a handful of good friends. You can have a long list of associates but most of us need just a few true blue friends for life.

Like fast food, fast friends may be interesting and fun, but they don’t provide the long term support and love we need over a lifetime. Your real friends are there when you need them, providing unconditional care.

They tell you what you need to hear – even if it’s not what you want to know. They see and bring out the best in you. Connecting through social media is no substitute for calling and meeting up with a best friend.

The Need for Meaningful Activity

Boredom can be quenched online. Binging on Netflix, watching endless YouTube videos and playing Candy Crush can fill the void with distraction. They consume attention and time but ultimately leave us wanting more.

Boredom signals for a need for challenge and meaning. Our brains were built to learn and our spirits crave for meaningful challenges. Satisfy your mind with new places and experiences. Enjoy the stimulation of a really good book.

The Need for Rest and Recreation

All work and no play make Jack and Jill burnt out.

We all need balance in our activities.

The internet is saturated with attention and time vampires. Another evening check of your phone or pad can lead to a late night. A Starbucks coffee or Tim’s double double are no substitutes for a good night’s sleep.

During a day of work or study, a change of pace with a walk, meditation or music can refresh you better than a shot of caffeine or nicotine. I’ve found that a quick lunchtime swim can energize a busy afternoon in the clinic.

The Need for Peace and Happiness

When you’re feeling down and distressed, what do you reach for?

It may be easiest to scroll through social media or play Candy Crush, vape, drink, smoke or get a dose of another favourite chemical. Again we may turn to our usual comfort foods.

Though these quick fixes may help us feel better for the moment, the effects are transient. None provide the lasting happiness or peace we really need.

Shopping in person and online may provide instant gratification but they ultimately leave us feeling empty. The joy of a new purchase never lasts.

What we ultimately need is meaningful activity and relationships. Take the time to reflect on where you devote your precious time and attention. Don’t settle for a quick fix.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. His articles appear in the Vancouver Courier, The Westside Post and Richmond News.