How Fast Food Signs Can Make You Overeat

When “fast foods” were first introduced to the world, the idea was simple: quick and cheap foods would allow people to eat a meal on-the-go and move on to complete their work. This, it was believed, would help increase efficiency levels.

The idea proved to be appealing. Today, the consumption of fast food in America has jumped 500% in the last three decades. And with the passage of time, the brain has learned to recognize fast food signs as an indication to hurry up. According to a study done at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, just the sight of a familiar fast food sign can trigger impatience.

During the study, participants were exposed very briefly to a leading fast food chain’s logo. Soon after, they were assigned simple tasks. The results were telling: these participants read a book faster and chose time-saving products such as a two-in-one shampoo. Researchers connected this behavior to the subconscious message given off by the sight of the fast food sign: Hurry up!

Why is this bad for our health? When we order in a hurry, our nutrition can suffer. We might make more rash decisions to consume high-calorie foods.

But it does not stop there. Driving into a fast food restaurant is only the first step toward eating a high-calorie, unhealthy meal. Those items we order can sabotage our health further, suggests another study conducted at the UT Southwestern Medical Centre in Dallas.

This study found that foods high in fat–especially those that contain beef, cheese, butter and sugar–inhibit our resistance to insulin and the hunger-suppressing hormone, leptin. As a result, the brain is unable to communicate to you that your stomach is full and that you should stop eating.

No wonder chains started offering a “super size” option.

How do you feel when you see a fast food sign? Does any of this ring true for you?