Real Talk: When You Eat Junk Foods, Your Mental Health Suffers

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When I was young, I was always upset with my Mom for not letting me eat junk foods. The kids at school often had chips or juice boxes for lunch, while I usually had a ham-and-egg sandwich, baby carrots, and freshly squeezed orange juice or water. When she gave me $10 once, and she found out that I blew it all on chocolates and fries. Because of that, I was not allowed to bring extra money to school. 

When I became a teenager, I thought that Mom would give me a little freedom when it came to the foods I ate. After all, most middle or high school students could hang out with their friends at parks and eat whatever they wanted together. Unfortunately, my mother encouraged my friends to visit our house whenever they wanted and prepared homemade meals every time. She even lured them by installing a makeshift theater and gaming center at home.

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I had been told my entire life that I was lucky for having a mother who wanted to cook everything from scratch. It was incredible how her meals often tasted well. A friend even said, “It would be lucky to see my Ma in the kitchen once a week. She typically ordered pizza for lunch or dinner.” Despite all that, I felt like my friend was the lucky one because she was free to eat any junk food in the world.

While looking for possible colleges before my high school graduation, Mom tried to coax me to apply at NYU, which was closest to our home. It meant that I wouldn’t need to live with strangers at a dorm and that I could still eat healthy meals three times a day. If you followed my train of thoughts from the beginning, you would know that my answer to that was a resounding no. Despite Mom’s discouragement, I worked hard on my application for UCLA, which was on the other side of the coast. When I got in, I could not express how excited I was; I merely packed my bags and counted the days until our flight to LA.

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A Life Filled With Junk Foods

Mom spent an entire week in California when I moved before the semester started. It was not because she could not part with me – her only child – but because she wanted to scour LA for restaurants with healthy food selections. My mother dragged me to every shop that she found on Yelp and even got their delivery numbers so that I would not have an excuse to eat unhealthily.

Despite Mom’s efforts, though, I kept my fingers crossed behind my back when she made me promise to eat at those restaurants. As soon as I saw her going to the airport, I went to the first fast-food joint that I found on the way back to my dorm: McDonald’s.

At McDonald’s, I must have looked like a little kid who learned that Christmas came early because I could not stop grinning while waiting on the line to reach the cashier. It was the first time that I went to a fast-food chain for the record, so I was genuinely excited. When the cashier asked what I wanted to order, I said, “Give me one of everything please.”

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I did not care if my entire order occupied two tables; I paid no attention to the weird looks that other customers gave me. They probably wondered how a petite girl like me could finish everything. The truth was, I couldn’t. After eating a couple of burgers and what felt like a bucket of fries, I was almost already in a food coma. I savored every greasy bit that I could stuff in my mouth and had the rest of the food packed. Then, I worked my way through the chicken, spaghetti, ice cream, and more burgers for lunch, snacks, and dinner that day.

Did I act like a glutton? Yes. Though I didn’t eat that much again, I continued to eat junk foods every day for two semesters.

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How Junk Foods Affected My Mental Health

I thought that my love affair with fast foods would be everlasting, to be honest. It was my guilty pleasure, and Mom did not suspect a thing. However, after a couple of months of living like that, I started to gain weight

My clothes did not fit anymore, so I wore sweatpants and hoodies whenever I went out. My self-esteem began to decrease because of that, but I had no energy to try losing the excess fat. So, I buried my depression under burgers and fried chicken and pizzas. 

When I went home for the holidays, I could not hide the reality from Mom anymore. She scolded me for not listening to her, of course, but she forgave me and cooked healthy meals for me again. I also decided to transfer to NYU so that my mental health could hopefully become stable.