I eat and review fast food for work, and here's how I take care of my body

Irene mirror selfie fitnessIrene Jiang / Business Insider

  • I eat and write about fast food for Business Insider.
  • I'm often asked how I stay fit while constantly eating fast food for my job.
  • The answer is simple. There are five techniques, but all of them boil down to one thing: I eat and exercise in a way that makes my body feel good.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

I eat everything. That's my job.

As Business Insider's resident fry queen, I've tried the entirety of Costco's food court in one day. I've ordered, constructed, and consumed everything on the McDonald's secret menu - also in one day - and Chipotle's, too. I've eaten countless burgers, fries, fried chicken sandwiches, and frozen dairy desserts, all in the name of journalism.

Some days, I feel like a kid with a lifetime pass to their favorite candy store. Other days, I feel like a piñata stuffed full of said candy.

When I tell people about my job, they have two reactions. Reaction number one: "Wow, you have a dream job." Yes, that is correct, and I agree. Reaction number two: "Wow, how are you thin, and also how are you not dead?"

Now, I'm happy with my body, but I know I'm not Missandei-from-Game-of-Thrones-toned by any means. If anything, my body is a pretty average, mostly functional one. But I guess I'm fitter than many people might expect from someone who eats fast food for a living.

To be honest, even I expected to gain weight and experience a slew of negative health effects after starting this job. Surprisingly, I've remained exactly the same. In fact, I might have gotten slightly fitter.

But how? There's no magic. Here are the five secrets to my sameness.

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I taste food strategically.

I taste food strategically.

I get a lot of help from my team.

I usually limit myself to five bites of any given item, which is more than enough to come to a detailed evaluation. On a taste-test day, I will try to plan my bites so that I consume no more than I would for a normal meal. That helps me keep my calorie count on track.

If I'm trying six sandwiches in a day, I'll take two bites of each sandwich. If I'm trying two sandwiches in a day, I'll eat half of each. However, if I really fall in love with an item, I might eat more of it.

Read more: I ate the same meal at Texas Roadhouse, Outback Steakhouse, and LongHorn Steakhouse. Here's how they compared.

Afterward, I enlist the stomachs of my intrepid coworkers to help me consume and evaluate the leftovers.

Most importantly? I enjoy every bite — or at least try to.

I avoid fast food when I'm not eating for work.

I avoid fast food when I'm not eating for work.

Outside of work, I eat a primarily plant-based diet. I'm not vegetarian by any definition of the word, but when I'm not gorging on carbs and meat for work, I load up on vegetables and minimally processed foods.

I love to cook and I'm generally thrifty, which means dinner often ends up being simple home cooking. An easy favorite of mine is stewed lentils and rice.

Read more: I tried the plant-based burger Nestlé is launching to compete with Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Here's what it tastes like.

When I crave something fried or meaty, I remember that I'm inevitably going to eat something fried or meaty for work. No craving goes un-indulged — it just gets saved for later.

I try to walk at least four miles a day.

I try to walk at least four miles a day.

I like walking, so I walk when I can. After work, I often walk across the bridge to Brooklyn and take the train the rest of the way home.

Since I often hop from restaurant to restaurant, my job also involves a lot of walking. And the faster I walk, the faster I get to the food.

I also love stairs. When I can, I take them instead of the escalator. Bonus: it's faster to run up stairs than it is to stand on an "up" escalator.

I drink lots of water, constantly.

I drink lots of water, constantly.

In addition to the myriad benefits of staying hydrated, drinking water helps curb my snacking. It helps me distinguish between thirst, boredom, and actual hunger.

Remember how I love walking? Drinking lots of water also gives me an excuse to walk to the kitchen often and to go to the bathroom even more often.

I work out — occasionally.

I work out — occasionally.

I used to do Krav Maga five days a week. After I moved, I worked out for five days a week. But I eventually realized that this wasn't sustainable for several reasons:

  1. I wasn't giving my body time to rest.
  2. I was hungry all the time.
  3. I developed an unhealthy relationship with food. I'd count calories obsessively and work out to punish myself for consuming too many.

In the end, though, I'm glad I went through that phase because now I can recognize and avoid unhealthy ways of thinking about food and exercise. I learned that more activity isn't necessarily better activity.

Now, I go to the gym when I feel like I have extra energy, and I focus on activities that I enjoy. I work out to feel good, not to look good.

In the end, everything I do is about making sure that my body feels as good as it can feel. I stay active in a way that's both enjoyable and sustainable. I eat that way, too.

I fully believe that fast food can be part of a healthy lifestyle in the way that cereal can be part of a complete breakfast — in careful moderation and supplemented by exercise and other more nutritious plant-based foods.

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