John Brown's fast-food sacrifice starts to pay off

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Quitting fast food has been a struggle for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver John Brown.

It was a staple of his diet -- or, better yet, it was his diet -- as a rookie and it caused his body to break down, made him to feel sluggish, hit a wall and get severe heartburn. So he stopped his visits to his usual places.

In March, however, the temptation was too great and he ate fast food.

"I actually was eating it and had heartburn," Brown told ESPN. "And once I got the heartburn, it was bad. I was kind of whining to my mom and she made me take the pills. And after that I was like, 'I'm done with it.'

"I'm surprised I left it alone for good."

He almost didn't.

After going about two months without the quick-and-easy meals, Brown was lured three weeks ago by McDonald's golden arches.

But he drove away before ordering.

"I'd think about it and the heartburn and how my body broke down -- just feeling the way I'm feeling -- I can't mess with it no more," Brown said.

Brown has seen a change in his body and performance since giving up fast food. He's learned how to cook and it helped him gain about 10 pounds of muscle.

Coach Bruce Arians noticed Brown reported to offseason workouts looking different.

"A lot more different," Arians said. "A lot faster because he knows what he's doing. He handles himself totally different."

Brown's strength is what stood out to Arians, who said the 5-foot-10 speedster doesn't get "knocked around as much as he did last year." The coach said Brown hit a wall around Dec. 1, which Brown blames on the fast food.

Brown's mother and his girlfriend have taught the 25-year-old how to cook, but it took as much effort as it did for Brown to quit eating fast food. In the past, whenever either his mother or girlfriend tried to get him into the kitchen, Brown said he'd run away. Brown's girlfriend recently spent a month in Arizona with him and spent every day teaching him how to cook.

It's saved Brown money and helped him stay away from "bad food."

His favorite dish to make for himself has become baked chicken, yellow rice and green beans.

"As I went to training and practicing and then coming back to OTAs, I felt a lot better and I feel real good about it," Brown said. "And a lot of players on the team see the difference."