How can you kick junk food to the curb? Many of us have tried and failed, and tried and failed, and tried and ended up binging on Big Macs blended with ice cream, etc.
What we usually do is say, after this bucket of KFC Chicken, I’m not eating this crap anymore! Then we purge our house of all things sugary, we eat salads and whole wheat for about three days and then cave in the first time we drive past a Taco Bell. Where is the will power, the drive, the ambition you had a couple days ago?
That’s because we try to stop eating junk food without thinking about it—without planning our escape. What we should do is worry about changing our habits. As Leo Babauta mentioned over at Zen Habits, forging new habits takes time and energy. If we want to kick our junk food habits we’ll have to give both. That’s why we’re going to:
- Only change one habit at a time
- Give each change at least two weeks to become ingrained
After all, we’ve spent years building up these habits; we can’t expect to take them down overnight. We’ll do it smart, slow and consistent and we’ll kick junk food to the curb.
I’m going to separate the tasks into kicking crap snacks, kicking fast food and kicking pop (soda to you philistines). Pick whichever will be easiest for you and do that first. A taste of success is incredibly motivating. Then do the one that will be hardest second while you’re on an upswing.
Kick the Pop Habit
This one’s probably the simplest. Not the easiest, but the simplest. You just keep downgrading every two to four weeks. Essentially switching terrible habits for bad and then switching bad for good.
- Regular to Diet: First switch from regular to diet pop and leave it at that for at least two weeks. I know that some people say diet is just as bad as regular but we don’t want to be fighting our caffeine addiction at the same time we’re fighting our sugar addiction. Remember we want to change habits in stages to have the highest chance of success.
- Diet to Caffeine Free Diet: If you do have a caffeine addiction this is where you’ll find out. You’re going to have about three days of feeling like a hangover mouth tastes while your body breaks the physical addiction. But stay on it for the full two weeks, we don’t want to change too much too fast.
- Caffeine Free Diet to Flavored Water/Water: Now we’re moving into healthy territory. If you can’t stand drinking water, I’m not going to lecture you. Just drink the flavored water with 0 calories they have now, it’s just as good (if you don’t mind paying for it). If you want you can use that as a jumping off point to regular water but either way you should be loosing weight and feeling better than when you were drinking pop.
Kick Fast Food
How about this:
- Start by saving all your fast food receipts for one week
- Now, place a jar by your bed
- Each night, empty your pants, wallet, or purse of all the fast food receipts
At the end of one week, you can add them all up and get a pretty good idea of how much you’re spending on this crap. Round that up to the nearest ten dollars and cut it in half. That’s how much you’ll spend a week from now on.
Take that money and put it in a Ziploc bag that you keep in your car. All your fast food will be paid for out of this fund, and when it dries up, that’s it until next week. This will force you to ration and make choices.
Let it sink in for two weeks and don’t forget to plan this out. Something has to replace all that fast food you’re suddenly not eating. I suggest:
- Keep something in your car to eat on the way home from work, like an apple or some nuts—something filling and always ready.
- Have some frozen meals ready at home so you never wonder what you’re going to eat tonight. If you can’t make them yourself on the weekend, try those frozen skillets—something balanced and quick.
Then, when this new habit is a part of you, cut that dollar amount again, and again, and again until you’re happy with how much (how little) fast food you’re eating. I think under ten dollars a week is okay for most people.
Kick Crap Snacks
The first step to kicking crappy snack foods is doing a food inventory. What do you have in your kitchen? Cookies, chips, candy? And what are you eating them for? Which are your comfort food? Stress foods?
Then we’re going to make a chart of all these snacks and for each one list a replacement snack. For example instead of potato chips, you could eat tortilla chips with salsa. Now you can switch a crappy snack for its healthier replacement. But no more than one every two weeks (pacing). Make yourself eat the new food daily so it becomes a part of your lifestyle and remember to snack before you get hungry.
It’s a pretty straight forward process but here’s a few tips to make it go smoother:
- If you have a craving for a crap snack that you absolutely have to give in to, buy an individual portion or eat just enough to satisfy your craving and throw out the rest. Keeping it around is crap-snack sabotage.
- If you have a sweet tooth, proportion something into bites and eat them after a healthy snack. For example cut a snickers bar into eighths and keep each individually wrapped in the freezer, then eat one after you’ve filled up on popcorn. That gives you that sweet taste without having to fill up that sweet crap.
The three keys to kicking junk food are planning, pacing, and sticking to it. Remember to take as long as you need to get these new habits ingrained, two weeks is a minimum. Better junk food free in one year than relapsing in six months.
By Garrett Whelan of DumbLittleMan