Have you ever noticed how sometimes it’s harder to resist junk food than others?
One day you’re at the grocery store and don’t think twice about that triple chocolate cake as you pass by the bakery section. Another, you feel as though the glazed and pink frosting donuts (as subpar as supermarket donuts always are), sitting in their glistening plastic throne, dripping with sweetness and surrounded by lesser pastries atop a display shelf, are speaking to you in some strange language of seduction.
There are a lot of reasons for this, but the important point here is that the way your brain interprets that junk food in front of you (or in your mind) can change. And it just so happens that there are things you can do to create that change intentionally, thereby training your brain to “hate” or turn away from junk food.
Everyone would be healthier if they didn’t eat junk food.
– Robert Atkins
1. Make healthy food your treat– and note how it makes you feel
One of the easiest ways to leave the dark side of junk food is to notice how different types of food make you feel after you consume them.
For example, if you tend to get something sweet or fast for lunch, pay attention to how you feel afterward and note it down somewhere for a week or longer. Once you’ve done that, switch it up to something healthy but still enjoyable and note how your body feels afterward for several days.
Once you notice how healthy food makes you feel more energetic and alert and junk food makes you feel more lethargic and unfocused, it’s really hard to go back because you know that junk food is going to make you feel like crap. It’s all about increasing your level of awareness to the effect that the food you place in your body has on you, something most people don’t have.
2. Hide junk food, keep healthy foods on-hand
Part of why we like fast food is because it’s so easy. When we’re thinking about what to get for lunch or dinner (even breakfast), running through the drive-thru is always a quick and easy option.
That’s always hard to get around, however, if you set up your kitchen or office so that healthy food is easy and convenient to grab right when you know you’re going to need to grab something. This way, you’ll grow to prefer that healthy food because you’ve now taken away one of the biggest draws of it — the speed and convenience.
Of course, it takes work to prepare food and make sure you have snacks on hand, but by utilizing things like meal prepping, you can greatly minimize the amount of work necessary to prepare those meals and have them ready for when you need a bite to eat.
One odd way to train yourself to literally hate junk food is to have a super binge. What do you love? McD’s, donuts, ice cream? Go all-out and eat as much as you could ever possibly want — and then more.
You might not like the sound of this, but if you’re having a really hard time resisting junk food like this it’s worth considering. After super binging, you’ll be incredibly grossed out and not want to touch anything like that for quite a while, allowing you to then replace that hole with healthy foods that make you feel great, highlighting the huge contrast in how these foods make you feel and further supporting the shift.
4. Keep your trigger foods out of sight
Everyone has trigger foods. They’re those things that you love and find nearly impossible to resist. Maybe for you, it’s a juicy six-dollar burger from Carl’s Jr. or a box of Oreos at the market. Whatever it is, these are the greatest threat to your fitness and healthy eating efforts.
It’s best to just not keep your trigger foods nearby. However, that would only work out in a perfect world. Having said that, you can hide them if they’re in your home and avoid them when you’re out and about.
When you visit the supermarket, don’t walk down the aisle with said trigger food if you can help it. If you pass by Carl’s Jr. on the way home from work, start taking a different route. As mentioned, this isn’t a perfect system but it will certainly help.
5. Cut back gradually
This is the most basic tip on the list, however, don’t disregard it — it’s probably the most effective.
Sugar has an addictive quality to it, so does the right balance of ingredients as fast food joints strive so hard to master, so it’s no surprise why it can feel so hard to cut back when you’re steeped in the stuff.
When you cut back for long enough on unhealthy foods (especially sugar), your taste buds will feel like they’ve changed and you’ll no longer crave the same kinds of foods. Healthy foods like fruits and veggies will start to taste better and you might even be turned off by the heavy pleasures you once longed for. Plus, when you do feel a craving coming on, you’ll need less of said food to satisfy the craving, all-around making it far easier to manage the desire for junk food.
You could go for an all-or-nothing sabbatical from junk food but that’s rough and not likely to be successful. Instead, cut back gradually to the point where you barely even notice it.
The most common suggestion is to gradually cut back on how many packets of sweetener you put in your coffee over time. If you put three packets, start putting two-and-a-half this week. Two weeks from now, cut it to two and so on until two months down the line you’ve cut down on your sugar intake from your morning coffee by 50% or more.