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One of the primary reasons I started DevelopGoodHabits.com was figuring out how to improve my own habits.
Truth be told, like you, I have a few habits I'm hoping to improve.
The biggest of them is my overindulgence on fast food and take out food.
So, for November's 30 Day Habit Challenge (30DHC), I decided to stop eating this type of food and instead prepare all of my meals at home.
Side bar: One simple health habit you can build is to drink this superfood green drink, which gives you a boost of energy and supplies your body with the nutrients it needs to get through the day. (You can also read the review of it here.)
This change was pretty easy to maintain because I discovered a single habit that helped me avoid eating take-out and fast food.
Learn about that strategy and much, much more in this article…
30DHC Saying “No” to Fast Food and Take-Out Food.
Here’s an overview of this habit challenge:
#1 – Reason Why
While I eat fairly well most of the time, I definitely cave in to the “American diet” more than I should: Pizza, subs, Chinese food, cheeseburgers. You name it. If it's quick to eat, then I've probably ordered it in the past year.
Now, I've always been a healthy person because I have a thin build and exercise like a madman. But, this is also a detriment because I've developed the subconscious excuse that I can always “burn off” anything that I eat.
Unfortunately, I'm also getting older. The big 4-0 is on the horizon. Every year, it's getting a little bit harder to keep off the weight. Plus, I'm concerned about the long-term health impact of consistently eating food that other people prepare.
My logic is this:
If I can eliminate the habit of eating out when I'm hungry, I'll develop a more healthy lifestyle.
In a way, this would be a keystone habit that would (hopefully) trickle down into other areas of my life like increasing energy, maintaining a decent weight, running faster races and being more productive.
All of these can be great outcomes if I can be more conscious about what I'm putting into my body.
#2 – Description
My plan for this month wasn't very elegant. Really, all I did was stock up my fridge/cupboard and avoid buying any sort of take-out food. This includes pizza, subs, cheeseburgers and even Boston Market. If the food was prepared by someone else, then I couldn't eat it.
That said, I knew ahead of time that I would probably cave in once in a while. So, I made a simple rule:
No more than five take-out meals for November.
Now…every other Sunday, I watch the football games with my buddies where we eat pizza. I decided to give myself a “pass” for those days. So that left me with three potential slip-ups. If I did any more than that, then I'd consider this habit challenge to be a failure.
#3 – Obstacles
Ego depletion was my biggest obstacle in November. It was easy to eat healthy in the mornings and evenings because I had everything ready to go in my apartment. But, nighttime presented a unique challenge because I was often tired from working and running. Sometimes I wouldn't have a plan for what to cook or the required ingredients. When this happened, I caved in and ordered a quick meal.
#4 – Results: No fast food; no problem
Okay, so I built a ton of wiggle room into my plan…. but I made it. I ate 5 total take-out/fast food meals. The good news is most of this happened in the first week or so. After doing this habit challenge for 10 days, I happened on a simple strategy that helped me avoid junk food:
Spend 30 minutes once a week planning out your meals. Then go food shopping at least 2x a week to make sure you have all the ingredients that you need.
I'll admit this is a simplistic strategy. But, I found that having accessible food at all times made it easy to avoid temptation. When you know…exactly…what you'll cook ahead of time, you don't have a single excuse for why you're eating fast food.
Plus, it also helped to pack food in my car and in my backpack (if I decided to write at Starbuck's). Basically having a ready-to-go-snack with me at all times provided a quick fix for my hunger pains. Then all I had to do is resist the urge to eat anything else until I got home.
#5 – Verdict
I'm honestly surprised at how a simple habit like “plan your meals” had a such a positive impact on my diet. In theory, I'd like to use this new-found habit to improve my diet and energy levels as I move into the new year.
The #1 Way to Avoid Fast Food…
There you have it. Often, you don't need to rely on willpower to avoid certain foods. When you plan out your meals ahead of time and have the right ingredients, it's not hard to stick to a regimented eating routine.
Take the time to examine your junk food “habit triggers“. You'll probably notice they often occur when you're tired or uncertain about what to cook. If you plan out meals ahead of time, you'll know what to do whenever a temptation pops up. Simply ignore this impulse for five minutes and start cooking what you've planned for the day, then you'll avoid eating the junk food that's not good for you.