How to Stop Eating Fast Food: Take the 30-Day Challenge

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One of the primary reasons I started 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.

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

Keep it!

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.

Finally, if you want to focus on a great HEALTH habit that increases your energy and helps with your weight goals, then take 30-seconds each morning to prepare this drink to feel energized throughout the day.

9 thoughts on “How to Stop Eating Fast Food: Take the 30-Day Challenge”

  1. You should also have a few, 2-3 default meal options that are easy and fast to make, as well as healthy. That way you can always default if you forgot/lost your list/your phone battery ran out. I have an easy meat salad that can be made with both chicken/pork and even beef. Then there’s the really easy bolognese with whole grain pasta. Helps out when I’m cooking for just myself and I can’t really be assed to plan anything that takes effort.

  2. I have another hany ‘habit’: get married 😉
    Leaving jokes aside: yes, planning your meals is very helpful as well as the regular diet. It is no brainer for me to pick up a snack. I eat a cottage cheese, carrots and fruits every day. I have always stacked them in my drawer at the office.

    • Yeah, healthy eating and avoiding the snacks is something obvious and easy. But it is also something I have always struggled with. I have never been too bad quantity wise, but it is a challenge for me to avoid at least a little of the snacks from time to time. I know what I need to do -doing it is where there can be problems. Going to keep the habit up and be be better, though!

  3. Hi SJ,

    This was an excellent post, my friend.

    The more I think about it, the more I can see that the times I eat fast food are those when I’m tired, just as you explained in your post.

    What you explained about planning and preparing our meals in advance really makes sense, as a great way to avoid binging on fast food.

    Thank you for sharing.

  4. I used to live on my own and since I did not really like cooking (I tried initially but failed) so it was more convenient to just buy food from fast food and the like. Now with my family around, food is served at home. And so it’s easy to follow this habit. My challenge, however, is how to eat healthy especially in the evening which is supposed to be my no-carb and light meal. How can you resist a home-cooked food prepared by my wife who cooks awesome food!

  5. I can totally relate to the above comments & really enjoyed the article. Food addiction/ compulsive eating also plays a part in all this too. Some of us are simply addicted to fast food, junk food, sugar & or salty crunchy snacks as well as are emotional eaters. While the advice listed above is very good, many of us need more help in avoiding these trigger foods… Addictive/ compulsive behavior is a major contributing factor in “bad habits”, however creating a food plan & preparing for emotional & physical triggers are key to success. For more information on food addiction, visit: compulsive eaters

    • Thanks Lisa,

      You are right. These are sensible approaches that work -but for serious compulsive eating disorders there will certainly need to be more specific work done. It is more about healing the mind and the root causes of the problem, than gaining a few habits.

  6. I eat a pescetarian diet so eating fast food leaves me with little choice, however there are days when I crave a Fillet o Fish (worst!) ,large poutine, or a large pizza from Dominos. So there were two habits I developed to overcome it:

    1. The Sunday before the coming week I would make 1-2 “quick” meals and freeze them for the coming week. This was often a gluten free pizza, sweet potatoe and black bean burgers, warm shrimp salad. You can substitute this for whatever meals you like, the point will be to create meals that are easy to prepare (thaw and heat up!) on those nights you get home late or are too exhausted to even look at a pan.

    2. I set out a Take Out Jar and said to myself every time I sit down to think about ordering in, or grabbing a drive through takeout, I’d have to immediately put $20 into the Take Out Jar. $20 because it’s the average amount of a cheap take out typically spent in my 2-person home. The reasoning behind putting the cash in the jar is that when I typically thought of ordering in, my mind was instantly made up and if I was committed to spending that $20 on takeout, I could commit to adding it to the jar. At the end of the first month I had over $300 in the jar :O

    • Thanks for sharing your own habits LJ. Wish I had enough willpower to be a pescatarian myself, but I just don’t. I like meat too much, so best I can do is limit it -not give it up entirely. Mad respect for those of you who can however!

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