You wake up each day with the best of intentions, only to be foiled by junk food and fast food over and over again. Do you think you need more willpower and discipline? Do you think you just need to diet harder? It’s none of the above. Here’s how to stop eating junk food and fast food so much and finally get a body and life you love.
I’ve talked at length about a concept called evolutionary mismatch.
Basically, it’s the idea that our current environment does not match our genetic expectations and it’s one of the primary reasons why so many people struggle with junk food and fast food consumption.
You’ve probably also heard claims like “sugar is addictive as cocaine” and “junk food is addicting.” I prefer not to lend food that much power. Yes, there are some problematic features to junk food and fast food, but suggesting they cause addition and comparing them to cocaine is untrue and unhelpful.
To be clear, junk food and fast food aren’t boogey men. If you eat them too much, you’ll suffer negative consequences. If you eat them occasionally, nothing bad will happen.
That brings me to an important point before I teach you how to get in control of your junk food and fast food cravings…
You Shouldn’t Want to Stop Eating Junk Food “for Good”
The goal is not to abstain completely from junk food and fast food for the rest of your life. Doing so would represent a level of perfectionism that’s not healthy and would most certainly trigger your Inner Rebel, making junk food and fast food more appealing.
Healthy people with a healthy relationship with food eat “junk food” and fast food occasionally. They just don’t make it the norm. Their diet consists primarily of real food and then they eat treats every now and then.
That’s a better model to aim for than “I’m never eating junk food again.” Trust me, you don’t want to turn into a health nazi or a psycho perfectionist.
With that said, let’s talk practical tips…
11 Tips for How to Stop Eating So Much Junk Food & Fast Food
Below are eleven tips you’ll want to consider if you struggle with eating junk food and fast food, inconsistency in your eating habits.
I also did a podcast episode on this topic that you can listen to below or download for listening on the go…
Tip #1: Get in Touch With Your Inner Rebel’s Drive to Eat Junk Food
Okay, so the first question is, “are you driving your inner Rebel crazy?”
The Inner Rebel is an internal persona that fights against oppression. Whenever you find yourself in oppressive situations, your inner Rebel’s job is to stand up for you and lead you out of that situation and back to freedom.
Dieting puts a lot of rules and restrictions on your behavior, which feels oppressive. It also tends to neglect things your body needs, which creates a physiological rebellion.
This is a common Inner Rebel trigger.
When the Inner Rebel takes the wheel, it manipulates your behavior. For some people that looks like bingeing. For others it just looks like a lot of inconsistency.
You might think that this is where you need to double down on willpower or discipline. But that never works. Willpower and discipline both represent the force of will. It’s another oppressive state that further triggers the Inner Rebel.
In other words, willpower and discipline make things worse.
What you need to do is ask yourself, “Am I putting too many rules on myself? Is there too much restriction here? Is there not enough enjoyment?”
That’s part of what we do in Total Body Reboot. We free you from the dieting model and teach you how to look great and feel great for the rest of your life without obsession, perfectionism, or the misery of conventional dieting.
Success is all about having a healthy relationship with food, body, and Self. The healthier these relationships are, the less you need willpower or discipline or a micromanager approach to food and fitness.
Tip #2: Control Your Blood Sugar to Control Junk Food Cravings
This is a big one because you can have the best of intentions, but if some of the foods that you’re eating are putting you on a blood sugar roller coaster.
When you’re on the blood sugar roller coaster, your body freaks out multiple times per day. It triggers you to seek fast sources of energy, typically sugary, nutriionally-poor, hyperpalatable foods.
If you can stabilize your blood sugar and keep it stabilized throughout the day, you’re gonna find that you’re automatically much more consistent. Your body won’t be going through periods where it’s screaming for fast energy.
Now, the question is, “How do I stay off the blood sugar roller coaster?” Well, the simple answer is to stick primarily to non-starchy, low-sugar real foods.
People write to me all the time and tell me that they can’t stop eating junk food. I ask them what they had for breakfast and when they send me the list I see that they’ve basically been pounding cereal, whole grain bread, and a high-sugar drinks like Naked Juice.
They think that’s all “healthy” stuff. It’s not. It’s a blood sugar disaster that’s going to send them to the vending machine at 10am (if it doesn’t put them to sleep at their desk first).
This kind of stuff has to stop if you want to be successful. We have a handy cheat sheet that’ll help guide your real food selection that you can download here.
Tip #3: Commit to Truly Healthy Eating At Least 80% of the Time
Knowing what real foods are and choosing them consistently is important for more than just blood sugar regulation.
I’ve talked a lot about a concept called nutritional poverty in the past, which is something else you should consider if you’re struggling with junk food cravings.
If you are eating a bunch of food that you think is healthy, but is actually quite low in nutrition, you’ll start to starve your cells of micronutrients.
This is very common among people who just slash calories and try to moderate their eating. So, you’re eating all the foods you used to eat, you’re just eating less of them. The old Weight Watchers approach, basically.
If you do this for a long time you get to a state of Nutritional Poverty where you have plenty of food, but you’re actually starving in terms of nutrition.
Your body is not getting the nutrients it needs, so it signals for you to go eat more (even if you’ve eaten to caloric excess).
To avoid this, and calm your hunger and cravings at the cellular level, you have to bring in more micronutrients through food that’s nutritionally rich.
Again, our free Real Food Playbook will help you with this.
Tip #4: Protect Your Resources and You’ll Eat Less Junk Food & Fast Food
Consistently making productive, intentional decisions requires a certain level of physical, mental, and emotional resources.
What drains those resources? Stress. Busyness. Lack of rest.
When your resources are depleted, you turn to convenience foods. And, as we know, convenience foods are typically processed, hyper-palatable, and nutrient-poor – a recipe for nutritional poverty and the blood sugar roller coaster.
This is an important point. Not everyone who struggles with consistency is an emotional eater. Some people are just so busy and scattered that they don’t have the time or energy to invest in making great decisions and sticking to their healthy intentions.
To fix this, take an audit of your schedule. Take an audit of all the things that you’re responsible for. Take an audit of the things that drain your physical, mental, and emotional resources.
If you can cut down on the busyness and recover some of these resources, you’re going to be able to make better decisions more consistently. That’s all there is to it for some people.
Tip #5: Fix Your Relationship Between Junk Food and Exercise
This is a big one.
Most people who are struggling have a relationship with exercise that’s very oppositional.
In other words, they see exercise as a means to an end. They have a weight loss goal. They have a health goal. They have a fitness goal. And they know that they’re supposed to exercise to reach these goals.
So, what do they do? They choose activities that they think are going to be highly beneficial to those ends.
But, they don’t take anything else into consideration.
Ask yourself the following questions about the workouts you typically do…
- “Do I enjoy what I’m actually doing or is this activity awful and painful?”
- “Do I have to force myself to do this stuff or am I really excited to do it?”
- “Was this my idea or someone else’s? Where did this idea come from?”
People who have a healthy relationship with exercise tend to engage in activities that they genuinely love. There’s a high degree of intrinsic motivation.
Because of this, these people also tend to care about how they perform in their workouts and fitness activities. This creates a direct link back to diet – to the food you’re eating.
When you engage in physical activities that you love, this feeds your motivation to eat well and avoid junk food.
It’s not a magic bullet, but it’s a powerful contributor to consistency.
A “means-to-an-end” relationship with exercise creates the opposite and contributes to inconsistency. If you miss a workout, you head right for the junk food. One failure leads to another.
If you eat junk food, you might decide to skip your workout, too. Or, you decide that you need to be punished, which creates a lot of stress and emotional baggage that you’ll medicate away at a later date when things aren’t going so well.
If you have a relationship with exercise that’s not serving you right now, you can start to fix it with our free guide: “Fitness Sanity.”
Tip #6: Fix Your Sleep – People With Bad Sleep Habits Eat More Junk Food
My wife and I just had our third baby.
I can be in bed for 8 hours, but I can tell you that I’m not getting anywhere close to 8 hours of sleep.
II get woken up by the baby a few times a night. And then I get woken up by my two-year-old at least once.
My five-year-old sometimes comes in to my bed in the middle of the night, too. Then she proceeds to bump into me and kick me.
So yes, I’m in bed for 8 hours. But the question is, “How much sleep am I actually getting?”
It’s not eight hours of sleep. It’s more like six. Maybe five a lot of nights.
Because of this, I have to understand that my hormones – namely insulin, leptin, and ghrelin – are going to be pretty whacked out.
Insulin, of course, helps to regulate blood sugar. Leptin is a satiety signaling hormone. And ghrelin is an appetite stimulant.
Here’s the problem with poor sleep…
It screws up your insulin sensitivity, decreases the effectiveness of leptin by about 20%, and increases ghrelin production somewhere in the neighborhood of 30%.
In layman’s terms, I’m 30% hungrier, 20% less able to feel full, and have blood sugar regulation issues on top of that. All because of poor sleep.
If you know you have poor sleep, this is really something to take a hard look at. It’s absolutely going to cause cravings for junk food as well as other issues.
Tip #7: You Can’t Stop Eating Junk Food if You’re Medicating With Food
For many people (about 2/3, according to our research), food is consistently used consistently for comfort, control, and/or coping purposes.
This is not a challenge that can be overcome with willpower, discipline, or dieting.
If food is a stress or emotion-related coping mechanism for you, you will always struggle until that issue is dealt with.
You can’t avoid it. Our modern society is structured in a way that creates an endless stream of inputs that can easily overwhelm your emotional metabolism.
These stressors and triggers will give you a great excuse, almost daily, for why you need to turn to junk food.
Here’s the bottom line:
- It will never go away on its own.
- You will never be successful until you tackle this problem head on.
- It can be fixed.
If you struggle with stress or emotional eating (including binge eating, overeating, undereating, excessive micromanagement of your diet, etc.) then you need to stop what you’re doing and go through our Decode Your Cravings program.
Decode Your Cravings is a three-part guided program that ends emotional and stress eating patterns in your life and helps you achieve rock-solid consistency by healing your relationship with food, body, and Self.
Solving this problem is our specialty and Decode Your Cravings is the most powerful program online for finding success in this area.
Tip #8: Fix Your Environment and You’ll Naturally Avoid Junk Food
If the place you spend the most time – home or work for most people – is stocked full of junk food, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to be successful under these circumstances, but it definitely complicates things.
For people who have a healthy relationship with food, this isn’t a problem. Unfortunately, most people who are struggling don’t have a healthy relationship with food.
The ultimate goal is to get to a mindset-place where your environment doesn’t matter. You want to have the ability to be successful regardless of the circumstances.
That’s our end goal for every single client we work with – you want to be a normal person who doesn’t always need special circumstances in order to exist and succeed.
But what about succeeding in the short-term? How is that accomplished?
- Changing whatever aspects of the environment you can change.
- Doing work to improve your relationship with food.
- Having a support network to help you through tough times.
- Having sound ITM (“In the Moment”) tactics to maintain consistency.
- Improving your emotional metabolism.
You were probably hoping for an easy answer, but there isn’t one. Trainers and coaches around the world try to give easy answers like “willpower” and “discipline” and “accountability,” but if those things worked, everyone would be successful.
There’s work to be done, that you have never tried, that will lead you to success. It’s not easy, but it works. And it works for good.
Tip #9: Stop Dieting & Increase Calories
This is another common one because most people come from such a long history of conventional dieting tactics that they still under-eat, even when told to eat more.
When you spend so many years dieting, you become afraid of calories to some level.
How could you not? You’ve been told for so long that calories are the devil. Calories are evil. Calories will derail everything that you are hoping to accomplish.
Living with a chronic calorie deficit is something that your body is going to physiologically reject after a certain amount of time. It’s going to reject in three ways:
- A suppressed metabolism.
- A suppressed desire to move/exercise.
- Rampant hunger.
You have to be eating enough calories to sustain a healthy metabolism and a solid amount of energy. Especially if you’re exercising.
That’s another factor. People go on these calorie restrictive diets and then they start training for a marathon or doing CrossFit every morning at 6am and then they they don’t understand why they’re ravished all the time.
So, take a hard look at your calories. Are you eating enough? If the answer is no, that’s a pretty easy fix.
That doesn’t mean, “Eat any calories.” It means, “Eat nutrient-dense, real-food calories to make up that deficit.”
Eat anything from the Real Food Playbook, basically.
Tip #10: Eat More Protein – Too Little Protein Can Cause Fast Food Cravings
This goes back a little bit to the blood sugar roller coaster that we talked about in the beginning, but it also applies to satiety in general.
if you’re not eating enough protein, you’re going to have trouble feeling full throughout the day. Protein is the number-one macronutrient for helping you feel full.
Pay attention to this because it’s one of the simplest hacks you can try. Just increase your protein intake considerably.
If you use the Real food Playbook that I talked about earlier, it’s very easy to find healthy sources of protein.
Before you download that guide, though, do a little audit of the last six to nine meals that you’ve had and see how much they were geared toward protein.
If you find yourself needing snacks throughout the day (something I recommend you avoid, by the way), start increasing your protein intake at normal meals.
Tip #11: Check for Leptin Resistance
Just like you can be insulin resistant, you can be leptin resistant. So you’re producing leptin, but that leptin isn’t getting the message across because the receptors are becoming hard of hearing.
If you remember from earlier in the article, leptin is an appetite suppressant hormone. It’s basically the hormone that helps you feel full, which is supposed to signal you to stop eating.
When you’re leptin resistant, you need more leptin to trigger the receptors. This hormone disruption can lead to pretty rapid weight gain or an inability to lose weight.
This is something I talk about in more detail in this article on leptin and you can see what happens to mice who have their leptin production turned off (similar consequences to the receptors being resistant).
Of course, your leptin receptors can be “reset” with simple dietary and lifestyle changes. Our Total Body Reboot program does this naturally in Stage One.
Stop Eating Junk Food & Fast Food Wrap Up
Let me tell you something very very important. Don’t look for just one of these factors to be the trigger for why you’re struggling.
Every person that I have worked with who was struggled had multiple reasons for why they were struggling. Various things that we had to investigate and tweak or overcome in order to lead them to success.
I have never had a client with a single thing going wrong. Thousands and thousands of men and women have gone through our academy and that’s never been the case.
It’s always a multifactorial problem. So, don’t think, “I’ve got to find the one missing link that I can fix and that’s going to do it for me.” That’s not going to happen.
It could very well be the case that all 11 of these things are currently going wrong in your life. Or it could be six of them, or three of them. It’s going to be different for everybody.
So go through this list and give every single one it’s proper focus and attention and be very honest with yourself as you assess your situation.
If you need any help, let us know. You can also post any questions you have in the comment section below.
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Kevin Geary is the founder of RebootedBody.com and a respected expert on cravings, eating psychology, and long-term habit change. He’s helped tens of thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy and now offers all of his signature programs through a “pay what you want” model.