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How to kick the junk food habit

Written: 06/22/2008

DumbLittleMan has a great suggestion on how to kick your addiction to fast food -- give yourself a budget to spend on fast food each week, and cut it over time. I love this idea because a budget puts you in control and doesn't force you to go cold turkey. You decide when you want to eat fast food, and you can do so guilt-free as long as you haven't exceeded your budget. My addiction, though, is junk food, so I came up with an equivalent strategy for kicking a junk food habit. Here's how it works:
  • First, switch to buying all of your junk food in individual portions for easier measurement. Get potato chips in individual bags, cookies in single serving size containers, individually wrapped candy bars, etc. It might cost you a bit more, but individual portions will make it much easier to count how much junk food you're eating. Quitting junk food is going to be hard enough, so you'll want to do everything you can to make the process as easy as possible. If the snack you prefer doesn't come in individual serving sizes, you can divide a bigger bag yourself into individual portions and store them in ziplock bags.

  • For the first week, just eat how you normally would, but count how many portions of junk food you're consuming. To help you count, save the wrappers of every portion you eat. At the end of the week, just count the wrappers and you'll know how many portions you had.

  • Take the number of portions you ate for the week and cut it in half. This is your new junk food budget, or how much junk food you'll get to eat each week from now on. If possible, buy as close to that many portions as possible each week and no more. That will help you keep from going over your budget - once you're out, you're done until your trip to the store next week.

  • Every two weeks, cut your budget by a certain amount, say 2-4 portions. Keep going until you're eating an amount of junk food each week you feel comfortable with - ideally zero, of course!

  • Try to keep substitute healthy snacks on hand to help kill those junk food cravings. Nuts, fruit, vegetables, or low-fat yogurt are all quick, healthy snacks that can fill you up without the extra junk food calories.
A junk food budget is a great way to develop better eating habits over time with just small changes each week. Try it for yourself, and let us know how it works in the comments!

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