5 Lessons from a Month with No Fast Food

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Monday, September 13, 2010

In August, I challenged myself to go a month without fast food. I’d relied on the drive thru as a crutch when I was too lazy and too tired to cook for myself for too long, and it was beginning to interfere with my weight loss success. So, I decided to go a month without to break myself of any cravings and force myself to develop better habits. I’m proud to say I survived and thrived for the whole month without one fast food purchase, and I learned a few things about this journey along the way:

emoticon1. A well-stocked freezer is your best weapon against unfortunate food choices.
At the beginning of August, I bought a giant pack of chicken breasts, grilled 3 ounce portions, and froze them individually. It took maybe an hour to do and it saved my rear so many times throughout the month! I’d shred one and smother it in barbecue sauce for a quick sandwich, toss strips with pasta and some healthy jarred sauce, or just throw a frozen one on top of some frozen veggies and cheese and let the work microwave do its thing for an emergency lunch when my leftovers ran out. Quick, easy, and oh so versatile. Sometimes freezing meal starters to use any which way you please is better than freezing complete meals!

emoticon2. Your sodium tolerance levels will adjust – quickly! – to whatever you feed yourself.
I used to love getting a small chili and a 5 piece chicken nuggets from Wendy’s. Great taste, low calorie count, what wasn’t to love? So last week, when I didn’t have time to get to the grocery store, I ordered just that. The chicken nuggets were pretty good, but the chili was nasty! It tasted like salt, pure salt. I couldn’t finish it. And I remembered that I used to salt the nuggets too – that’s probably why they still tasted okay without anything added. It’s amazing how fast your taste buds adjust to changes in your diet.

emoticon3. It’s easy to forget to taste your food.
I’ve always been a fast eater, and consuming fast food was never any different. But cooking more at home, I’ve started to slow down. If I’m making a new dish, I need to pay attention and really taste it. Taking that behavior back to the drive thru, I have realized that the things that I used to crave don’t actually taste very good. I got cini-minis from Burger King for breakfast all the time in the past; but I’ve had them once or twice since ending my fast food challenge and they just aren’t good. They don’t really have much taste at all, in fact. When you remember to slow down, it becomes much easier to tell what’s worth your calories and what isn’t.

emoticon4. Cooking at home is one of the easiest ways to get your budget in line.
I knew I’d save some money in August, but what surprised me was how much I saved. Not only did I eliminate fast food purchases from my spending, I also reduced the amount I spent at the grocery store. It took me a while to figure out how that could be, but then it hit me: I’m not wasting healthy food in favor of unhealthy fast food meals any more. I can’t tell you how many of the vegetables that I used to buy for that diet that I was always going to start (on Monday! For real this time!) went bad while I sat on the couch eating from a McDonald’s bag. Not anymore!

emoticon5. Challenges work!
I’d made all kinds of rules for myself to limit my fast food intake before, and not a one had worked. A proper challenge did the trick. If there’s something that you’re striving for, extend a challenge to yourself. And then – and this is key – make it public. I don’t care if you tell your friends or you tell strangers on the internet, just tell someone. Knowing that someone might read about my failure was what kept me from quitting or cheating on my challenge. I have no idea how many people even read these things I post, or whether anyone cares, but just knowing that it’d be out there on the great wide Internet was all I needed. Give it a try!

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