“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” – Jim Rohn
- Tony here. Today I want to share a superhuman skill for leveling up your health and brainpower: quitting junk food. My life changed completely when I gave up sugar and by doing so, most processed and convenience foods. Here’s my personal story and then three tips from coach Barclay Schraff on how to quit junk food.
- If you want to quit junk food hire Barclay today and use the promo code EATWELL to get your first week of coaching free.
Confessions of a Sugar Junkie
I used to be a runner, which means that I was super lean and could eat practically anything without gaining weight or feeling lethargic, probably because I burned up most of the calories I put into my body.
Years later, like many of us, I’ve struggled to maintain my ideal weight. When I started Coach.me, I had been through a ten year period of extreme dedication to my job as a programmer and then as an entrepreneur. I exercised a little during that time, but not enough to keep me from drifting away from my ideal weight.
Starting Coach.me was partly a goal about getting my health back together. In one sense, it’s worked. I’m much more fit and have gotten back my favorite indicator of fitness: if I work out hard today, I’ll still be excited to work out tomorrow.
But I didn’t have the sort of weight loss success that I thought it would have by working out more. So in 2012, I tried a new approach: no sweets: no soda, no pastries, no candy, no ice cream.
It turns out that I’m a full on sugar addict. I saw a comic recently about a young girl’s obsession with cake. That’s how I am any time I have a chance to eat sugar. I couldn’t stop myself once I opened a bag of Oreos, chocolate chips, or bottle of Coke.
This is no surprise–sugar is as addicting as cocaine and triggers a similar dopamine response.  The more sugar you eat in your diet, the more you crave and the more you’ll need to satiate future cravings. Plus humans are wired to crave foods high in calories, which is why we love the taste of junk food filled with sugar and fat. Major food manufacturers know this, and sugar and fat are cheap, which is why they load processed foods with as much junk as they can.
Recently, in addition to sugar I’ve cut out junk and processed foods to see if I can achieve even better results. This is partly inspired by our Quantified Diet research, in which we saw that people who gave up junk food such as fast food lost more weight than those who didn’t. We also saw that people with heavy pre-diet soda consumption lost an extra 0.6% body weight.
So for now, I’m eating a pescetarian diet, which helps me avoid processed meat. I avoid Walgreen’s after workouts by walking a different way back to work from the gym, which helps me avoid convenience foods. No more frozen or microwaved meals late at night. We don’t order processed snacks or sweets for the office, either: just fruit and whole food snacks. Sometimes I slide back into old habits, but then I just come right back to Coach.me for support.
I have so much more energy and fewer dips in energy now that I’ve cut these foods out of my life. I’m swimming faster. I’m losing weight. Even my teeth look better.
Today’s featured coach, Barclay Schraff, can help you give up junk food and eat healthier. Her story is a remarkable one–she cleaned up her diet after developing thyroid cancer. The diagnosis gave her a wake up call like no other to treasure her body and take care of her health, which included changing what she ate. Her personal transformation inspired her to become a coach:
“Personally, as my diet improved, I lost that stubborn five pounds I’d always carried, and my grumpy disposition and low-level anxiety dissipated. Feeling better about myself, my health, and how I was taking care of my family gave me a renewed sense of purpose. I wanted to share these wonderful insights with everyone, and that’s how I became a health coach.” –Barclay
Hire Barclay today to help you eat healthier and use the promo code EATWELL to get your first week of coaching free.
Barclay’s Coaching Philosophy & Advice for Quitting Junk Food
Here’s how Barclay works with clients and the advice she gives anyone who wants to quit junk food:
Step 1: Food journal to honestly assess your eating habits
There’s a reason why most diet coaches ask you to start with a food journal–studies show that you’ll lose twice the amount of weight if you do. The first step to cutting junk food out of your life should be assessing what junk food you eat on a regular basis and which junk foods you crave the most. Are you a sugar junkie? Do you binge on salty potato chips or popcorn? Does your caffeine come from sodas? Do you rely on frozen and takeout food for most of your meals? We humans have terrible memories, so rather than guess what you eat everyday, track it for a week to discover your junk food habits.
Step 2: Cut back on food groups one at a time
No one wants to feel deprived. Cutting back on one food group at a time lets you gradually wean yourself off of unhealthy foods. Another advantage is that you’ll learn how various foods (and abstaining from some foods) makes you feel. Write out a list of the junk foods that you eat and prioritize them in the order that you want to quit. You might want to start with something that seems easy to quit, to build up momentum and confidence. Alternatively you can take the bull by its horns and quit the junk food you love and eat the most (usually sugar or soda, both of which are addicting).
Here’s an example list:
- Chocolate and candy
- Cookies, cake, baked goods
- Chips/savory or fried snacks
#3. Replace your favorite junk foods with whole food alternatives
Implementing replacement habits is a great strategy for breaking bad habits. Find healthy, whole foods and drinks that satiate your junk foods cravings. Also remember: if you are addicted to certain junk foods, you’ll go through a withdrawal period (ex: it takes 14 days to get over your addiction to caffeine).
Here are some suggestions:
- Microwave popcorn → Home-popped popcorn spiced with sea salt and herbs
- Chocolate/candy → Fresh fruit
- Soda → Sparkling water with lemon
- Ice cream → Plain yogurt with honey or mashed frozen fruit
- Store-bought frozen meals → Make your own frozen meals by cooking in big batches and freezing individual servings