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5 Tricks for Ditching the Junk Food

By Melvin Gordon | October 11, 2018 | Rally Health

Over the last few years, as I’ve gone from high school to college football, and then to the NFL as a running back for the Los Angeles Chargers,  I’ve realized just how important it is to pay attention to what I’m eating, both in terms of quality and quantity. Back in high school, I was smaller and always trying to gain weight. I went about it in the worst way. I would go to fast food places and eat a ton of food, then strength train in hopes of packing on more muscle. I got away with that when I was younger, but now I know that kind of eating takes a huge toll on your body.

My nutrition has improved a lot over the years, so you won’t see me waiting in line for a big bag of fried food anymore. But I’m still not always perfect in how I eat. I’ve just learned to be smarter about most of my choices and to save the indulgences for when I really want them. It can be tempting to just sink back into old unhealthy habits once you have a ‘cheat meal,’ but I’ve learned that nutrition isn’t about any one meal.

Video: Melvin Gordon on the Benefits of Healthy Eating

If you’re having trouble shifting to a healthy diet because you keep going back to “all junk food, all the time,” here are a few tricks that have helped me.

Think About How Food Makes You Feel

I think if I had a fast food burger right now, I’d end up feeling sick. That’s what happened last time I went through a drive through for a quick meal. Once I experienced that, I realized how bad that burger was for me. Now, I really like foods like salmon and spinach, and I know those are going to make me feel better than eating burgers or fried chicken. So I choose healthy foods instead of fatty or  fried food at a restaurant.

Pro Tip: Next time you have a cheat meal, think about how you feel after. Uncomfortably full? Sluggish? Exhausted? Write it down, and next time you’re tempted to grab for that candy bar or milkshake, think about how you’ll feel after. In the moment, those foods might sound great, but if you’re going to feel not great 20 minutes later, it’s not worth the cheat.

Know Your Favorite Cheat Meal

I still occasionally go for fast food, but rarely now that I’m in the NFL. Everyone has a cheat meal — and if someone says they don’t, they’re lying! Some days, I wake up and don’t want to make eggs or some other healthy breakfast, so I’ll go to a fast food place and order a breakfast sandwich or something small like that, and that’s my cheat meal. That’s my go-to.

Pro Tip: Plan ahead. Know when you’ll have cheat meals, and what you’ll have for those meals. A 2006 study showed that planning indulgences actually helped people stick to an otherwise healthy diet — just make sure that your next meal is a healthy one, and that you don’t turn one meal into a week of just eating fast food.

Opt for Quality Versions of Favorite Foods

I used to eat a lot of fast food burgers, but now I never would do that. But I still eat burgers! I just choose better quality meats and other ingredients, and skip having fries.  I don’t cut out favorite foods entirely: I just look at what a healthier swap could be. I think about the quality of the ingredients, not just the calorie count.

Pro Tip: What’s your favorite unhealthy fast food? Is there a way to make it ‘cleaner’ or healthier? That might mean ordering a salad instead of fries with your burger, making a similar meal at home with lean grass-fed beef (hold the cheese) and baked french fries, or even simply downsizing and choosing ‘small’ versus supersizing your meal. (Need more help? Here are a few easy tweaks to kickstart healthier eating.)

Know That One Bad Meal Doesn’t Mean It’s Over

So you had a ‘relapse’ and went a little overboard on the fast food for a meal, or even the whole day. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed to never eat healthy again. Just start cleaning up your diet for the next meal instead of sitting around feeling guilty.

Pro Tip: The next time you want to have a cheat meal, pre-plan what your next meal or two afterward will be. That way you’re more likely to go back to healthy habits instead of continuing to eat junk food.

Look at the End Goal

An occasional cheat meal is fine, but if you find that you’re having them regularly (and you wonder why you’re not feeling better or dropping weight), you have to think about how your actions and your goals are lining up. Think about what you really want. For me, I know I need to be 100 percent healthy in order to play better, recover faster, and avoid injury. That means eating well most of the time, and rarely having a cheat meal. What’s your goal? If it’s to drop a few pounds, or feel better so you can play outside with your kids after work, eating healthy most of the time is going to be important. If every other meal is a cheat meal, that’s not going to put you closer to your goals.

Pro Tip: If you think you’re overdoing the cheat meals, try to keep track of what you’re eating for a few days and take an honest look at what you’re using to fuel your body. Are you making smart choices? Are there any patterns around cheat meals, like eating at a fast food place every time you have to work late? Think about ways to be smarter with your nutrition, like bringing healthy snacks to work so you’re not tempted to go for a doughnut at 3 pm.

Melvin Gordon is a Rally® Health Ambassador.

Melvin Gordon
Rally Health