At the beginning of the month, my flatmate and I decided that we were going to participate in the Junk Free June challenge. What this meant was that we had to give up junk food (which we specified as chocolate, chips, lollies, takeaways, and so on) for the entire month of June. It has ended up being an interesting and educational experience.
Junk Free June, officially, is a fundraising challenge aimed at raising money for cancer. It works like this: you give up junk food for a month, create an account on their website, set a fundraising goal and get people to sponsor you – with all of the money raised going towards the Cancer Society. Kate and I did not join the website or get involved in the fundraising side of the challenge, but we decided to do it anyway to see if we could last a whole month without eating the proceeded, sugary, high-sodium foods we so dearly love.
When Kate suggested this challenge to me, I accepted with little reservation because the quality of my diet had taken a pretty steep nosedive since the start of the year and I’d been thinking for a while already that I desperately needed to do something about that. So I packed away all my “no-no foods” (i.e., all the packets of chips and coco pops I had laying around) into a bag where I couldn’t see them, and went out and bought a buttload of nuts and dried fruit to get me through the month.
Here’s what I’ve learnt from a month spent actively avoiding junk food.
- As a general trend, healthy snacks are considerably more cash dollar than junky ones. For example, I can get three big bags of chips at the supermarket for $5. For the same amount of money I was able to purchase one small bag of cashew nuts. This kinda sucks a lot, and goes some way towards explaining why obesity is such a problem in this country – eating fatty, salty, sugary foods is simply more cost-effective.
- Somewhat related, I felt way better about myself when I took my basket full of fruit and nuts and Sultana Bran up to the supermarket checkout. For once, I didn’t have to cringe in shame as the cashier scanned through my packets of donuts, my five chocolate bars, my heat-and-eat pizza and my three loaves of garlic bread. I could be proud of my purchases! I was demonstrating my capacity as a responsible adult to make healthy choices!
- Junk Free June does not necessarily equal healthy eating. For example, Kate and I were both guilty, at times, of saying things like “oh, I ate a muffin today, but it was a blueberry muffin and there was legit fruit in it, so it’s okay, right?” I’ve also had more hot chocolates this month than I think I’ve had in the rest of my life put together.
- That said, cutting out most of the shitty stuff did make a considerable difference. I felt noticeably better for it emotionally and physically, even if it did hurt my wallet.
- It has definitely made me want to keep eating healthier and cut down on the junk food like, a lot. I can only hope that I’ll still feel this way in another few months’ time.
And here are some of the things I ate a lot of this month in lieu of trash-ass foods.
- Cashews and peanuts. It turns out these are super filling and all sexual innuendo aside, a few nuts go a long way.
- Dried mango. So freaking good.
- Dried coconut. So freaking weird.
- Banaynays, mandarins and apples in abundance.
- Sultana Bran for breakfast – definitely a better start to the day than coco pops.
- Yoghurt and (defrosted) frozen berries. So freaking good I’m not even kidding about it.
- A lunch I made for myself a few times was teriyaki beef with vegetables and egg noodles. And it was always delicious, and so quick and easy to make that I think it’s definitely going to become a regular uni lunch.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t cheated. I have, although mostly in this last week since I’ve been home from university and unable to resist the yummy biscuits on my breaks at work. But I’d say on the whole I’ve done pretty well. And setting yourself a goal of going for a month without junk food is definitely something I’d recommend to anyone who wants to eat a little healthier, or who wants to feel better about themselves.
A wee update on where I’m at in life: the first semester of third year is over now. Having survived exams (just barely), I’m now back in the bay for two weeks and am spending most of that time working at the winery. It’s been amazing to be back. I’ll leave you with a few pictures which will hopefully explain why I’ve been having such a great time at work.