Winning the Drive Thru Wars


I’ve written before about my former life as a secret drive-thru queen.  I told you how, as if on auto pilot, my car would veer into any open drive-thru window.  I also confessed how I would sometimes even order two meals so the cashier wouldn’t think I was going to eat all that food by myself.  I also used to eagerly anticipate dropping John off at work so I could swing through the drive thru on the way back home, my lap piled high with Sausage McMuffins, Hashbrowns, and diet Coke.

Although I’ve told you those secrets, I realized I haven’t said much about how I finally broke the fast food habit, and broke the habit of eating a full meal (or two) in between meal times. 

I realized as I was walking through my weight loss year, that this fast food habit was very unhealthy both physically and emotionally. 

It seemed as though I had very little willpower over the draw of instant, high fat food.  Although it wasn’t easy, I was able to conquer my drive thru desire by coming up with an action plan.  I realized that I had been able to change habits many times over the course of my life, and so have you.  We all have periods of change, rather they are job related, family related, or other things.  Even just moving from one house to another requires a concerted effort to remember where in the world we put those plates!  I realized that some of my food habits could be changed by practice, just like it took practice to remember where the dishes lived!

So this is what I did. Every time I got into the car, I would think about where I was going, and remind myself where I was not going.  If I was going to the mall, then that’s where I was going, not to Chick-fil-A.  The hard part came when I approached the favorite restaurant of the month.  It took a lot of willpower to not turn the blinker on and pull in.  If I really felt the urge to turn in, then I would make a deal with myself.  I would tell myself that I would not pull into that particular restaurant, but I would keep driving.  If, when I saw the same restaurant up the road I still felt the urge to pull in, then I could.  Nine times out of ten, by the time I had driven another mile to the next “set” of restaurants, the seemingly uncontrollable urge to have an extra meal had passed. 

Every time I managed to get to my destination and home again without frequenting a fast food restaurant I considered it a victory.  A small one, to be sure, but something to be proud of.  By giving myself a pep talk before I left the house, and then giving myself the option of stopping if I had to, I finally stopped the bad habit in its tracks.  Over and over I had the opportunity to practice the new habit, and the old habit fell by the wayside.  There were a few occasions where I slipped up, but even then I found myself making better choices.  Instead of ordering the value sized meal (or two), I would order a small fry and share those fries with the kids.  That way we all had a little bit of food, and my craving was satisfied.  After a few months, I no longer felt the urge to visit the drive thru.  I had experienced enough small successes and saw the results adding up in big ways, that I knew my drive thru excursions were gone forever.

There are lots of ways to break this fast food habit, and I’m looking forward to you sharing your strategies with everyone else!

To this day, you will rarely see my twelve passenger van at the drive thru window.  My family and I really try to make wise food choices, and fast food restaurants don’t fit those choices very often.  And another thing –  it costs a lot of money to feed a family of nine at a restaurant!  If you were a fast food fan as I was – what strategies have you used to break that habit?   Diane

41 thoughts on “Winning the Drive Thru Wars

  1. Miz says:

    uhoh 🙂
    Im in between on this one.
    I dont eat fastfood anymore but I do.
    I never ever get the friedstuffs I used to eat back in the day, but I also havent cut out the restaurants or the drivethroughs as there are decent choices there and SOMETIMES it’s what fits my lifestyle.

    Running late for mommy and me spanish? I will zip through McD’s and grab some apple dippers (tossing out the caramel sauce :)) and milk for the child.

    Jam packed day? I will go through the Chikfila (sp?) drive through and get their chargrilled salad.

    the words SUPERSIZED (or fried anything :)) however never leave my mouth.

    well. not any more anyway 🙂
    .-= Miz´s last blog ..Vtrim: your questions answered (part 2). =-.

  2. Marcelle says:

    Wow this is amazing as it shows what you went through mentally to get to where you are today. I congratulate you on that…
    I never became obsessed with fast food, its not a big thing in South African and not here in Germany either, although we have Burger King and Subways that we don’t have back home, so at first I was a regular Saturday Burger King visitor…but now only do subways if we do take aways and its only on a Saturday when I’m out with hubby.
    Mine roll now has no salt and pepper and NO sauce…plain!!
    .-= Marcelle´s last blog ..Very Interesting – Do take a moment to listen =-.

  3. vickie says:

    I stopped carrying cash and started keeping my purse in the trunk of my car. It was still a struggle, and yes, I could have used credit card, but by having to stop and get it out of the trunk, it gave me enough moments pause to THINK. Enough of a pause to get past the impulse. Because impulse control is what it is all about. And not having my taste buds tuned into that type of food, helped a lot.
    .-= vickie´s last blog ..Sometimes the little things pack a big wallop =-.

  4. Mia says:

    I used to eat at McD’s and Taco Bell frequently. I never really knew how unhealthy they were for you. With the availability of nutritional facts, this is no longer true. Now, just the thought of eating there gives me the shudders.


  5. Joanna Sutter says:

    It has been YEARS and YEARS since I’ve had fast food. Even their “healthy” selections are not satisfying to me. So, I plan ahead. I eat before I leave the house and pack healthy meals or snacks to make sure I never go hungry! 🙂 There’s always a stash of almonds or protein powder in my car or purse…that helps!
    .-= Joanna Sutter´s last blog ..Protein Agents =-.

  6. Diane says:

    We made a decision to stop fast food burger places long before our weight loss journey when the toys in the meals became of greater interest than the meals themselves( my son would eat 4 cheeseburgers, without the burger or the cheese). When we eat fast food it is one of two choices- Subway or Pollo Loco and only for emergency reasons.I can totally understand your position with your brood- two of my sisters have 4 children and just that number makes eating out very expensive.
    .-= Diane´s last blog .. =-.

  7. Sara N. says:

    I too decided to quit eating fast food and am glad I did. I didn’t have any strategies per se, but I just decided that stuff is gross so I’m not going to eat it.

  8. Sunny says:

    Although I loved fast food, and ate it many times a week, I didn’t eat humungous amounts at a sitting, and never really felt compelled to go for it unless it was a normal meal time. I guess I’m really lucky. So, once I became committed to good health, it wasn’t really all that hard to resist. The desire for good health far outweighs the momentary quick-fix of the junk food, so it’s easy to pass. I really feel for those that have (or had 🙂 ) deeper-seeded issues. Don’t get me wrong, I had/have some, but I caught myself at the 201 point, before it got any worse/deeper. phew!
    .-= Sunny´s last blog ..I Got Nuthin’ This Morning! =-.

  9. Samantha says:

    Drive thrus used to call my name too. I loved all the greasy food and the cokes. I even liked the so-called desserts. I broke the habit by, like Mia, realizing how bad those foods were for me. Waaaay too many calories for anything good to happen with my weight loss.

    Once I realized that my weight loss would go by a lot faster with no fast food, then it was pretty easy to quit.

  10. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    Always great info Diane.. and stories of your life!

    I ate FF as a kid but not as much as an adult. Once I lost the weight in high school, I just basically stopped eating it. That was part of losing the weight & I really did not go back. My hubby likes it & other people along the way. I would sit with them but not eat there. Oh, yes, I might eat a couple of their french fries but that was it. It stopped there & even now with the hubby, same thing. I sit & don’t eat except for a couple of his fries.
    .-= Jody – Fit at 52´s last blog ..LA Boxing Giveaway; Pics of Me Boxing! =-.

  11. karla says:

    I can so relate, this was so me!! I never realized other women… people did this as well!! I guess it’s the little shame you never talk about…

    I commute an hour each way every day and I also work 10 hour days. So I plan my food and pack a food bag, and eat before I leave. I also drink a liter of water on the way to work and a liter on the way home.

    I used to hit the drive through when I didn’t eat breakfast or if I didn’t take anything with me to work to eat. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN this is what works for me.

    Love your blog

  12. Amy says:

    Fast food is a lot more expensive here in Belgium than in the US so we rarely eat it, maybe once or twice a year as a special “treat” for the kids. The harder thing to avoid are the little “frite” places all over town that sell the Belgian specialty french fries in a big package for about $2. Even worse, they eat their fries with mayo here! I guess we eat those about once or twice a month on average, but sometimes I just stay out of the kitchen when my husband and kids are having frites.
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Just Another Tuesday Morning (not!) =-.

  13. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    I ate fast food in a very stressful period in my life (the same time I gained a lot of weight – surprise, surprise). I think part of it was that I didn’t plan wisely and often didn’t have “interesting” choices at home or dinner planned/made ahead of time. I actually broke the fast food habit by planning better. At first, I would cook all the dinners for the week on Sunday and put them in the fridge and/or freeze them. I also made sure we had plenty of healthy snacks. I also carried some nuts and an energy bar in my purse. I found that if I had something else to eat, I could actually get over the fast food craving. Also, I realized that my taste changed quite quickly after not eating fast food for just a short time. What once sounded good, wasn’t very appealing at all anymore…

    Thanks for sharing how you overcame your drive thru battle. Very insightful as always.

  14. Cammy@TippyToeDiet says:

    Since I live on the go most of the time, *completely* eliminating fast foods doesn’t work for me. As I was transitioning to healthier eating, I came up with a mental list of “approved” items available at a few of the most prevalent fast food emporiums. The selection is limited. At McD’s, the apples or yogurt (and every once in great while, a plain ice cream cone–perfect after a long bike ride in the summer.) At Chick-fil-A, the grilled chicken salad or the fruit. KFC? Um, nothing. The same for Taco Bell. I could get the taco salad, only without half the ingredients, so I don’t go there anymore. For some reason, having these “rules” works for me.

    My favorite fast food is actually the stash of Clif bars I keep in my glove box. 🙂
    .-= Cammy@TippyToeDiet´s last blog ..The Ones Left Behind (and a Giveaway opp) =-.

  15. Michelle@Eatingjourney says:

    visualising success and celebrating them..even if small is SO important.

    Also, if you are going to eat there..then eat healthier choices. It may not be the food of the year, but your winning and making choices which help you get to where you want to go.

    I don’t have the drive thru problem. But diet coke at supermarkets or potlucks–weakness.

    Your strategy will be something that I use.

    .-= Michelle@Eatingjourney´s last blog ..Getting Fit, Not Thin! =-.

  16. tj says:

    Such a great post! I don’t know how I stopped- because honestly I still lick my chops as I am driving by. lol 2+ years since my last drive through FIX and for me that is a HUGE accomplishment! Sad, but I wish all of the fast food places would disappear. Would make my life WAY easier! lol
    .-= tj´s last blog ..Weigh-In Wow’s! =-.

  17. 'Drea says:

    My main addiction was to McDonald’s fries. Okay, I also dug the apple pies at two for $1 dollar and the orange drink.

    I put the smackdown on the fries after seeing Super Size Me. Also, finding out that oven fries are tasty was helpful.

    Congrats on kicking your drive thru excursion habit…
    .-= ‘Drea´s last blog ..Six And Down =-.

  18. Mark Salinas says:

    I reminded my self over and over at the hard work that I put into being healthy. This helped me avoid the temptation for a quick bite. Eventually it became habit…challenging for sometime but did get easier.

    Now, fast food is a thing of the past for me…

  19. Sagan says:

    Thanks for sharing, Diane. You just reminded me that THAT is how I live my life: going to a fast food place isn’t an option, just like choosing any junky snack isn’t an option.

    Sometimes when life gets crazy I forget about that and think that I want junk. I don’t. My mind just clouds and tries to trick me.

    I managed to get over eating junk because I tended to be of the mind that it was there so I might as well have it. When I decided to get healthy, I made sure that healthier options were more available. And that worked pretty well!

  20. Dr. J says:

    I had a secretary who knew to the second how long it would take her to drive from her apartment to In and Out for fries! She always mentioned how fat she was in every conversation. Never has done a thing about it. Still love her 🙂

  21. Gina Fit by 41 Maybe 42 says:

    Thank you. I haven’t won the battle, yet, but it’s very helpful to read HOW you overcame it. I also appreciate the reader’s comments.

    My weakness is the fast food restaurants with the playgrounds so my 4 year old can burn energy (especially in winter). I sit there with several other moms. We are all big and chunky.

  22. Lola says:

    I do the exact same thing — PLAN what I’m goign to do. Its almost like I’m visualizing. I do this with any habit. Lately, I had been getting these little caramels at the counter that they sell at CVS. They are only .33 and were my special little treat – made with Real Wisconsin Cream! Anyway, I did it once. Then twice, then before you knew it, it was my little “thing”….every time I went to CVS I got a caramel. Only 1, but still.

    I went to CVS last week and I said to myself that I was not goign to get one. No matter what. I got to the counter to pay(where they keep them) and I wanted to change my mind, but didn’t. One small victory. :o) I’ve gone 2 or 3 times since then, caramel free.

    Funny how a lot of this is in the mind…

  23. Quix says:

    I am a firm believer in moderation. However I no longer eat chain fast food – been clean(ish) for 4 years (quit that a year before I lost weight – figured if I was going to eat crap, I wanted to eat GOOOD crap). It now all tastes like disgusting plastic to me, and the majority of it makes me straight ill.

    I’ll make an exception for food that TASTES like food, like a local burger joint or the occasional pizza delivery, or of course, hand crafted sandwiches. But Burger King, McDs, KFC, Taco Schmell, etc? Don’t plan on eating it ever again and I’m totally fine with that.

  24. Nicole, RD says:

    While fast food has never been an issue, I did used to pick up coffee EVERY morning. I would always have intentions of not getting the sugary cappuccino…but I typically did. I’ve saved a lot of calories, gas, and time by brewing at home and switching to black (for the most part). Great post, Diane!

  25. Shelley B says:

    I used to live in the drive thru lane, and also know all-too-well the drop off of said husband or kids and going thru McDonalds for breakfast times 2 by myself so they wouldn’t see me eat so much food! I haven’t been in a drive thru for over a year now, not even for a diet coke. Fast food places are out of my life now.

  26. Linda says:

    Little victories along the way make the journey easier. At least for me. It’s sad we have become such a fast food/drive-through country.
    I worked at McDonald’s in high school (in the 70’s! I’m old!) and there was no super-size, no Big Mac, just small burger, small fries. The current medium size drink was the large size then. And then, eating out at McDonalds was a treat you only did occasionally, not everyday or even every week!
    Sometimes I like to remember how things used to be.

  27. Gelareh @ Orange Truffle says:

    This post reminded of two things… a) one of the spin instructors while instructing during class constantly talks about breakfast after our workout.. and constantly talks about healthier options while going through drive thru.. it drives me crazy.

    b) have you heard of beck diet?

  28. Tricia says:

    I can’t remember the last time I ate fast food with the exception of Subway. Their veggie delite, no mayo,no cheese just tons of veggies is a favorite of mine.Yum!

  29. Carla says:

    Whenever I feel like eating fast food, I just remind myself how sick I always feel afterwards. It usually works – I haven’t had fast food in months!

  30. Mackattack (Beth) says:

    I would go to fast food when I was in grad school but since then I’ve made an effort to not pinpoint the fast food joints. If I don’t really know where they are, my car can’t accidentally drive up to one. It helps quite a lot 🙂

  31. Stacy @ Moderate Means says:

    I can quickly become addicted to fast food. If I justify it or let myself stop just once, it’s all over. Back to the beginning. I pass a McD’s on my way to work every morning. And every morning, I visualize myself driving past it so that I have the strength to pass it.

    Being on a budget has been my saving grace. It’s easier for me to bypass it for money than it is for health. I have no idea why, but if I ever had cash in my purse it would be all over.

    I love your blog – it talks about so many ‘fat secrets’ that skinny people just don’t get!

  32. julie says:

    Never really been a fast food fan (except KFC in my college days), but I have used similar tactics for cigarettes and certain food cravings. I don’t have food that’s off-limits, though I definitely have foods that I discourage (much different psychology), so if I get a wild craving for something, I will allow myself to eat it in 20 minutes. Usually, by then, I’ve moved on, and am no longer interested, or in the case of ciggies, have come to my senses, but if not, then I do it.

  33. Leah says:

    We still eat out fast food, but I no longer order large or “supersize” and I do my best to only eat until I’m full. It’s gotten much better.

    My issue has been eating at night. Hmm… I might try your idea and finish my sentence with “I need to/ am going to do….” I am NOT going to eat. I’ll let you know if I implement this and how it works for me.

    Thanks for sharing a strategy that helped you on your weight loss journey. I’d love to hear more of them.

  34. Tammy says:

    This was a really hard one to beat. REALLY hard. I lived in an apt in the city with every drive thru known to man within a 3 mile radius of me…maybe even 2 miles. I ate at them at least 5x a week…..sometimes more when I ate fast food meals 2x in one day. Serious addiction.

    Beating the habit started by staying in my apt for a week at a time…throwing myself on the bed when I had the urge to run out to one of those places, and literally crying it out. Secondly, every time I thought I would give in and go get something, I’d make sure to check the nutrition facts of what I wanted on the computer before I left. 9x out of 10, this kept me from going at all. I beat the habit pretty quickly this way. Within a month, my seriously insane habit of fast food had happily ended. I go to some of them once in a great while now…like Subway (nothing fried there)…sometimes Chic-fil-A….but no longer McD’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Hardee’s, Arby’s, Mrs. Winner’s, etc. I’ve come a long way! 🙂

  35. Kat says:

    Diane, thank you so much for sharing your story. I think you have been very strategic and I am learning so much from you. For the most part, “just saying no” has helped me with this. I know that if I am ordering “value meal” at a fast food place that I am definitely not in a good mindset. In the last year I have ordered the grilled chicken sandwich at burger king with mustard instead of mayo. It was good and satisfying, but after seeing Food, Inc, I have concerns about the quality of chicken. So much to consider these days.

  36. Alex says:

    One of our goals this year was to cut fast food from our menu. Now if we eat out we MUST go in no drive thru. If I want it bad enough I have given myself the option of going in but that’s the only way. It’s a choice now…

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