Staying Skinny on Junk Food: Is it Possible?

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Defining Skinny Versus Fat

Staying “skinny” is something that is important to most, but is staying skinny on junk food realistic? What does staying “skinny” mean? Can it be done by consuming junk food? It all depends on your body type, metabolism, and daily activity and exercise levels.

As one ages, it gets harder to maintain lean tissue because while the metabolism slows down, one’s eating habits may not reflect the decrease in the metabolism. Over time, weight is gradually gained. The quality of the foods that are eaten reflects the type of body one has because the saying, “You are what you eat” is true.

You can survive by eating junk food like chips, cookies, and so forth and maintain a body weight that you might be proud of, but you may also be a ball of fat. There are plenty of fat “skinny” people; they appear to be in good health because they aren’t carrying visible extra fat but an analysis of their body composition would reveal that 40 percent of their 110 pound body weight is deadly fat. Seriously, who really wants that?

To figure out if you are a “fat” skinny person, you must understand calorie consumption and energy expenditure. Reflect on your lifestyle, and determine whether or not you can maintain the skinny persona forever.

A Calorie is a Calorie

Calories are units of energy. The body burns calories based on daily activity levels such as the intensity and duration of exercise. The metabolism plays the largest role in how the body processes calories. Everyone’s metabolism is different, and some can get away with eating unhealthy foods and stay skinny, while others are extremely sensitive to the foods they eat and gain weight more easily. You gain weight if you over-consume the amount of calories that you burn daily.

For example, if you burn 1500 calories and consume 1500 calories daily, your body weight is maintained. However, if you burn 1500 calories and consume 2000 calories over the course of one week, one pound is gained. Finally, if you burn 1500 calories and consume 1200 calories over the course of 12 days, one pound is lost. Remember, 3500 calories equal one pound.

Types of Calories

Calories come from our macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and there are good and bad macronutrients. Examples of good macronutrients are complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and heart healthy fats. Bad macronutrients are simple sugars, high fat proteins, and artery clogging fats. Examples of each:

  • Good carbs: whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, wild rice
  • Bad carbs: white bread, white pasta, white rice
  • Lean proteins: tilapia, skinless chicken breast, 95 percent lean ground beef
  • High fat proteins: bologna, salami, bacon
  • Heart healthy fats: avocados, olive oil, canola oil
  • Artery clogging fats: butter, palm oil, coconut oil

Compensating for Junk Foods

You don’t have to avoid all junk foods. There is always a little wiggle room, but don’t consume all your calories from non-nutritious foods. Small indulgences are allowable, especially if you are making up for them by exercising or cutting back a little more at a different meal or snack. To offset the calories and work on staying skinny on junk food, make the following changes:

  • Wear a pedometer and aim for 10, 000 steps per day
    • Increase your daily steps by making small changes to your daily routine.
      • Park the car a little further and walk
      • Use the stairs instead of the elevator
      • Walk the dog for an extra five minutes
  • Do isometric exercises
    • These exercises can be done almost anywhere and do not require any special equipment.
    • Lighten up your calorie intake during the day.
    • For instance, if you know you will eat cake because it is someone’s birthday at work, eat light at lunch time to compensate. Instead of eating a sandwich with chips, have a salad with a light dressing and a few ounces of grilled chicken. This saves some carbohydrate calories, and you can allocate them to the cake.
  • Pre-portion your own favorite snacks
    • Buy little plastic containers and measure out your favorite snacks into appropriate portions.

Satisfy Those Cravings!

Try some of these snack ideas for satisfying desires and staying skinny on junk food:

  • 100 calorie snack packs
    • Hostess, Nabisco, Keebler, and other companies market food snacks in smaller portions so you can enjoy the taste without all the calories. Next time you shop, choose one of the 100 calorie packs rather than the traditional portion.
  • Dark chocolate
    • Allow yourself two to three Dove Dark Chocolate squares to satisfy that afternoon need for candy. Try them frozen for another great treat.
  • Skinny Cow or Klondike’s 100 calorie bar
    • Craving ice cream? Pre-portioned bars are the perfect answer, and you won’t be tempted to eat the ice cream directly from the package or have trouble measuring out a half cup portion accurately.
  • Potato Chips
    • If you are in the mood for something crunchy and salty, try baked chips, which have fewer calories. If you like to experiment in the kitchen, try making chips from kale to provide the same satisfaction without all the calories.

Registered Dietitian Recommendations

By this point, you have already determined whether or not you are that “fat” skinny person. If you are, here are some recommendations for changing your lifestyle and being a real skinny person.

  • Exercise a minimum of three times per week for 60 minutes
  • Maintain an active daily lifestyle
  • Drink plenty of water and cut out the sugary drinks
  • Eat the good macronutrients, and limit bad macronutrients
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables


Mahan, L,K, and Escott-Stump, S. Krause’s Food, Nutrition, and Diet Therapy(10th edition). Philadelphia. 2000.

United States Department of Agriculture.