You know, people don’t like to hear this, but it’s true: you just stop eating the junk you know will make you backslide. Forever.
Basically, what I personally did was learn to make all kinds of “cheat” foods healthier. This is easier than it sounds because our taste preferences change (the V-Diet helps with that.) One reason is that avoiding the obviously bad stuff starves the bad gut bacteria that can cause cravings. We have an article coming out in a few weeks about that.
Many other foods and food combos disrupt our natural hunger and satiety mechanisms, and when we stop eating those things (usually obvious junk foods) the desire for them simply goes away. (The book The End of Overeating gets into all the details; check it out.)
This is why I’m very against the idea of treat or cheat meals: you’re just causing the cravings and food addictions to keep on going. Cut them out and replace them with healthier stuff and soon you won’t even want the bad stuff.
It’s psychological as well of course. That can take longer to cure than the physical addictions. But it’s doable. I have a very strong belief that people are capable of achieving great things. The ability to stop putting crap in their mouths that they know will harm them is one of those things.
Have you seen my Simple Diet for Athletes article? It gets into some of this: https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/simple-diet-for-athletes
The overall good news is that this doesn’t have to be a lifelong challenge, and you certainly don’t have to count calories or macros every meal of every day to stay lean and healthy. It becomes instinctive after a while, and when you just STOP with the bad stuff, it’s very easy to maintain leanness. Hard to gain fat when you never go back to what made you put on weight to begin with.
I’ve done it. My wife has done. And we’re just regular folks. You can do it too.