Do you always feel the need to snack on chips while watching TV?
Have a hard time passing up the candy jar at work?
If so, you're not alone! Sugary, salty, and deep-fried fatty foods (think a burger, soda, and french fries) are super hard to pass up, and there's a biological reason for that.
But just because body chemistry is at play, that's not a good excuse to cave to those junk food cravings every time (sorry!).
Keep reading and we'll explain why these cravings happen and tips on how to escape the “junk food craving cycle.”
Why do We Crave Junk Food?
While small amounts of junk food may be OK on occasion, many of us consume junk food such as soda, chips, crackers, and cookies far too often. Unfortunately, these foods contain little to no nutritional value and, when consumed too much, they can negatively impact your health.
More than that, many of us feel like we are addicted to junk food, and according to research, using the term “addicted” may not be that far fetched after all.
Researchers are finding strong evidence that junk food can trigger binging, craving and withdrawal; responses that are similar to those produced by addictive substances like alcohol, cocaine and tobacco.
People struggling with weight and obesity are even more sensitive to these cravings.
Plus, if you go and consume more junk food this can trigger further food seeking behavior, even if you are already full. Basically, it can be a vicious cycle of cravings-eating junk-cravings-eating junk-and it goes on – that can be hard to break!
But, breaking the cycle is possible, and that's what is important to remember.
If you repeatedly feel you are self-sabotaging your best efforts to eat better and gain control of your blood glucose, here are a few tips to help kick your junk food habit.
5 Ways to Kick those Cravings
There are practical ways to make resisting those salty potato chips or those glazed donuts a just a little bit easier.
It doesn't just come down to mere “will power,” as there is body chemistry at play with each food you put in your mouth, and these tips will help you get an upper-hand on that chemistry.
1. Eat balanced meals
One of the biggest reasons people have cravings is because they are not eating meals that will keep them full and satisfied.
Protein, fat, and fiber are three components that not only slow down digestion and keep you full, but also help control your blood sugars. Swap out that toast and jelly for breakfast with a veggie-filled omelette and some fiber-rich berries!
2. Drink water
If you suddenly feel the urge for junk food, try drinking a large glass of water instead. Sometimes our hunger and food cravings are confused for thirst.
Water serves many important functions (including regulating blood sugar) in our body so drinking enough should be on the top of everyone’s to-do list.
3. Get enough sleep
Research has shown that poor sleep can lead to increased cravings so avoid the Netflix binge-watching and try to get some zzzz’s!
4. Manage your stress
Easier said than done, right?
Many of us turn to junk food during times of stress. Food can be used as a coping mechanism and most often the foods people use to cope is junk – if you stress eat with a plate full of veggies, kudos to you!
It is normal to reach for junk foods like ice cream, soda, potato chips, and pizza under stress, but that doesn't mean your body will actually benefit from eating those things.
Stress causes cravings for unhealthy foods which unfortunately, if eaten, can increase stress and inflammation. In order to not get caught in this downward spiral we must face our stressors head on and learn how to respond in a healthier way.
5. Practice mindful eating
This can be the most difficult to implement because it requires us to “un-learn” behaviors we may have had since childhood.
Next time a craving hits ask yourself some simple questions, “Am I actually hungry?” “Am I eating because I am stressed, sad, or bored?” “What happened during my day that may have triggered this craving?”
Awareness is an important first step. Pay attention to those moments when your cravings start so you can figure out what unleashed them. Then, when you do choose to eat something, savor it slowly and really taste the food. It will be more satisfying that way and savoring food will usually result in eating less.
Conclusion: Start with Baby Steps
The biggest take-away is that feeding your junk food cravings will only create more cravings.
Review this list and see what area(s) you need to focus on. Your junk food habit is not going to fix itself in one day, nor will it be fixed by any potion or pill.
Take baby steps towards your goal of consuming less junk food, and one day, you'll find yourself crossing the finish line.
You must be committed and stay consistent!