A cold glass of soft drink, warm chocolate chip cookies, bowls of caramel popcorn, juicy beef burgers, french fries and jumbo bags of sweets all have one thing in common. These food items are all considered ‘junk food’ and can be detrimental to the human body when eaten to excess.
Studies show that when people eat at fast food restaurants twice a week, they significantly increase their chances of developing diseases and decreasing their lifespan. But if it is so bad for you, why do so many people partake? Why does junk food seem to be a major staple and easily found at every corner? Conquering a junk food addiction might feel like an uphill battle to fight.
Thankfully, there are also a few ways to break the habit. Research has shown the correlation between the brain and foods laden in sugar, salt or fat. After ingesting junk food, the brain's neurotransmitters release dopamine and opioids. Dopamine is considered a "feel good" hormone and opioids provide a sense of emotional comfort. This makes a lot of sense when we think about the common cliché of reaching for comfort food after an emotional upset. Even though there is temporary comfort released, the brain then remembers that feeling and will do its best to recover those sensations again, and hence the cravings begin. Here are a few tactics to employ to help end your junk food cravings:
Instead of purchasing tubs of ice cream, bags of chips and cream-filled doughnuts, get creative and fill your pantry with healthier options. If the junk food is not in your cupboard, you’ll have to go out of your way to get it, making you more likely to choose your healthy choices close to hand. Apples are a great source of fibre and can be very satiating. If popcorn is a must-have, try the air-popped version sans the salt and extra butter. Why not substitute doughnuts for high fibre, low carb protein bars. When you’re trying to break a habit, it isn't always about elimination, but substitution.
It is often thought that when people snack, their bodies are actually thirsty for water, but they eat instead. Make a commitment to drink at least eight glasses of water per day. For those who need some more taste in their water, you could add a few drops of lemon juice. Or, infuse some fruit or herbs to make it more interesting. How about a little bit of natural honey, a couple strawberries and mint leaves. These little additions can give water a great and interesting taste.
Know when you’re at your weakest!
If a good movie stimulates the desire to eat junk foods, be sure to stash a ton of healthy snacks on hand like green grapes, apple slices or carrots with hummus. Don’t shop hungry - make sure you’ve had a healthy meal before going to the supermarket to stop those impulse junk food buys.
If there are times of day when you feel like a snack, try incorporating some exercise at those times into your regime. Exercise will get the endorphins flowing which will help take the mind off of food and on to activities that support weight loss. Just getting up from your desk and walking to the printer or pouring a glass of water can be enough to break your craving.