You are working hard on your fitness, trying to eat healthier but struggle to stay away from junk food?
While a little is okay in moderation, eating too much junk food can hinder your progress! You aren’t alone though. Junk food actually has addictive qualities! Here’s the reason why it’s so addictive, and how you can start to overcome it.
Let’s get straight to the point: most junk food has added chemicals in it that trigger your brain to release dopamine. Dopamine is an endorphin that is responsible for your “happy feeling” after working out, or when you’re falling in love. The downside, is that it is present with most junk foods. Not just that, but these foods are generally all high in sugar, added chemicals and preservatives too. This article from the NY times goes more into the science, but put simply – your brain likes dopamine & feeling good, your brain wants you to eat those foods. Then you crash from the chemical high, so brain says ‘more please’ and you find yourself reaching for more. Then you crash, hard. Oooh look a donut!! Rinse & repeat.
There has even been studies where people actually ate stale cake & cookies, simply because it was there and their brain wanted it. The taste was not great, and they did not enjoy eating it – but brain get what brain wants. Very interesting!
Knowing this fact, how can you break yourself out of the junk food addiction that is holding your body hostage?
- Start by controlling your portions. If you attempt to go cold-turkey right away, your body will start to crave it, and fast! Take baby steps. Limit your portions to what is listed on the packaging serving size.
- Limit the frequency. For me, my goal was three times per week, then I went down to one. I don’t cut out foods that I enjoy, so once a week works perfectly for my lifestyle. However, if you’re looking to cut it out completely, you can work towards eliminating it entirely.
- Choose your treats/meals carefully. As a vegan, I love thai, mexican and hot chips (droooool) and my partner likes full blown meat/cheese/throw everything on it pizza. For us, we take turns choosing where and have takeaway once a week. I get to look forward to that all week, and if I feel like reaching for some junk at 3pm, I’ll check out the menu online and decide what I will order. If I don’t plan in advance, I will end up grabbing takeaway on the way home after teaching boxing – an unhealthy habit I’ve now broken and removed.
- Do your groceries from a list and no shopping on an empty stomach! I will 100% buy a pack of corn chips, salsa, dips and a tub of mango cheesecake live a little gelato (my fave!!) if I go food shopping on an empty stomach. Grab your shopping list and a banana or apple on your way out of the door, just have something in your belly so that you are not impulse buying. Oh, and stick to your list.
- This one might be a little out there for some, but, mindset! Your mind is SO much more powerful than any current science and so so far beyond what are minds are capable of conceiving. When you feel your chocolate craving come up, think to yourself ‘hmm that’s strange, I don’t usually eat chocolate anymore’. Better yet, say it out loud. If you’re around other people, you can simply mouth it. or even write it down – magic happens when you put pen to paper!! All are different ways to alter your current thoughts and beliefs. Remember how you hated mushrooms or brussel sprouts as a kid? Now as an adult, you actually like them – you just didn’t enjoy the way they are prepared.
There are many ways to put down a habit that is no longer serving you. What are your thoughts? What works for you? Let me know in the comments below!