I often get the question “how do I kick my junk food habit.” While there are many reasons that eating processed foods becomes a habit, there are some practical steps that you can take to turn your cravings in the right direction and get on a path to more purposeful eating. As we have discussed in many other articles, eating processed foods always has a negative effect on the body. No matter how organic, gluten free, “all natural,” etc something is, it will always be inferior to whole food in terms of helping you maintain a healthy weight or get rid of cravings. All processed foods are first made in a laboratory, specifically created to excite not only your taste buds, but your brain. They are made specifically to MAKE YOU CRAVE THEM! So many people walk around thinking something is wrong with them, when really it is the foods they are eating that are causing out of control cravings. Take control by employing some simple steps to remove boxed or bagged foods from your life. Now, you know that I don’t have an always / never philosophy about food, but it is important to know that when you do eat these foods, you will always have to fight harder to maintain your weigh and control your cravings. Work with your body instead of against it. Take a few simple steps. You may be surprised how many of your cravings and lack of “willpower” is linked to the foods that you are eating.
Put whole food in your body first … before you get extreme hunger or cravings. Eating protein and fat at every meal actually helps to reset your hormones as well as your brain chemistry. Taking this one step sets up your internal chemistry to make better decisions. Doing this will allow willpower to take a back burner as your body will be less likely to crave snack foods when your chemistry is balanced.
Consider food sensitivities. Most people don’t know that they are actually sensitive to the foods they are craving. When you eat a food you are sensitive to, the stress of the allergic reaction inside of your body causes the release of chemicals inside the body that are like natural opiates, “feel good” chemicals. These chemicals come from the same family as heroin and morphine. As we repeatedly expose our bodies to these foods we are sensitive to, the body adapts by suppressing the allergic symptoms, but the effects of the opiate like chemicals linger, thus creating a craving or “addiction” to certain foods that we didn’t even know we were sensitive to. The most common food sensitivities that cause cravings are gluten, sugar, and dairy.
Eat often to balance your blood sugar. There are lots of different nutritional theories out there, many of which have great scientific backing, but for those who want a consistent, sustainable eating plan that banishes cravings, this is the way to go. Remember, meals do not have to be large, but they do need to be consistent to balance blood sugar levels and cravings. Eating 3 meals and 2 snacks, each of which contain protein and a fruit or vegetable (and healthy fat when you can) will mitigate blood sugar highs and lows and keep you from having blood sugar related cravings. Always eat BEFORE you get hungry.
Reduce stress as often as you can. We all know that stress and junk food go hand in hand. I have never heard of anyone binge eating broccoli when they are stressed! Why, because broccoli is designed to satisfy, not to create a chemical reaction of bliss inside the brain like processed foods are. We all live in a world with more stress than we need, so look for simple ways to employ stress reduction in your everyday life. We would all love to enjoy a daily yoga class, but for most, that is not realistic. Look for simple things to keep you calm like listening to your favorite music, using lavender in your bath, or taking a walk. Stress is hormonal. Remember that. Once we get stressed, a hormonal reaction occurs inside of our bodies that then makes it exponentially more challenging to make good food choices. Again with the theme of being proactive ; )…..develop a routine for stress reduction. You will find that many other things fall into place.
Exercise smart. Just like food theories, there are many theories out there on exercise. Many of them are based in great science, but most of them do not address the fact that exercise can make you super hungry! Now, of course I want you to exercise, but I want you to exercise smart and to a level that does not make you go off the deep end with your food choices. My advice is always to experiment with different kinds of exercise to see which ones work the best for your lifestyle and your craving levels. If a particular bootcamp class causes you to raid your pantry when you get home, consider whether or not that intensity level is right for you. For some people, cravings can last for days after extreme exercise, so be a detective and learn what is best for your body.
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Try a few of the steps above. Even if you aren't hooked on junk food, these simple steps are things you can do to improve your quality of life!