Junk food often tastes good going down, but leaves us feeling heavy, bloated, or worse, guilty.
Junk food is engineered (yes, you read that right, engineered) to make you eat more. Food scientists literally tweak hundreds if not thousands of versions of a recipe to get just the perfect blend of crunch, salt, sugar, fat, and chemicals to ensure you keep coming back from more. (Interested in learning more? Read the book “Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us” by Michael Moss).
So, it’s really NOT your fault you can eat an entire family size bag of chips or cookies. They’ve been manipulated to make sure you won’t stop!
It may seem impossible to get over sugary or salty junk food, especially when you have intense cravings for it, but as a reformed junk-food-a-holic, I promise it’s possible.
Here are some of my top tips to stop junk food cravings:
Don’t Deprive Yourself, Make Better Choices
Whenever we hear the words “we can’t have,” we want it even more. If you feel like you’re depriving yourself, you’re only going to boomerang back to the same old habits.If you have a craving for something sweet, instead of denying yourself completely, turn to fruit, or fruit based desserts, like banana ice cream, date truffles, chocolate avocado mousse or energy ballers.If you want something salty, try celery and carrots with hummus, guacamole, or olive tapenade. There are plenty of healthier versions of your favorite foods, no matter what the craving.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
At work, dump the office candy bowl. Don’t leave candy or other sweets out. Keep healthy snacks at your desk so the trip to the office kitchen is for water, tea, or the occasional coffee. And when you’re at the grocery store, just bypass the junk aisles. Don’t bring it home! This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you don’t bring junk food into your house, it makes it harder for you to eat it.
Instead, put a fruit bowl on your table, filled with oranges, tangerines, bananas and other delicious things, so you grab them instead of anything else.
Manage Your Stress, Boredom, or Loneliness
Often time, we turn to junk food not because we’re hungry, but rather because we’re stressed, bored, or lonely.
Sometimes we just turn to it as a distraction (often around 3pm, when our brain is fried from working since 9am, and eating lunch while checking emails).
When we turn to food to fill an emotional void, we’ll never feel full. The food temporarily gives us a feeling of calmness of comfort, but it doesn’t last, or address the root of the problem, which makes stress or other types of emotional eating a seemingly endless hamster wheel.
So, in order to stop these stress and emotion induced cravings, you have to manage the root cause. Figure out what is stressing you out, and find a way to reduce or mitigate it.
If you eat when you’re bored, write down a list of 10 activities you can do instead, such as go for a walk, go for a run, start a blog, create a DIY project, clean out your closet, or pick up a new hands on hobby. Then, when you feel the boredom eating coming on, look at your list, choose one of these activities and get busy to take your mind off eating!
If you eat when you’re lonely, write down a list of activities you can do so you feel less lonely: call a friend (write down a list of 5+ people you can call), write in your journal what feelings are coming up for you, invite a friend over for dinner or tea, join a meetup group, join a sports group, join a book club, or watch a funny movie.
If you eat when you’re stressed at work, find other activities that will allow you to blow off some steam: go for a walk around the block or to a park instead of noshing on that bag of chips or swinging by Starbucks for that latte and cookie, a kickbox class is great to get out that energy, make a matcha or herbal tea and sip it slowly, or close the door and turn on a guided 10-minute meditation.
Eat More Real Food
When you eat more real food, you will naturally want less junk food. And the less you eat junk food, the less you will crave it. You begin to lose the taste for it.
Aim to have anywhere from 50-75% of your lunch and dinner plate be vegetables, with the rest made up of healthy proteins and fats (and optionally a small amount of whole grains). For breakfast, stick to a similar ratio, but with fruit (of course you can have veggies for breakfast if you fancy!)
View Your Body Like a Temple
Above all, know you’re worth it! Vow to honor and respect your body. This is the only body you have, and it will be with you for the rest of your life.