Ah, cravings! Sometimes these pesky things can creep up on you when you’re trying really hard to eat well. While I believe in enjoying food in moderation and never depriving yourself, sometimes a craving that may seem innocent can end up in a full-blown binge that lasts for several days.
Why am I craving junk food?
How to stop eating junk food
You might find yourself struggling with junk food cravings during that time of the month, then the next thing you know, you’re wondering how to stop eating junk food for almost every meal!
Why am I craving junk food?
It can be really frustrating if you are trying to eat healthier and suddenly you’re hit with food cravings.
This generally happens because junk food can be addictive. One of the reasons ‘junk food’ is manufactured is to please people so that it sells! To achieve this, junk food is carefully formulated so that the consumer wants to keep coming back for more — and then we say hello to cravings!
What I am talking about when I say ‘carefully formulated’ is everything from the look to the smell, taste and feel of the food, as well as your salivary response to it. Believe it or not, all of these factors are carefully analysed by scientists in order to create a food that is super appealing to a consumer and leaves them wanting more. It basically tricks your brain into thinking you need it.
What happens if you eat junk food all the time?
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that junk food is not good for your health, especially in the long term.
Junk food is highly processed, which means feeding your body only junk food can mean it misses out on beneficial nutrients. Instead, junk food gives your body sugars, trans fats and sodium — to name a few. Eating junk food all the time means you may find yourself dealing with breakouts, bloating and constipation. You may be more prone to dehydration and more frequent bad moods, as well as weight gain.
Eating junk food late at night can also make it hard on your digestive system, so you may find it really hard to get up and get moving the next day.
None of these effects of eating junk food sound like a lot of fun, right? Keep reading to find out how to stop eating junk food and to start enjoying healthy, delicious meals!
How to stop eating junk food
The good news is that there are strategies you can try to stop eating junk food and most of them are super simple to follow. Here are my top tips on how to stop junk food cravings!
1. Eating less junk food means less cravings
Research has shown that the less junk food you eat, the less you crave it. This may be because you aren’t exposed to the artificial ingredients that lead you to crave it more. If you gradually start to cut junk food from your diet, you can begin to notice yourself craving it less and less, especially if you are eating a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods.
2. Manage your stress
When talking about food cravings, I think it is really important to look at how you manage your stress levels. For many people, there is a direct correlation between being stressed and eating junk food and they may not even realise it. Being stressed can cause certain parts of the brain to release specific chemicals such as opiates and neuropeptide Y, which can trigger cravings for fat and sugar. Next time you are feeling stressed or have a long day, take a moment to reflect back on it and think about what you feel like.
Do you reach for a few pieces of chocolate to help take the edge off? While this may be okay once in a while, if you use food as a means of coping with stress, you could be eating junk food every day and not realising the impact it may be having on your body. Instead, try to replace eating junk food with other stress-management techniques.
3. Variety is key
If you want to stop eating junk food, this is one of my biggest tips. Many people want to cut junk food out of their diet and clean up their eating but they worry this means eating only salads. That’s not the case at all!
It is so important to eat a variety of different foods so that you don’t get bored with your snacks and meals. There is no reason that healthy eating has to be boring — a little organisation at the start of the week can help you to stay on track with your goals.
Try creating a Pinterest board to store all of your favourite healthy eating recipes so you always have inspiration (or follow mine!). Also, remember to stock up on pantry staples, including herbs and spices, so that you can add flavour to meals as well.
4. Think of how you will feel
Next time a craving hits, take the time to think about how you will feel if you give in to the craving and if you are able to resist it. Pause for a minute to figure out if you want to go through with satisfying the craving or not.
If you indulge it but really don’t want to, chances are you will be left feeling guilty and/or sick. I personally don’t like to focus on negative feelings — I like to focus on the positives, so I remind myself of how proud I will feel once the craving has passed and I haven’t given in it.
5. Don’t deprive yourself
Have you ever heard the saying ‘you want something more when you can’t have it’? Sometimes cravings work this way as well. The more you try to convince yourself that you can’t have something, the more appealing it looks. Instead of deciding something is off the cards totally, tell yourself that you can have it later. This way you are tricking your brain into thinking you are still going to eat whatever it is you are craving. Chances are by the time the craving passes, you won’t want it anyway.
6. Don’t buy unhealthy foods
If you want to learn how to stop eating junk food, this is a really important one! I know so many people who buy chocolate bars because they want to have them ready for ‘cheat day’. Out of sight, out of mind is the way I like to approach this. If you don’t have something to tempt you in the first place, you are less likely to have a binge on unhealthy foods.
For example, if you have a craving for a chocolate bar, you are more likely to fulfil that craving if you have chocolate in the cupboard. If it’s not in the cupboard, the extra effort of having to go and get one may stop you from indulging altogether.
7. Have healthy options on hand
Sometimes you simply have a craving for junk food — especially something sweet or salty. When a craving hits, try to have a healthy option nearby as a substitute.
What is a good substitute for junk food? You could try keeping some protein balls in the fridge and some natural tortilla chips in the cupboard. Then, if you have a junk food craving you can still satisfy it, just in a healthier way. I always have apples and bananas in my fruit bowl at home — they are great to snack on when I’m feeling peckish.
8. Eat wholesome meals throughout the day
Cravings can sneak up on you when you are hungry. So before you ask “How can I stop feeling hungry?” I’ve got the answer! Eating three to five meals daily, filled with natural ingredients, can help to keep you feeling satisfied throughout the day. A regular intake of both complex carbohydrates and lean protein is also important because it can help to keep your blood sugar levels stable and your appetite satiated.
Now you know how to stop eating junk food!
I hope you find these tips helpful if you’re trying to cut back on or stop eating junk food altogether. Cravings can be hard to resist but now you have a few strategies you can use next time a junk food craving hits.
Remember girls, working on being healthy and making changes to your eating habits can take time. It’s okay to be a work in progress, just do your best and don’t get down on yourself if you slip up occasionally. Keep trying and I know you will get there!