7 Strategies to Instantly Stop Your Fast Food Addiction
Why does fast food have to be so delicious and not nutritious….
We all love fast food, for so many reasons.
It’s tasty, thanks to all the additives that are high in sugar and fat. And there are so many options. If there’s something you don’t like, all you have to do is continue down the menu until you’ve found another item. Fast food is also cheap, in comparison to other choices you may be contemplating. While prices have risen over the years, a pizza will forever cost less than a steak.
Taste, choice and cost are only the beginning, with a lot of other perks pertaining to junk food!
It’s super convenient. You don’t necessarily see drive-through salad bars on every corner, and it’s nice not to have to jump out of your car when you’re on the go. Then there’s the benefit of not having to cook, which can take too long when you set aside time for shopping, chopping, cleaning and washing.
The harsh reality is that junk food is processed which means your brain is much more likely to crave it. Even though the conscious mind knows they’re unhealthy, some other part of the brain seems to disagree. Some lucky people don’t experience this and can easily control the types of foods they eat, while others can’t. This isn’t due to a lack of willpower — it’s a much more complex situation.
The fact is junk food stimulates the reward system in the brain in the same way as addictive drugs, such as cocaine. For susceptible people, eating junk food can lead to full-blown addiction – a physical or psychological need to do, take or use something, to the point where it could be harmful to you. A fast food addiction actually shares the same biological basis as drug addiction.
Are you addicted to junk food filled with sugar? Is addiction driving the obesity epidemic? People tend to get cravings when the brain starts calling for certain foods — often processed foods that aren’t considered healthy or nutritious.
If you feel you are addicted to sweets and junk food, what should you do?
Here are six strategies you can try, to overcome an addiction to sugar and junk food.
There’s no better way to handle cravings than planning your meals and snacks ahead of time. If you have a healthy meal and snacks packed and ready for you at lunchtime and in the afternoon, you’re far less likely to grab a leftover piece of pizza, order French fries, or eat the sweets someone brought into the office.
In other words, you will reduce your “food cue reactivity” This is what researchers call your susceptibility to being influenced by the food smells, advertisements, and conversations surrounding you every day.
Try to plan out each week’s meals on Sunday, or the day before your work week starts. Go grocery shopping for what you need. Then prepare large batches of easy foods like brown rice, beans, stir-fried or roasted vegetables, or cold salads. Use food storage containers, mason jars, or foil to pack up serving sizes that you can grab in the morning on your way out the door. Fruits like apples, bananas, and oranges travel well and can be kept on your desk, making them easy afternoon snacks.
Shop the perimeter
The perimeter of the grocery store typically includes the produce, dairy, meat, and fish sections. This is where you’ll find real foods, rather than highly processed food products. When you go shopping, try to purchase items only from these sections. If a food item has more than a few ingredients on the label (or ones you can’t pronounce), don’t buy it! This is a key step in transitioning your diet to whole foods. Over time, your body and palate will get used to fresh vegetables, fruit, grains and proteins.
You’ll be getting all the nutrients you need from these healthy foods, so your cravings for the fake stuff will start to diminish. It may take a few weeks, but eventually it won’t even taste good to you!
Eat Healthy Fats
One of the most common nutrition myths is that fat makes you fat. In fact, your body needs fat! However, there are many different types of fat. You should avoid trans fats and limit saturated fats, but heart-healthy fats like nuts and avocado will help you feel full and reduce cravings. Have a handful of mixed nuts as an afternoon snack. Or you can make a homemade salad dressing with olive oil and vinegar. Adding fresh guacamole or a fatty fish like salmon to your day is also a great way to incorporate healthy, filling fats.
Fruit has sugar, but it has a lot of vitamins, antioxidants, and water, too. It also contains fiber, which slows and balances out the effects on your blood sugar. This prevents the sugar crash. Once you wean yourself off of manufactured sugar, fruit will taste a lot sweeter and more satisfying to you. Grab a bowl of berries or a piece of watermelon if you’re craving something sweet.
There’s almost always an emotional component behind cravings. Sure, you really need the brownie because you like the flavor. Or your blood sugar is low and you need an energy boost. You’re more likely to grab the Cheetos or leftover cookies when you’re upset or stressed by something.
Consider how you may be eating (or drinking) as a way to stuff feelings, distract yourself, or procrastinate. Try to be compassionate to yourself and do some gentle exploration. Practice redirecting yourself when you feel the urge to reach for food instead of doing what needs to be done, or saying what needs to be said.
Healthy stress management tools include: taking a walk or run, yoga, meditating for a few minutes, taking some deep breaths, talking to a trusted friend or family member, doing something creative like painting and journaling.
Experiment and find what works best for you. If your stress feels overwhelming, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. They can offer emotional support and suggest other effective, healthy, non-food coping methods.
Get more sleep
Most people don’t get nearly enough sleep. And while you’re probably aware of the effects on your mood or energy level, you may not know that lack of sleep is also thought to play a big role in junk food cravings. Studies have shown sleep restriction resulted in more hunger and less ability to control intake of “palatable snacks.” So make the effort to turn in a little bit earlier every night. You might also want to stop eating a few hours before you intend to go to bed. A full stomach can cause indigestion and interfere with your ability to fall or stay asleep.
Do you know the effects junk food can have on your body? While many locations now state the number of calories in a meal, there is so much more than this going into your body. If you need to scare yourself out of the habit, start doing your research!
There is plenty of evidence showing that regularly eating fast food can harm a person’s health in both the short and long term. Some of these include being lethargic, skin deteriorating, bloating, memory decline, constipation, obesity, inflammation and tooth decay. This is because most fast food is high in sugar, salt, saturated fat and trans fats, processed ingredients, and calories, and low in antioxidants, fiber, and many other nutrients.
Although our brains are wired to eat a variety of foods, junk food may reduce this desire. This can trap you in a vicious cycle of unhealthy eating. And the more you eat junk food, the more you crave it. Your addiction could become a problem that won’t resolve on its own.
Try these simple steps, so you can break the cycle today and lead a healthier life.
If you continue to struggle, consider seeking help from a health professional or free support group. Always remember that you’re not alone.