The good news is that the research shows that the less junk food you eat, the less you crave it. If you can find ways to eat healthier, you’ll find that your cravings for junk food diminish.
I’m a serious fan of James Clear and he has written a strategy that seems to work, so I’m going to share it with you here:
1. Use the “outer ring” strategy and the “5 ingredient rule” to buy healthier food.
The best course of action is to avoid buying processed and packaged foods. If you don’t have it in your house, you can’t eat it. Furthermore, if you don’t think about it, you can’t be lured by it.
We’ve talked about the power of junk food to pull you in and how memories of tasty food in the past can cause you to crave more of it in the future. Obviously, you can’t prevent yourself from ever thinking about junk food, but there are ways to reduce your cravings.
James has a strategy he calls “outer ring strategy”, and something I teach my clients very early on in our experience together. Just shop on the outer ring of the grocery store, you know, where all of the fruits, veggies, meats, and dairy are stocked. Now, just because it’s on the outer ring doesn’t mean it’s all healthy, but you will definitely avoid a lot of unhealthy foods this way.
Then there’s the “5 ingredient rule” … if something has more than five ingredients in it, leave it on the shelf. Odds are the food has been engineered to make you want to eat more of it.
We know that the additives in some foods are there to create cravings, so my own personal philosophy regarding reading food labels is this: If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.
2. Eat a variety of foods.
As we covered earlier, the brain craves variety and novelty.
If you’re craving the crunch and cream of an Oreo, try instead dipping a carrot in hummus – you’ll get a very similar sensation. Try cooking with new spices and flavors you haven’t used before. Preparing ethnic foods is a favorite of mine. By trying new ethnic dishes, I learn about different spices and ways to prepare foods.
3. Find a better way to deal with your stress.
You may wonder why I haven’t mentioned this before, especially since so many people use food as a coping mechanism for stress. Stress causes certain regions of the brain to release chemicals (specifically, opiates and neuropeptide Y). These chemicals can trigger mechanisms that are similar to the cravings you get from fat and sugar. In other words, when you get stressed, your brain feels the addictive call of fat and sugar and you’re pulled back to junk food.
We all have stressful situations that arise in our lives. Learning to deal with stress in a different way can help you overcome the addictive pull of junk food. Heading off to the gym, doing a yoga class, taking some time out for a short guided meditation or doing a craft are all options when it comes to heading off stress eating.
Where to Go From Here
One of my goals with this article is to reveal just how complex poor eating habits can be. Junk food is designed to keep you coming back for more. Telling people that they “need more willpower” or should “just stop eating junk” is short-sighted at best.
In order to create new habits around food, it’s important to ask for what you need. Most of us would love to believe we can handle it by ourselves and, when we don’t, we head back into the spiral of poor eating habits.
It doesn’t have to be that way for you. If you’re ready to kick junk food and get your mind set on good behaviors that serve you, contact me and Let’s Talk.