I consider “junk food” to be an underestimated bomb, waiting to go off – something much more “sophisticated” than the tacky, .99 cent sticker that greets you every time you walk into a store.
Did you know there’s an actual formula for this stuff? The sugar, the fat, the salt. Yeup, that does mean it’s not 100% your fault for going back for more. The tough part: we’re moving so fast, we’re so disconnected from our bodies, and we’re at an arms length from almost any junk food possible.
A few weeks ago, I came back from a long getaway to the Caribbean, where I crashed on my sister’s couch, lived simply, and regained my mojo that I lost in the digital, city-life. (By the way, I highly recommend a complete “checkout” every year – something that I didn’t always do in the past.)
Anywho, as a San Franciscan spoiled brat, lover of quality food, and a die-hard holistic nutrition coach, I was dealing with the reality that what was available to me back home was not going to be available to me for the next few weeks.
I basically had two “readily available” options: 1) affordable junk food (fried frozen foods at cafes or processed packages from the grocery store); or 2) expensive vegetables that were picked months prior and shipped across the country. Fortunately with help from the locals, I found a fabulous farm and ate fresh fish for the majority of my trip.
Long story short, is that “junk food” is everywhere and is more readily available than the foods that will actually support long-term, health (even on small islands like St. John).
Where to go from here?
After taking a quick survey on our Facebook page, I learned that many of you grab for the same things. Check this list out:
- Ice cream/Frozen Sweets ✓✓
- Chocolate ✓✓✓✓
- Cookies ✓✓✓
- Fried Foods ✓✓
- Soda ✓
- Salami ✓
- Cake ✓
- Bread ✓
- Cheese ✓
- Burgers ✓
- Chips ✓✓
There’s no coincidence that all of these foods are high in fat, sugar, and salt.
To help you beat your “junk food” cravings, I’ve put together 8 tips that are worth keeping in your back pocket:
- First, understand the definition of “junk food.” Junk food = foods that have little to zero nutritional value, are high in calories, usually highly processed, ready to eat with little preparation, and are normally high in fat, sugar, and/or salt. It’s also known for “empty calories” – which means you are getting no nourishment (i.e. – vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats, water, etc.).
- Second, understand how “junk food” works in the body. According to David A. Kessler, author and Harvard-trained doctor, lawyer, and former medical school dean, “‘Highly palatable’ foods — those containing fat, sugar and salt — stimulate the brain to release dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure center, he found. In time, the brain gets wired so that dopamine pathways light up at the mere suggestion of the food, such as driving past a fast-food restaurant… Once the food is eaten, the brain releases opioids, which bring emotional relief. Together, dopamine and opioids create a pathway that can activate every time a person is reminded about the particular food. This happens regardless of whether the person is hungry.”
- Third, ask yourself what is happening at the very moment you are overwhelmed with “junk food” cravings. Are you stressed, tired, bored, angry, overwhelmed, unhappy, depressed, or maybe even drunk? All of these feelings contribute to your cravings. When you pause and think about where you are in the moment, you will recognize that the “call to eat” may have nothing to do with hunger, and everything to do with what you need to handle in your life.
- Fourth, establish your health goals (and maybe put it in writing or tell a friend). Almost every person I’ve encountered in my 28 years of life, wants to feel (and look) confident, strong, beautiful, and plain ol’ GREAT (in their own way). If your health goals are to have energy (to play, work, and enjoy), have a healthy body (inside and out), and feel phenomenal (clear headed, optimistic, and joyful), then it’s time to put yourself at the top of the list (mind, body, and soul). Once you’ve established your health goals, you can ask yourself if the “junk food” in front of your face will support what you are up to.
- Fifth, prepare a “world” of healthy foods. I say world, because your environments that you spend most of your time include your home, work, and maybe your car. In each of these places, your task is to make sure that you have whole, real foods (prepped and ready to enjoy) at an arms length. Remember “junk food” is everywhere and it’s not going away, so it’s your job to surround yourself with foods that uplift you.
- Sixth, be inspired by those that have made the shift. There are lots of people who have made drastic “edits” in their lives to choose other options. Be inspired by those folks because they are living proof that with goals, persistence, hard work, and nutritious food, anything is possible.
- Seventh, cut the cynicism. Period. If you have a cynical attitude around “junk food,” your health, your body, or other people’s health and body, know that at this very moment, you can STOP being that way. If you don’t know what I mean, ignore this step. However, if you are one to say things like: “I’m never going to be “x” (strong, beautiful, handsome, thin, thick, healthy, etc.), so it doesn’t matter if I eat these “x” (chips, cookies, etc.).” Or if you say things like: “she’s not all that cute since she started being healthy because she’s too “x” (skinny, strong, muscular, etc.),” you better check your cynicism at the door. This way of living your life will get you NO-WHERE. Recognize your power in the game and try something different (like right now).
- Eighth, enjoy foods that provide nutritious value (to your skin, body, cells, brain, heart, and soul) without deprivation. Creating forbidden rules will work for a while, but one day soon, everything will get old. Depriving yourself, eating barely anything, and going hungry, will make you think about food ALL THE TIME and keep you from enjoying the life that you really want. Since I took on this journey to “EAT LIFE WHOLE” back in 2006, I knew nothing but the pure desire to “feel great.” I’m constantly learning and exploring my health, trying new foods, exercising differently, and creating a system (work, play, and reflection) that works for me. To keep you inspired, I put together two recipes that will knock your socks off (again and again). Take a look and try them out.
Want to Break Bad Food Habits? Click here.