6 Ways to break your junk food addiction

Chips, cakes, candy, soda, fried food--it's all so tasty, and so readily available, and so easy to get hooked on. There's no real problem with the occasional treat of course, the problem starts when the occasional treats start to happen too frequently. Studies have shown that high intake of sugar releases serotonin into the brain. Being a hormone that quite literally makes you feel happy, serotonin can quickly turn your junk food consumption from casual to a full blown addiction in no time. Harder still is the fact that many seemingly innocent simple carbohydrates, like rice, white potatoes and corn, actually turn to sugar as they digest in your body. So how are you supposed to avoid becoming a sugar junkie in the first place let alone curb a problem that's already in full swing? Read on to find out.

 

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Cooking at home is the easiest way to ensure you know exactly what you're eating, so do it as often as possible. Stock your fridge with fresh fruit, cut up veggies and plain yogurt and keep roasted or raw nuts around for snacking. And don't forget about salt! It's a serious culprit as well, and is used abundantly in most packaged foods. Since it makes things taste good, it can have you reaching for that bag of chips a lot more frequently than you should be.

Follow these tips to drop a junk food habit that's already formed:

1. Read labels. You probably purchase some things that you already know are full of sugar or artificial sweeteners--ice cream, soda, snack cakes, etc.--but there are a lot of items lining grocery store shelves that you probably didn't realize are adding to your problem. Many cereals, flavored yogurts, granola bars, and even pre-seasoned meat products are full of salt, sugar and sugar substitutes. Be diligent about reading labels, and look out for alternate names--anything with the world "syrup" or that ends in "-ose" is a usually a sweetener and ingredients like soy sauce and MSG are salt culprits. Do a quick online search for a comprehensive list.

2. Keep your grocery list clean. Now that you know which ingredients to stay away from, ditch them from your kitchen, and the next time you shop, write a list of clean alternatives. The safest way to do so is to stick to whole foods. That is, foods that are sold in their natural form and have undergone as little processing as possible. Try buying mostly from the perimeter of the grocery store, where you'll find fresh and frozen produce, meats and minimally processed dairy products. The inner aisles are full of processed foods that have been stripped of their nutrients and pumped full of ingredients that will heighten your addiction.

3. Wean yourself. If you've been eating the same way for as long as you can remember, you might try a slower weaning process rather than going cold turkey. That means, set a daily or weekly limit on how much candy or soda or whatever your particular problem foods are and slowly reduce that amount each week until that food or drink is no longer a part of your diet.

4. Try a fast. If you're familiar with how to eat healthy and have just fallen off the wagon, you could try going cold turkey. A great way to get started is to embark on a fast--and no, I don't mean drinking all juice and nothing but juice for the net 30 days. You can fast from only the foods that you know you need to eliminate from your diet. Get rid of whatever is in your house and don't buy or eat any of it for as long as it takes you to stop craving it. You don't have to commit to total elimination for the rest of your life. But fasting will give your tastebuds time to change and allow your body to start craving the nutritious foods you've gotten used to. And an occasional treat will be just that--a treat and not a problem. 

5. Schedule your meals and snacks. A great way to keep your blood sugar stable and stop yourself from gobbling down any and everything you can get your hands on in a fit of the hangries. Plan to eat a well-balanced meal that combines lean protein, complex carbs and plenty of fruit and veggies three times a day, as well as similarly composed snacks about twice a day.

6. Give it time. Changing a habit usually takes four to six weeks, so if you're still craving your afternoon frappucino after a week of not having one, don't cave! Stick it out and in about a month, you probably won't even think about hitting up the drive through.

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Topics: advice  diet  eating healthy  healthy habits  junk food