It’s the middle of the night, you’re watching your favorite season, and suddenly your stomach starts growling. What is the first thing that you’ll think of eating? Ordering some burgers, pizza, or grabbing that pack of chips in your drawer, right?
Well, you’re not alone. Many people deal with cravings daily. The fact that junk food is available quickly, at low prices, serving all kinds of taste buds at any time of day makes it appealing to the majority. On the other hand, if you want healthy food, it’s not just expensive to buy, but the preparation takes time and effort.
But do you know what these junk food cravings are doing to you? How harmful are they to your physical and mental health?
Food manufacturers usually craft the food to provoke their customers to buy the junk food and get trapped in the vicious addiction cycle. Not just this, these various flavors are so addictive that your brain reacts to them the same way it reacts to cocaine or other drugs.
Junk food is everything that is processed, has high calories, and has little to no nutritional value. Let us make it more specific so you can easily comprehend what constitutes junk food. All the commercial products, gums, chips, fried fast food, carbonated and sweetened drinks, and everything high in sugar, salt, and fat (HSFF) are considered junk food.
See how things are escalating so quickly? Don’t worry because, in this article, we’ll tell you WHY you’re craving junk food, HOW is it ruining your health at every bite, and HOW can you get rid of this toxic habit.
5 Reasons for Your Junk Food Cravings
No matter how many times you decide to avoid eating junk food, you still end up craving it. Here is why:
1. It Makes You Happy
When you’re looking at your favorite food and are enjoying every bite of it, your brain knows that you are doing something right, and it releases the feel-good hormone called dopamine, which the brain interprets as pleasure.
Since the brain is hard-wired to seek dopamine-releasing behaviors, eating junk food craves more junk food. Thus, beginning the junk food addiction.
2. Sleep Deprivation
According to various researches, the lack of sleep is one of the major reasons for junk food cravings.
When you stay up late at night, the body releases ghrelin, which is the hunger hormone. This hormone incites appetite, increases food intake, and promotes fat storage. At the same time, the leptin is reduced, which is responsible for suppressing hunger, resulting in your body craving for junk food and stimulating poor food choices.
If you think stress eating is just a phenomenon, you’re wrong! Stress eating disorder is a recognized medical condition where the individual increases the eating frequency to suppress the stress.
Apart from this, when you’re stressed, the body releases cortisol hormone and various other hunger-related hormones, causing a storm inside the body, which results in cravings for sweet and fatty foods.
4. It’s Convenient
Junk food is the easiest thing to find. No matter where you are, be it a supermarket, departmental store or even the petrol pump, you’ll be able to find a designated junk food area, and if not that, there will be some crisps or gums at the counter waiting for you.
Food manufacturers are very smart when it comes to making their food items. They make sure it’s easily accessible, quick to deliver, has a long shelf life, and tingles all the taste buds, trapping you in the junk food obsession.
Lastly, one of the main reasons for craving junk food at night is that you’re habitual of consuming unhealthy food. If your lifestyle is dependent on eating outside because you’re too busy to cook or you’re mostly on the go throughout your day, it becomes convenient for you to grab food that you can eat on the go, such as chips or fries, etc.
Sadly, junk food is an addiction for your body because you’ve molded it to crave carbs and fatty foods so you can stay active; and according to research, you will suffer addict-like cravings and sugar withdrawals when you’ll try to leave it.
How Can Junk Food Ruin Your Healthy Life?
When it comes to your health, it’s very important to take care of it, and consuming junk food leads to serious medical conditions and health problems.
One of the most common and rising problems due to unhealthy eating habits and patterns is obesity. Junk food is filled with empty calories that only fill the stomach for a few hours and gives your body no nutrients except for fat, sugar, and salt.
Obesity is a growing problem amongst people of all ages, leading to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, and even death.
2. Poor Cognitive Skills
According to a research, having a poor diet negatively affects the behavior and cognitive ability of children. Consuming too much junk food affects your brain, which results in poor memorization, weaker brain cells, and unwanted inflammation in other parts of the brain.
Usually, people consume junk foods because of sugar satisfaction and instant energy boost. Unfortunately, this excess sugar and fats in the diets, chemical reactions in the brain poorly affect its functionality. Too much junk food also causes the nutrients and amino acids in our body to flush out, resulting in the inability of the brain to handle stress leading to depression.
4. Leads to Heart Diseases
If you’re amongst the people who consume junk food 3-4 times a week, it’s high time you take a good hard look at your health. Consuming high amounts of junk food causes cholesterol levels to rise, which leads to diabetes, causing stress on the cardiovascular system.
Junk food consumption is also one of the major reasons for obesity amongst consumers, creating a high amount of pressure on the heart and leading to strokes and various other heart diseases.
5. Shortness of Breath
Yes, too much junk food is one of the reasons you might be experiencing shortness of breath. The excess amounts of fat, sodium, and carbs found in junk food cause obesity and diabetes, which reduces your stamina and makes your body prone to asthma and shortness of breath in the long run.
12 Ways to Quit Junk Food
By this point, you’re aware of what junk food is, why you’re craving it and how it’s destroying your health bite by bite. So, as promised earlier, here are the top 12 ways you can fight off the cravings and set yourself free from this addictive vicious junk food lifestyle once and for all.
1. Dealing With the Triggers
The first step towards getting rid of junk food habits is making junk food scarce and inaccessible. Delete all the food ordering apps from your phone, remove all the junk food from your fridge, work desks, drawers, etc. When there is no junk food within your reach, you will find it easier to avoid it.
Keep a few treats on which you can control your craving. Stock up on healthier treats, like protein bars, dry nuts, popcorn, etc., so you don’t end up eating a huge chocolate bar all at once when you lose control. Treating yourself every once in a while will help you continue this habit of avoiding junk food throughout your lifetime.
2. Don’t Skip on Meals
One of the major reasons for consuming junk food is that you are skipping your meals. Never skip on your regular meals, and take them in appropriate amounts at proper timings.
Take a healthy breakfast and nutritious lunch and dinner and add some snacks, but make sure to stay under your calorie requirement so that you can maintain your weight.
3. Differentiate Between Hunger and Cravings
It is very important to understand what you’re feeling. If you’re really hungry, your body will give you signs in the form of dizziness, stomach growling, feeling weak, etc., hinting you to fuel up.
So, if you get hungry before your mealtime, you should take some healthy snacks so that you’re not starving before your meal. Starvation will only lead to eating in excess amounts, which we don’t want. On the other hand, a craving is when you feel like eating some specific texture or flavors. For cravings, you need to divert your attention by following the tips in this article.
4. Stay Hydrated
It is very important to keep your hydration levels under check. Drinking a tall glass of plain water helps you divert your cravings easily. If you’re not big on plain water, you should add some lemon slices or cucumber slices to add some flavor.
Did you know that research shows, taking a brisk walk when you crave sugary items can help you divert your cravings? It’s not just the brisk walks; if you’re unable to go outside, doing a few minutes of exercise such as calisthenics can help you handle your stress better, leading to controlled cravings.
6. Sleeping Right
One of the very common habits amongst the younger generation these days is; staying up late. It is extremely important to take proper 7-9 hours of sleep for any adult. Poor sleeping patterns and staying up late cause the ghrelin (hunger hormone) to increase, which is responsible for inciting hunger and appetite in your body.
7. Listening to Your Body
It is very important to pay attention to your body and what it is trying to communicate when it comes to handling your cravings.
We often suffer deficiencies and are unable to identify them until they start showing up in the form of severe symptoms. Thus, you must regularly take supplements such as a fat burner, multivitamins, and whey protein isolate powder. These supplements help you overcome any uncatered deficiencies, suppress your unwanted hunger pangs and promote weight loss all at the same time.
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8. Eat More Protein
Research shows that if you consume more proteins in your diet, you will feel full for longer hours. Eating proteins like fish, beans, vegetables, nuts, etc., help you stay full for long hours, which means you won’t feel hungry and won’t desire any junk food, giving you a win-win scenario.
9. Handling Stress Levels
Research shows that if you’re unable to handle the stress levels properly, you will crave junk food. If you’re finding it difficult to manage stress efficiently, then you must visit a therapist to help you sort out your cognitive disruptions and enable you to manage stress better.
10. Chewing Gums
If you still feel that after doing everything in your power, you will lose the fight against your cravings, then research says you should try and consume chewing gums. These chewing gums will help you satisfy your sweet cravings, fight off the cravings by keeping your mouth occupied, and they will give your jaw the ultimate workout.
11. Call Your Mentor
Isn’t it nice to have someone at your corner all the time? Whether it’s your friend, relative, or your nutritionist, it is extremely important to stay in contact with your mentor. These are the people who can keep you motivated on your low days and help you fight the cravings so you can reach your own body goals.
12. Stack Up on Healthy Snacks
Lastly, to control your cravings, here is the last hack from us. There are various healthy snacks that you can consume to help satisfy various food and texture cravings. For example, smoothies, peanut butter with celery, fresh berries, nuts, etc., will help fight off the cravings and add nutrition to your body at the same time.
It is not unusual to crave, but curbing these cravings with healthy snacking is the art that will help you stay fit and reach your own body goals. Switching your junk food cravings with beans, nuts, fruits are the ultimate goal because then and only then can you get rid of the vicious junk food cycle and stay away from all the life-threatening diseases that are caused by eating food that is processed and is high in fats, sugar, and salts.
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