Breaking the Junk Food Habit
Breaking up with junk food is hard. First, it's everywhere nowadays. Every store will have an aisle or more to temp us with savory, sweet, crispy, crunchy and sour. They make it too easy to fail your goals! Second, sugar is the new tobacco and unfortunately for us, sugar is in EVERYTHING! We know it's super addictive and it's seriously imbedded in all junk food making it so much harder to break up with our bag of chips.
Lastly, we are emotionally tied to food. We have a bad day, we eat. We have a great day, we eat but the food we are choosing isn't healthy, it's fast, easy and bad for us. So how do we start to make an easy transition to healthy choices... here are my suggestions.
1. Replace taste and texture. This is the easiest and least disruptive of all the suggestions. The goal is to make a seamless replacement where your brain won't notice too much and neither will your taste buds. Taste and texture can vary for each person but if your aim is to replace the bag of crispy, salty potato chips then choosing to bake veggies with a dash of salt might be the crispy alternative that suits you, your brain and your lifestyle. This will work for all those that NEED a snack and can't just cut it out.
2. Don't buy it. Keep the temptation away, plain and simple. If you have will power all day but all that stops the moment you walk into your home, then just don't buy it! Don't torture yourself. Instead, take some time to prepare better snacks and keep them handy.
3. Meal and Snack Preparation (Meal prep). C´mon, you know this is part of giving up junk food. Staying focused is always part of sticking to a new plan and for me meal prep is one way.
Meal prep for me means a) doing research of healthy food options, b) understanding why this healthy food option is good for me, c) the benefits of eating healthy, d) finding recipe's that fit my lifestyle, are easy to prepare and delicious.
This type of preparation, day after day, week after week, will help you make healthy food choices more often than not especially when you have a busy week and food prep isn't an option, at least you'll know what to order at a restaurant.
4. Become mindful when hunger strikes. This is my favorite of all suggestions and the one that will produce the best results if combined with all the suggestions above. Taking time to assess when hunger or the trigger hits your brain then asking yourself if you're truly hungry or if it's an emotional trigger, will save you time, energy and brain power when you're trying to figure out why you can't stop the junk food habit. It's usually either one of the following: we're eating bad quality food (junk food), too much food, or we are eating because we are not dealing with the emotional attachment we made with food.
The habit loop looks like this: it means that you've successfully created a loop to avoid dealing with that particular emotion either stress, nerves, anxiety, fear, doubt, even happiness and instead you are "dealing" with the emotion you try to lower the stress by eating junk food. Once you hear it explained like that, this habit loop doesn't even make sense! How can anyone destress by eating? It doesn't make sense but your brain can't distinguish the difference. It checks off the junk food as "stress has been dealt with" and it will quiet your mind temporarily.
There you have it, start slow and eventually move into the next level. Changes aren't easy, they are supposed to difficult, so don't give up! I know you can do it!
Start your new habits by downloading the observation checklist to replace your snacks using the replacement technique and you can also begin your mindful food journey by using the stop technique.
Behavior Analyst and Personal Life Coach. Changing behavior one step at a time. Keeping things simple because it's easier that way.