It’s 1 a.m. and you’re standing in the kitchen. No lights, just the glare of the refrigerator staring back at you. Your eyes are searching for the perfect combination to feed your addiction and all of a sudden, the pantry calls. You take that quick step to the left or right, open the pantry door and your mouth begins to salivate. There, in the abyss of the shelves, lies a goldmine of peanut butter, 4 different kinds of chips, cereal, snack bars, pop tarts, candy bars and your mind is actually telling your stomach you’re hungry for them all. In that moment, you realize, the battle between the scale and the junk food pantry is real. You must admit, you’re a junk food “Junkie”.
In 2005 alone, Americans spent a staggering $60 billion on snack foods! Sugar and salt cravings are often blamed for snack attacks, but how can you stop them?
The truth is, processed foods contain carefully orchestrated flavors and other sensory factors designed to be as addictive as possible. This is in stark contrast to whole foods, the taste and consistency of which was created by nature and therefore work with your body to satiate hunger and nutritional cravings.
Reporter Michael Moss author of the book Salt Sugar Fat, said food manufacturers go to great lengths to find the perfect blend of salt, sugar, fat, and additional flavorings to excite your brain’s reward center, thereby assuring you’ll be back for more. In addition to those basics, the food industry also employs other strategies to increase their products’ addictive nature.
- Dynamic contrast. This is when a combination of contrasting sensations produces pleasurable sensations, such as biting through a crunchy chocolate shell, followed by a soft, creamy center filling.
- Salivation response, which boosts taste and feelings of pleasure. Examples of foods and/or ingredients that promote salivation include butter, chocolate, ice cream, and mayonnaise.
So, with all this going against us, why do we still have such a hard time kicking the junk food “Junkie” Addiction?
Well, here are some sound steps you can take to help you through the process:
1. Detox or Fasting: One of the most effective ways I know of to eliminate sugar cravings and shed unwanted weight is intermittent fasting, as this will help reset your body to burning fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel. When sugar is not needed for your primary fuel and when your sugar stores run low, your body will crave it less. Fasting provides a period of concentrated physiological rest during which time the body can devote its self-healing mechanisms to repairing and strengthening damaged organs. The process of fasting also allows the body to cleanse cells of accumulated toxins and waste products.
In addition to weight loss, benefits include: elimination of stored toxins that will result in clear skin, healthy teeth and gums, a clean cardiovascular system, reduction of aches and pains in joints, stabilization of blood pressure and more.
2. Stop Skipping Meals: If you skip meals, this will lead to your blood sugar levels going abnormally low and intense cravings start. This also causes an increase in ghrelin (a neurotransmitter that sets up an irresistible urge to eat) and also lowers neuropeptide Y, which increases carbohydrate cravings. This will lead to an unstoppable desire to eat lots of food and increases your eating frequency, which leads to binging on extra foods better known as JUNK FOOD.
3. GO to Sleep: Do you sleep enough? 7 – 9 hours of sleep is vital to your health. There is a strong link between the amount of sleep people get and their risk of becoming overweight. Sleep deprivation leptin, a blood protein that suppresses appetite, and grehlin, a substance that makes people want to eat. After a night of sleep deprivation, people typically consume 10% more calories!
4. Exercise: After a person exercises, abnormal cortisol levels lower, dopamine lowers (arousal hormone), and norepinephrine lower, which leads to appetite suppression and mood stability. While this alone could be pages and pages of good reasons to exercise all by itself, the science alone supports its many added benefits.
5. Drink Water: Water is essential to life, and part of every chemical reaction in our bodies. Yet so many people are walking around in a semi-dehydrated state. Many times our body mistakes thirst for hunger. We end up eating food, when in reality we needed water. We can get it in a few different ways, but for the educational purpose of this article, I’m suggesting you drink it. Just by simply increasing your water intake, the hunger pains or junk food cravings will drastically decrease. In hot humid climates, this is also a great benefit to the health of your skin, hair and increases the body’s ability to function and release fat and toxins.
While we may each choose to keep a few of our favorites in the closet for the emergency midnight run, choosing a conscious and healthy lifestyle for the greater majority of your food intake will lessen the effects at the very least when trying to kick the habit.