Eating junk food isn’t just a bad habit – it can also be a serious hazard to your health if you let it get out of control. If you feel like you have a junk food addition, use the following information to help you break the cycle of eating poorly and get back on the right track to health and happiness.
What Are The Dangers?
We all know junk food is bad for us – that’s why it’s called “junk,” after all. But just how bad is eating junk food on a regular basis? The answer is probably worse that you might have imagined. Here are just a few things that eating junk food regularly can do to your body:
- Decreased energy levels
- High blood pressure
- Poor renal function or even kidney disease
- Poor mood or mood swings
- Poor cognitive performance
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Higher cholesterol levels
- Liver dysfunction or disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Excess weight or obesity
Another surprising factor that many people may not link to junk food is mental health. According to a study by Spanish researchers featured in the journal of Public Health and Nutrition, individuals who ate processed foods were found to have a higher chance of developing depression. Therefore, avoiding junk food could help you to avoid mood disorders and other similar problems.
[Related: The Link Between Fast Food And Depression]
Negative effects on a person’s intelligence have even been linked to eating junk food. A study in the UK found that children who ate lots of junk food like chips and pizza were more likely to have a lower IQ compared to their peers. These effects are thought to be irreversible. Once the damage has been done, switching to a healthy diet can’t boost IQ scores.
Cut Back on Junk
The first – and often the hardest – step in managing a junk food addiction is to cut back on how much junk food you eat. First, stop buying junk food at the store. If it’s not available to you at home, you’ll eat bad foods much less often. Stock up on healthy snacks like yogurt, fruit and unsalted nuts that you can turn to when a craving strikes.
If you find that you still have those strong cravings for junk food, find a suitable replacement that will help ease you off your junk food addiction. One example is dark chocolate, which is a great option for those who’ve developed a sweet tooth. Allow yourself a small piece of this candy once a day if you do get a craving. If you get a dark chocolate with at least 70 percent cocoa, you’ll be eating something that tastes great but is actually healthy for you. Try to slowly decrease the number of times that you turn to your “replacement” junk food each week.
[Related: Eating Dark Chocolate For Weight Loss]
Create New Habits
Once you’ve cut back on junk food, it’s time to focus on creating new eating habits that will keep you on track. Here are some ways to start eating better and build a foundation for better habits that you can keep up for the rest of your life:
- Recognize what your triggers are. Keep a food diary that details how you’re feeling or what you’re doing when you eat. Note when you make poor choices and see what may trigger this decision. Is it a poor mood or a bad day at work? Is it stress? Whatever the cause, try to find out what makes you eat junk food so that you can find ways to avoid it.
- Find healthy foods you like. Try out different healthy foods and find out which ones you like. Explore in the kitchen by cooking more meals and working with new recipes. Try to motivate yourself by finding ways to enjoy cooking and eating healthy.
- Retrain your taste buds. Two factors go into your food preferences: biology and experience. A little bit of what you like depends on your DNA, but much of it is triggered by what you’ve been eating over the years. If you start to eat healthy, it may be difficult at first. The good news is that, over time, your taste buds will come to prefer fresh, healthy foods rather than processed, sugary or fried junk food.
- Focus on the way you eat. Now that you’re eating more healthy foods, try to eat in a way that encourages good habits. Eat regular meals with healthy snacks available in between. Eat more slowly so you’ll recognize when you’re full. Plan meals ahead of time to encourage good decision-making.
- Reinforce good habits. Be patient with yourself as you adjust to your new eating habits. Set goals and reward yourself for reaching them. Treat yourself to a small treat or a meal at a restaurant if you go a whole week with healthy meals and no junk food, for instance.
A junk food addiction is nothing to take lightly. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity is second only to tobacco as the most common preventable cause of death. Take control of your health by cutting back on the junk and creating healthy habits to last a lifetime.