Whether you’re addicted to cinnamon rolls for breakfast, enjoy a quick pick-me-up, candy bar snack to tide you over in between meals, or love to crunch on a bag of chips when you’re stressed out, filling up with junk food really doesn’t cut it when it comes to your health. Most people already know that; yet, it hasn’t stopped many of us from indulging, and much of the reason why people don’t quit is that they don’t want to suffer withdrawals when eliminating their usual snacks. Plus, junk food is kind of a comforting stress reliever that helps us get through the day. We can’t afford to be tired or irritable – at work or at home – and that’s exactly why you need to learn how to wean yourself off of junk food and start eating healthier.
In order to wean yourself off junk food, you first need to analyze what you’re eating. Junk food that contains sugar as its primary ingredient is stimulating your pleasure neurons in your brain, and it’s not something you readily want to give up. Then, of course, there are the high fat, high sodium, over-processed foods that aren’t good for us either, but they are easy and accessible, and they taste pretty good. The funny thing is, that once you have eliminated or reduced junk food from your diet, you no longer crave it. It’s just a matter of getting to that point: recognizing what you are eating and why you are eating it is the first step to eliminating it.
Once you’ve recognized why you choose certain foods, instead of going cold turkey and eliminating all your junk food from your diet, you can gradually ease off by substituting like-textured and like-flavored foods for your usual snacks. For instance, if you enjoy crunchy and salty snacks like potato chips, you can switch to baked chips, popcorn or salted nuts. If you prefer sugary treats, switch from cakes and cookies to smaller, homemade blueberry muffins or vanilla yogurt with blueberries and strawberries – a sweet, healthy treat that isn’t packed with as many calories.
Transitioning from junk food to healthier snacks will require a few “cheat days.” Allowing yourself a few days a week to indulge in your favorites is OK at first, and then you gradually reduce your cheat days to one day a week, eliminating them almost entirely over time. Quitting slowly works for a variety of reasons, but includes the fact that you don’t feel as if you’re being deprived, as well as the fact that your body doesn’t rebel against your chemical shift with more cravings, headaches, depression, or even physical sickness.
Gradually decreasing your junk food intake means you can successfully create new habits and painlessly make the switch to a healthier diet. So look a good hard look at what you’re putting in your mouth every day. When you make the switch, not only will you feel better, but you will have more energy, you will sleep more soundly, and your skin will glow, reflecting your health from the inside, out.