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I hated the no-cookies-before-dinner rule as a child.
The first chance I had away from home (living in a university hostel), I totally overdid it.
I ate cookies (and every other food on my forbidden list, especially considering I dealt with asthma) anytime I freaking wanted. In all honesty, however, there was always the teeny-weeny feeling of discomfort we feel when we’re snacking on junk food.
Deep down, we’re aware we should be making healthier meal choices. While most junk foods are really enjoyable, their long-term effects aren’t something anyone wants to grapple with.
If you’re confused about what exactly junk foods are, they’re those foods that are high in sugar, salt, or sodium and have little or no vital nutrients the body needs, like fiber.
This pretty much covers all the popular fast food offerings, traditional baked goods, and even cereal.
Thankfully, there’s an increasing awareness of healthy living, and more people are choosing healthier alternatives. But how does one shake off an addiction to junk food?
Here are five steps to end the unhealthy habit of regularly eating junk food:
1. Keep them completely out of reach.
That’s right! You can’t eat what you don’t have.
If you’re serious about quitting junk food, keep them out of the house and workplace. Chances are you’re not willing to get stuck in traffic just for a bag of chips.
So, you’ll rather stay home and get your mind on something else. Remove junk food from your refrigerator and pantry. Stock up low-calorie fruits or fruits with healthy fats, like watermelon, cucumbers, carrots, and avocados.
Storing junk food in the house is one way to keep falling off the wagon. When you’ve had a long day or a stressful one, you’re more likely to reward yourself with some ice cream. Make things easier for yourself: get rid of the junk food lurking behind cupboards, in the refrigerator, and at your bedside.
2. Avoid waiting until you’re hungry.
Only a few people can remain reasonable and disciplined when their stomachs are growling with hunger.
You know for sure that you might not be one of them. Hunger is a common reason many people snack on junk foods. The irony here is that junk food rarely satisfies, and so you’re either going to eat a lot of it—or keep feeling hungry and miserable.
Remember when you had that can of soda but still felt terribly hungry?
A way to avoid overeating or snacking on junk food is to simply eat before you get extremely hungry. This is because when your hunger has reached its ravenous point, you’ll likely grab anything in sight to eat.
In your best interest, avoid not having a meal for several hours.
3. Read about what you eat.
Most times, we behave a certain way because we don’t know any better.
A great way to prepare yourself mentally for quitting junk food is by reading about what you eat. Do some light research on the ingredients contained in your favorite snacks and check out their effects on your body.
In fact, a recent study found that once people understood and interpreted their most-craved junk foods in a negative light, their desire for them was greatly reduced.
4. Don’t go overboard.
Once you start learning about all the bad things that junk food can do to your body, don’t go nuts and delete every single one from your diet.
Not only will you experience a crash when you start eating them again, but you might also become obsessed with not eating them—and we all know obsession isn’t a good thing.
Here’s what you should do instead: find healthier alternatives for your favorite things and steadily incorporate them into your diet. You can substitute sugar with your homemade date paste or opt for your own air-popped popcorn.
You’re also more likely to be getting more nutrients from your own squeezed oranges than store-bought ones. The point here is to crowd out unhealthy options with healthier, better-tasting ones.
After all, nobody loves bland-tasting stuff, right? To feel full faster, you can also eat more protein and fibrous foods.
5. Drink more water.
I didn’t have an addiction to junk food, but I recently had to start eating healthier due to a health condition.
This tip has been one of my lifesavers. I bought a two-liter water bottle, and I finish the entire thing several times a day. It works like magic when it comes to keeping me full.
Turns out, some of the feelings we call hunger pangs aren’t actually hunger pangs but thirst pangs. Yup. Sometimes, what our body actually craves isn’t that last slice of pizza but plain water.
So, save yourself some calories and drink more water. It’s also been proven that drinking water can help reduce hunger levels and therefore make us eat less.