If you’ve ever felt like you’re legitimately powerless to stop eating junk food, even that it’s a compulsion, you’re not alone.
In fact, a recent study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience found solid evidence that junk food may actually be addictive. Researchers at Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida gave a group of rats an unlimited amount of junk food items like pound cake, candy bars and bacon. The rats continued to eat and gain weight, so much so that even when they were shocked on their feet, they kept eating. And, perhaps even more startling, the rats refused to eat for two weeks when the junk food was taken away.
Meanwhile, the control group of rats that was fed a healthy diet stopped eating when they received the shock and didn’t gain much weight.
The research suggests that not only do people gain weight when they eat copious amounts of junk food, but it may even change the chemical balance in their brains, causing them to feel compelled to eat it in a way similar to addiction.
“The new study…explains what happens in the brains of these animals when they have easy access to high-calorie, high-fat food,” said study author Scripps Research Associate Professor Paul J. Kenny. “It presents the most thorough and compelling evidence that drug addiction and obesity are based on the same underlying neurobiological mechanisms. In the study, the animals completely lost control over their eating behavior, the primary hallmark of addiction. They continued to overeat even when they anticipated receiving electric shocks, highlighting just how motivated they were to consume the palatable food.”
So if you find yourself unable to resist that bag of potato chips or those cookies, is there anything you can do to fight it?
Below are 6 ways to overcome a junk food addiction and get your health back on track.
1) Acknowledge you have an issue.
The first step to recovery from any addition is to recognize it’s a thing. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, but rather something to understand and accept so that you can take the proper steps to change it.
2) Identify your triggers.
Think about what habits you have that lead you to the junk food. Are there certain mitigating factors that make you want to eat junk food? What are they? Can you write them down? Common ones include loneliness, stress or work. Knowing what your triggers are can help you remove them, or at the very least, understand them when they arise.
3) Make a plan.
Your most successful endeavors in life are likely often ones that were pre-planned. That goes for overcoming a junk food addiction, too. Write out which steps you need to take to beat it, such as not eating after 8 p.m. or committing to not eating potato chips for a week.
4) Get rid of the junk food.
If it’s there, right in front of you, that’s going to make it all the more difficult to control yourself from eating it. Get out a garbage bag and throw away all the chips, cookies, candy, etc. that are sitting in your cupboard. Removing the temptation is a big assist in defeating the problem once and for all.
5) Track your progress.
Whether you prefer a food journal or a calorie-tracking app, be sure to log everything you’re eating daily so you can identify any successes, as well as the areas you can improve. You might also consider weighing yourself weekly and keeping track of any progress in that area as well, which can be extremely motivating, especially if you see those pounds come off.
6) Celebrate yourself.
Whether you lose weight or not, there’s a good chance you’ll start to feel a lot better when you cut back on the junk food. That is definitely something to celebrate! Get yourself a massage, buy yourself something, or go for a night out. Treating yourself is an important part of maintaining the motivation to keep moving forward.
Have you ever overcome an addiction? Help others by sharing how you did it in the comments below!
Author: Caitlin H
Diet-to-Go Community Manager
Caitlin is the Diet-to-Go community manager and an avid runner. She is passionate about engaging with others online and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She believes moderation is key, and people will have the most weight loss success if they engage in common-sense healthy eating and fitness.