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6 ways to break free from junk food addiction

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Eating less junk food is one of the hardest things to do — especially around the holidays when everywhere you look you see a bowl of candy, a plate of cookies or some cheesy, carb-filled appetizer. Even if you promise to stay strong, more often than not, you give in to temptation.

But giving up junk food isn’t difficult because you lack willpower. It’s difficult because junk food is addictive…

Once you start eating junk food daily, you’re hooked. In fact, your body reacts to junk food the same way it does to addictive substances like alcohol, cocaine and tobacco. It goes through a cycle of binging, craving and withdrawal. But breaking the cycle is so important — and not just to maintain a healthy weight either…

It may sound crazy, but even if you don’t have diabetes, junk food causes wastes and fluids to accumulate in your blood, tricking your kidneys into behaving as if you had full-fledged diabetes. And eventually, that can make you quite sick.

So how do you break the cycle?

It won’t be easy, but certain techniques can help you break free from junk food addiction. Once you succeed, you’ll no longer be a slave to your food cravings. And you’ll feel and look better too. Here are six tips that can help you:

  1. Know your junk food triggers.Junk food triggers are different for everybody. Some people can’t say no to sweets. Others can polish off a bag of potato chips in one sitting. You need to be aware of your triggers to take control of them. The most addictive food groups are sugar, fat, flour, wheat, salt and artificial sweeteners, so your triggers probably fall in one or more of these categories.
    1. Replace junk food with less addictive foods you like.Once you taste one of your junk food triggers, it’s hard to control yourself. That’s because they create an addictive response in your body that makes you want to binge. But there are certainly other foods you like that don’t trigger addictive, out-of-control eating. Maybe you have a hard time controlling yourself when you eat pasta, for example. But you like brown rice too and can eat that without overdoing it. Choose foods that you enjoy, but not in a compulsive way.
      1. Plan ahead.Your best defense against junk food addiction is preparation. Plan healthy meals and snacks ahead of time, and you’ll be less likely to give in to a last-minute junk food splurge. If you’re going to a party, bring a healthy dish that you can eat even if everything else at the party falls in your junk food danger zone.
        1. Learn to tolerate cravings.There will be times when all the food substitutes and planning in the world can’t save you from a major junk food craving. But you can train yourself to tolerate these cravings. Some people find that if they look at a food they crave, smell it and take a small taste of it, that’s enough to trick their mind into thinking they’ve had it. You can also try waiting out a craving. Cravings are usually only intense for a short while, like 10 minutes or so. If you can make it through those first 10 minutes without succumbing to your craving, chances are you’ll forget about it.
          1. Learn to tolerate cravings.

          There will be times when all the food substitutes and planning in the world can’t save you from a major junk food craving. But you can train yourself to tolerate these cravings. Some people find that if they look at a food they crave, smell it and take a small taste of it, that’s enough to trick their mind into thinking they’ve had it. You can also try waiting out a craving. Cravings are usually only intense for a short while, like 10 minutes or so. If you can make it through those first 10 minutes without succumbing to your craving, chances are you’ll forget about it.

          1. Cut down on stress.

          When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to give in to a junk food craving because stress makes you crave comfort food. Stress also changes how your body metabolizes food. People who eat junk food when they are stressed experience more negative health effects than people who eat it when they aren’t stressed. Reduce stress in your life by practicing deep breathing exercises, meditation, going for a massage or anything else that makes you calm and relaxed.

          1. Stick to it for at least four weeks.

          Dr. Michael Cutler says you need to stick to a junk-food free diet for at least four weeks to really break the cycle of addiction. It may be hard in the beginning, but it will get easier as time goes on. The longer you stay away from junk food the less you crave it. And once your body has withdrawn from the bad stuff, you can indulge in a treat every once in a while without losing control.

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