I’m going to be honest with you: I can’t live without junk food. It’s just not going to happen. Life is too short to miss out on things like dripping chocolate ice cream cones and greasy french fries. Although this is true, there comes a point when I eat way too much junk food and end up with a stomachache, complete remorse, and a new declaration to completely revolutionize my eating habits. And then, miraculously, somehow, the next day I’m back to shoving cookies in my mouth.
The question is, when do you step in to take control of your diet, and how do you maintain it? How can you make yourself feel better while still enjoy the foods you love? The following steps are some general guidelines to help you reduce cravings for junk food to help create a happier, confidence-filled you.
1. Don’t Deprive Yourself
This is probably the most important and most commonly mistaken concept of dieting. Let me start by saying this: always listen to your body. Do not deprive yourself of a certain food group or follow a harsh diet if you don’t feel it’s right for you. There are too many diets that completely restrict some of your favorite foods. While it is good to follow a consistent plan, treat yourself.
Not all dieting is bad, but a strenuous one can potentially cause intense cravings that lead to over-indulgence, overeating, and feelings of guilt. Before you start new eating habits, it may be a good idea to contact a doctor to organize a plan and determine what is best for your personal health.
2. Notice What You’re Craving
What have you been craving lately? Is it chocolate? Pizza? Or just a really nice doughnut with some sprinkles? Write it down, or make a mental note of it. By knowing what you’re up against, you can begin to pick out patterns and start to form a strategy for battling these cravings.
3. Eat it Less Frequently
Remember that rule I mentioned earlier? Always listen to your body. Next time you’re craving those Cheeto Puffs, eat them. I know—I’m supposed to be writing an article about how to reduce cravings for junk food. There is method behind the madness, I swear.
Here’s the trick: indulge, but not as often as you normally would. A recent study observed that food cravings decreased when they were consumed less frequently at normal portion sizes; eating less of it actually had no effect on the cravings. Ultimately, you don’t necessarily have to decrease the amount you eat but how frequently you eat it.
4. Find an Alternative
There is literally nothing better than waffle fries. Nothing. But sometimes, I want the same potatoey goodness without the heavy feeling I get after eating them. Enter sweet potato fries, my newfound soulmate. Being some of the most delicious things to have ever hit my taste buds, these beauts almost always bless me with a surge of happiness.
The only reason this love affair blossomed is that I searched for alternatives. Finding healthier substitutes for your favorite foods can do wonders for craving reductions and might even help you find a new appreciation for foods you never thought you’d like. For the sweet-tooths out there, don’t fret. You can still satisfy your cravings with donuts, brownies, and even Girl Scout cookie alternatives.
#SpoonTip: Be aware of recipes with extreme titles. Just because you are replacing eggs with avocados in your “Guiltless Brownie Recipe” does not mean eating the whole tray is necessary.
5. Distract Yourself
What’s the easiest way to avoid something? To “forget” about it. Although this concept normally comes into play when you “forgot” your homework at home, it can be applied to reducing cravings for junk food as well.
A study in Addictive Behaviors suggests that playing Tetris for just three minutes can drastically reduce a craving. If Tetris isn’t your forte, talking to a friend can also be a great way to steer your mind away from those nagging cravings. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
6. End Your Meals Right
I know I’m not the only one who starts thinking about dessert in the middle of dinner. To avoid the inevitable binge of eats, let your body know you’re done. To do this, try developing a positive trigger to signal your body that you’re done eating for the night. For example, finishing dinner with a cup of lavender tea and honey may fill a sweet craving and also provide your body with the benefits you need to help you sleep. In this situation, you are getting the sweet satisfaction from the honey, but you’re also giving your body awesome benefits that will decrease your dependency on sugary treats.
7. Create a Schedule
Schedules can be hard to commit to, but here’s the bottom line: change is only as effective as you make it. Coordinating a schedule can be very beneficial for both your eating habits and your budget. By setting meal times, you reduce the amount of mindless snacking and rescue your wallet from spur-of-the-moment purchases. Full credit card, full stomach, full confidence.
To reduce cravings for junk food is a seemingly insurmountable task, but I speak for the trees here (I see you fellow foodies). Although eating junk food is part of my lifestyle, I don’t have to give it up completely, and neither do you. Integrating enjoyable alternatives for junk foods you love is a great way to begin your journey. Moderation and consistency are the keys to success. As long as you are happy with what you’re eating, you can curb your cravings and achieve peak confidence in your body and mind.
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Credit: Cassidy Orr