We’ve all been there. You’re at the end of a long day and all you want is greasy, take out. It’s 10pm and you’re jonesing for a large bowl of ice cream. You’ve been constantly engaged in conversations all day and you want to binge on Netflix and potato chips at the same time to drown out the world. Once you let yourself develop these habits, they feel like they are impossible to break. That got us thinking: what causes these habits and why are they so difficult to break?

Breaking Bad Food Habits

When we crave and/or eat junk food, our body reacts in a few different ways:

1) Junk food lacks nutritional value, so we want to eat more of it.

We want to eat more quickly to obtain the sense of fullness, digesting way too many carbs/sugars/fats in one sitting.

2) The human brain can easily become addicted to sugar.

The chemical makeup of sugar stimulates brain receptors in a similar way to other addictive tendencies like alcohol or tobacco. After sugar is ingested, the levels of Dopamine, the “reward” chemical of the brain, tend to ebb and flow in a way that mimics these addictions. Have the same afternoon craving for chocolate every day? Thanks, brain!

3) Consuming junk food has been linked to changes in mood and memory.

Eating poorly can have an impact on your mental health. Many studies have shown a correlation between unhealthy eating habits and a higher risk of depression*. Not to mention, bouts with sugar can lead to a memory fog: Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine found that people who consumed more sugary drinks were more likely to experience poor memory and reduced overall brain volume than those that didn’t consume these drinks*.

So, now that we know that bad food habits are the real deal, how do we face the music and get back on track? Let’s take a look at a few tips and tricks to help lead us back to the healthy, happy and productive lifestyle that we’ve been craving…

Snacks? Bag Them.

Use the small snack bag and make sure you have plenty of choices when it comes to snacks throughout the day. A bag of almonds. Sliced apple with almond butter. A hard-boiled egg. When you portion out your servings, you are less likely to overeat.

Craving Something? Drink More Water.

It’s very easy for your body to confuse the feeling of thirst with hunger. If you feel a craving (but don’t know what for), drink a tall glass of water before making moves to the pantry.

Eat at the Table, Not at the TV.

Many of our bad food habits can happen while mindlessly watching TV. Try eating dinner at the dinner table instead and encourage yourself to eat slowly to enjoy your food. Once you’re ready for your nightly show, you’ll feel satiated and ready to escape for an hour or two without the munchies.

Cook, Don’t Order.

I recently deleted all food delivery apps from my phone. It’s absurd how easy it is now to order unhealthy options with the tap of a button. Removing the temptation makes it easier for me to focus on meal prep and sticking to my weekly schedule. Designate a night where you cook a meal or two and portion your healthy cooked meals into containers to freeze. Voilá! You have all your meals for lunch and dinner ready to go.

Remember Why You Started.

When I feel ready to throw in the clean eating towel and binge on my favorite junk food, I remember how awful eating junk has made me feel in the past. Focus on why you started to fuel you through the rough moments and remember: it’s okay to indulge in food that you enjoy once in a while. Consume in moderation, eat slowly and listen to your body. It knows what to do…we just tend to forget to listen.

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