Back in high school I had an addiction for junk food. I was feeling stressed, overwhelmed and burned out from school so I found comfort in junk. It didn’t help that there was a deli conveniently next to my home. So it became a daily lifestyle for me to get out of school, stop by the deli and buy a few bags of chips. I didn’t just get a single pack of chips. I’m talking about a family pack meant for four to six people. Even the cashier guy knew exactly what type of chips I regularly bought and what time I would come. In fact, he just referred to me as “hot fries” or “takis.” My favorite hobby would be to eat those bag of chips while watching a Netflix show everyday. This continued on for years.
But then I noticed my energy levels were low all the time. I was already so tired from school so I had no energy left for exercise or for disgusting healthy habits. Little did I know that it was actually the junk food that was impacting my energy and mood.
I can almost guarantee that your energy levels have a big impact on how you see the world and how you interact with everyone. I’m reminded of all the times I woke up feeling crappy. And then I just proceeded to numb myself to social media and some Netflix with junk, of course. So why the heck this seemingly harmless habit was so addicting? Why couldn’t I stop? I’ll let science tell you why.
“The fact is junk food stimulates the reward system (dopamine) in the brain in the same way as addictive drugs, such as cocaine.” – Kris Gunnars, BSc , writer of Healthline.
Wow, similar to cocaine! That explains a lot. That’s why when I first started cutting out junk food I felt so irritated, empty and dissatisfied. I thought there was something missing. Even passing by the junk food section of a supermarket was painful. Call it a junkie’s withdrawal symptoms. That’s how I knew this was a serious problem.
How I Cut My Junk Food Addiction
- Research and planning.
I started off by researching what types of foods gave lots of nutritional value. I also researched some healthy food recipes I could make that didn’t taste awful. Because let’s face it. A lot of healthy foods tastes like crap.
I also came across a nutrition book called “How Not to Die” by Dr. Greger which gave me knowledge on how to start eating healthier. That book pretty much made me think: Wow, my body must really hate me. After reading that book, I modeled after his daily dozen checklist in order to check off the daily healthy foods that I need to eat. Here’s his daily dozen checklist:
- Replacing and eliminating.
Next, I did the most important thing which was just to stop buying the chips. Every time I walked into the market, I would never step into the junk food aisle anymore. This is known as the “outer ring” strategy. That way, I would set myself up for success to buy healthy options rather than junk.
I also replaced everything in my kitchen with healthy foods and threw all the junk. I first started off with replacing my bag of chips with vegetables. This includes broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Yes, I know. It sounds nasty but it worked! I also bought a cup of hummus to dip with those veggies together. It sort of replaces the crispy feeling I get from the chips. This worked for me but everyone is different. For instance, my other friend needed to eat vegetable chips and seaweed to replace the chips. It takes experimentation to see what works for you.
- Finding outside help.
The next thing I did was find an accountability partner on a Reddit forum who shared similar goals as me. You’ll be amazed by how much people struggle with this. I set up a weekly call once a week with them in order to update our progress in our healthy eating goals.
I also reached out to friends or anyone I knew that already kept a healthy diet lifestyle. I asked for recipe suggestions since they were literally at a place where I aimed to be. All of them were more than eager to share their advice and recipes. My questions made them feel like this:
- Establishing a system.
I created a grocery checklist that listed all the healthy foods which I can buy at the market. Notice that none of these things on the checklist are junk food. Each time I go to the market, I know that I cannot buy junk food because it’s not on my checklist. I save my time, energy and health.
Automatic Grocery Subscriptions
On Amazon, I signed up for healthy food subscriptions that I don’t usually buy at the grocery store. This ensures that it automatically delivers certain healthy foods every month or few months. That way, I don’t have to keep reminding myself to purchase it.
I also set a set time and day to remind myself to eat a healthy snack. I tend to get hungry in the middle of the day so I set a reminder around 2pm or 3pm to eat maybe a apple, fruit smoothie, almonds or veggies with hummus.
This post isn’t meant to show off and say “Look at me, I’m so great. Follow me!” I just want to share my struggles and experiences and hope that some information here can be helpful for anyone struggling with this. Because I understand how stressful life can get and we end up turning to other means as comfort. But we don’t realize those things we turn to can just make things worse for us.
In the case for junk food, I thought it was giving me pleasure, comfort and relaxation from the stresses of school. But it only worsened my energy, mood, health and I’ll even say life in general. There’s just no benefits to it whatsoever. Right now, I’m happy to say that it’s been over a year since I’ve completely cut off junk. I’m pretty strict with myself. But I can confidently say that my body has never felt better and more energized. With that improved energy, I’m able to use it for things that matter to me like my work, family and friends.
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