Last updated: 10/25/2018
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Junk food: convenient, accessible and tasty. These are the qualities that make it so easy to develop a junk food addiction. Probably the most important quality of all has to do with the effects junk food has on brain and body chemical processes. Junk food can become a source of comfort, stress-release and escape while producing immediate relief with little effort required.
For someone battling a junk food addiction, easy access to junk food makes it all the more difficult to eat healthy. Understanding how these foods produce cravings unlike any other type of food can go a long way towards reducing food cravings altogether. The good news is anyone wanting or needing to control a junk food addiction can do so with a little planning and willpower.
Junk Food Addictions
Anything capable of delivering a type of reward has the potential to become an addiction in a person’s life. In addition to regulating processes throughout the body, the brain has a specific region dedicated to registering rewards and punishments. Interestingly enough, food and drugs both compete for the same reward-reinforcement sites in the brain, according to the University of Florida’s College of Medicine.
Evidence of this competition can be seen in how recovering drug addicts become especially susceptible to weight gain once they stop using. Likewise, someone who’s under stress or experiencing pain is more likely to overeat than someone who isn’t.
When it comes to junk food addictions, not only does the taste of a particular food feed into the brain’s reward system, but the brain’s chemical processes respond by producing endorphins, also known as the brain’s own “feel good” chemicals. Much like the way drugs stimulate brain and body processes, junk food addictions produce similar results.
The first step to beating any addiction requires a person to admit a problem exists. Otherwise, there’s no real reason to try to control a problem that “doesn’t exist.” As with other types of addiction, denial can be a driving force for a junk food addiction. Also, like any other type of addiction, underlying problems are more oftentimes than not the driving forces behind a junk food addiction.
Underlying problems usually carry an emotional element that can trigger junk food cravings. One way to control a junk food addiction is by knowing what types of situations produce these cravings. By having healthy food choices at the ready, a person can gradually eliminate the driving forces behind the addiction.
Working with Willpower
Willpower can go a long way towards controlling a junk food addiction, but it does help to work along with it when it’s likely to be strongest. This practice can best be utilized when it comes to shopping for groceries. Grocery shopping on a full stomach makes it easier to resist picking up junk food items along the way. When drawing up a grocery list, keeping junk food items off the list means they won’t be accessible when cravings arise. Knowing the times of day when your willpower is strongest can also help you prepare for cravings episodes by planning to eat healthy food choices ahead of time.