Junk food addiction is a real thing!
Food has developed from a basic necessity to an object of desire. And in the recent times, it has become a substance of abuse. Junk foods are considered something useless, extra or something that is not needed. Not only are those foods extremely unhealthy, but they also impact various aspects of your life. Junk food addiction is the compulsive eating of junk food which is out of control and causing problems for you. Do you crave for junk food and eat it on a regular basis? Do you want to quit it, but you can’t?
Quitting junk food – what it does to your body?
Like any addiction, an abrupt end to junk food can initially cause withdrawal symptoms. One may feel lethargic and have headaches. One may be highly irritable. Withdrawal symptoms can include severe anxiety, headaches, sadness, anger, sweating, shaking, disorientation and depression. They can last anywhere from days to weeks or even months after quitting. Many individuals can’t stop consuming sweeteners, flours, processed foods, and other addictive foods because they have great difficulty getting through the intense period of withdrawal. Cravings create an urge for more serotonin or dopamine. This is a vicious cycle. And it can lead to life-threatening conditions, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Researchers in Canada made this discovery after feeding a group of mice a junk-food diet that would shame any glutton: For six weeks, the mice ate foods that had a whopping 58 percent calories from fat. They compared these mice to another group of mice eating relatively lean foods with just 11 percent calories from fat.
To the surprise, the mice that scarfed down the high-fat diet increased their waist size by 11 percent at the end of the six-week study. After the mice raised on a high-fat diet were switched to a healthier one, they acted more anxious and depressed.
The researchers then examined the brains of the mice and discovered significant changes had occurred: Mice on the high-fat diet had increased levels of corticosterone — a hormone associated with stress — and CREB, a protein closely linked to dopamine functioning. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that causes feelings of reward and is activated by (among other things) addictive drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine.
The result, explained researchers, is that many people who quit eating sugary, high-fat foods soon return to an unhealthy diet of junk food.
“This explains both the depression and the negative behavior cycle,” said researcher Dr. Stephanie Fulton of the University of Montreal, as quoted. “The chemicals changed by the diet are associated with depression. A change of diet then causes withdrawal symptoms and a greater sensitivity to stressful situations, launching a vicious cycle of poor eating.”
“Bingeing on sugar and other addictive foods is culturally condoned, food company-induced drug addiction,” holistic psychiatrist Ellen Vora, M.D., told mbg.
“At the neurobiological level, the neural substrates of sugar and sweet reward appear to be more robust than those of cocaine.”
And it’s not just about having a so-called “sweet tooth.” Our addiction to such foods is deeply ingrained, and it has less to do with willpower and more to do with the fact that these foods trigger the brain’s dopamine-fueled reward center ( a.k.a. the “good feels” portion of our brain) and tell us we want more.
Based on the study’s findings, the authors believe many people who experience such withdrawal symptoms will end up resorting back to their unhealthy eating habits. But don’t lose hope just yet: This particular study didn’t look at the specific strategies people used to quit junk food, and experts like Dr. Vora believe there are a few effective ways to quit junk food that won’t leave you hangry or giving into cravings two hours later.
The most important key to success is having a plan. Acknowledge the fact that you very well may be irritable or experience flu-like symptoms for a few days, Dr. Vora says, and don’t try to go cold turkey on everything all at once. Start by eliminating one item from your diet per week, nothing changes as you go. That way, it’ll feel less overwhelming and more manageable. When the cravings do hit, integrative medicine doctor Amy Shah, M.D., recommends finding ways to distract yourself—even a short 15-minute walk can go a long way. And definitely be prepared with pre-made meals, sugar-free snacks, and ample hydration.
People who succeed in healing their addictions learn to understand and deal with their physical cravings and withdrawal symptoms. They also become good at managing the intense feelings that often arise during the withdrawal period. But it’s a tough struggle. Despite a strong desire to stop, the complexity of physical withdrawal symptoms and the accompanying emotions can lead an individual back to using mood-altering foods, which only perpetuate the addiction cycle.
But over the long term, you gain by quitting junk food. Your health improves drastically. The risks of heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease are reduced. Junk food slows down the brain. Quitting the addiction can help halt the effect and improve your brain function. High-fat, high-sugar junk food is responsible for acne breakouts. You will have fewer acne problems by kicking the habit. You may be spared trips to the dentist too! Processed soft foods high in sugar create havoc with oral health. Shifting to unprocessed coarse foods low in sugar reduces the problems with your teeth. There is so much to gain by abstinence from junk food. But you do have one thing to lose – your weight.