Posted by Maria Dimitrova
Gain: Control over your weight and numerous health benefits
Cost: Only perseverance
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about doing sports. She said nothing could make her exercise. After unsuccessfully trying to convince her about the benefits of working out, I showed her one of the youtube videos with fit women dancing and working out that immediately puts me in the mood for exercising. Her reply was: “No way! Just thinking about all the efforts and sweating makes me feel sick”.
For those of you who are curious to know which video spikes my workout inspiration:
There are two elements to keeping fit that are most efficient when combined – sport and healthy eating. But if you are like my friend who detests the mere thought of sports, then developing healthy eating habits will be essential for both being physically fit and healthy. This doesn’t involve torturing yourself with starvation or a “prison-diet” of permitted foods. The yo-yo effect of such diets is well-known. Healthy eating means providing your body with all the necessary nutrients from natural foods and avoiding junk food.
Junk food and obesity
Dynamic living nowadays has cultivated a culture of looking for ways to save time. Fast food was born with that idea in mind which is a good idea in itself. Plus, it’s cheap. But the health costs are tremendous. It’s well-known that obesity and a lot of other diseases are related to junk food consumption. Why has it become so popular then?
The answer to this question was suggested by an Irish researcher named Dr Paul Kenny (awarded by the Society for Neurosceince in the US) who decided to study the effect of junk food on dopamine in the rat brain. This hormone is responsible for reward-related behavior and its transmission plays a key role in drug addiction.
The results of the study showed that rats eating junk food became addicted to it and like in people who are drug-addicted, they needed more and more junk food to get the same level of pleasure they got when they first started eating the unhealthy food. After the junk food was taken away from them, the rats starved for two weeks because they refused to eat anything else.
The addictive properties of junk food are due to a large extent to the additives put in it to enhance flavours. Sugar is also addictive: consuming large amounts of sugar sends a message to the body to store blood sugar in fat cells. When too much sugar is stored, blood sugar dips making us feel bad. The body’s natural reaction is to eat more until the blood sugar comes back up. It is an unhealthy eating cycle. These chemical reactions in the body are real and physical. This is the reason why people find it difficult to control their junk food cravings.
The way out
It might seem difficult to quit eating junk food but it’s absolutely possible. I am convinced about that because I am speaking from my personal experience. My menu as a teenager consisted mainly of croissants and wafers. Fortunately, I didn’t have weight problems thanks to my regular workouts but I regret not knowing then what I know now about junk food. When I took the decision to avoid eating fast food, in the beginning it required all of my willpower to do it. But my motivation was stronger than the cravings because I kept my desire to eat healthy in focus. It’s all a question of focus and some clever strategies to adopt and nurture the new eating habits. Here are some suggestions on how to avoid eating junk food:
- Food proximity is known to increase caloric consumption. When something tasty is in front of your eyes, you are much more likely to feel the urge to eat it. That’s why junk food desserts are positioned near the cash-desks in supermarkets. Try not to look at them. When you are at home, keep food hidden in cupboards. Do not put it anywhere around the TV or the computer because nibbling while watching TV leads to overeating. Better still, if you like cooking, keep only foods which need to be cooked at home. This will prevent unplanned binging. For a snack have some raw fruit or vegetable instead.Many people stock with food for a whole week by shopping in hypermarkets at the weekend. Even though it is time-saving, it undermines the attempts to get slimmer. It’s better to buy smaller quantities every day according to your daily needs from the local shop.
- Avoid watching ads. You may think that TV ads are stupid and only kids are influenced by them but adults are not immune to them too. Advertisers know how to present alluring images of junk food so that viewers are vividly reminded of the taste of the advertised products. If you’ve recently decided to avoid junk food, don’t watch the ads. After some time, you’ll have overcome your addiction to this kind of food and the effects of the ads on you will be diminished.
- Constant occupation prevents temptation. This proverb is applicable in various contexts, including food temptations. Fill your spare time with activities you’ve planned in advance to avoid feeling bored. Boredom is one of the main reasons why people eat junk food (or any other food) without being hungry.
- Dealing with holidays and other celebrations. It’s a tough time for people who want to stick to a healthy eating regime. Unfortunately, associating holidays with caloric and high sugar food has turned into a tradition. While hoping that some day people will create new traditions for having fun in a more creative and healthier way, you need to have a strategy to cope today. One thing you can do is to eat something delicious and sweet at home right before going to the party. Avoid going to the party with an empty stomach.If you still feel a craving, have some candies or a piece of cake. But don’t eat/drink junk food/drinks just to please other people or to avoid being different. Doing the things you’re convinced are good for you shows self-respect which should be appreciated by your friends.
Holidays may not be the only occasions when you can make an exception and have some junk food. At the beginning of your new eating regime, it might be easier to adopt the new habits if the transition is not sudden. This can be achieved by succumbing to a junk food temptation once in a while. You can choose one day of the week to have some of your biggest temptation.
- Catch up on sleepWhen you’re well-rested, you’re less prone to binge on junk food. Studies have shown that sleep-deprived individuals have the tendency to gain more weight than those who get at least 6 hours of sleep every night.
- Substitute junk food with healthy and delicious desserts. It’s said that “Nature doesn’t tolerate vacuum”. Breaking a bad habit is much easier when you replace it with a good one. You can satisfy your body’s natural need for sweet things with healthy desserts containing fruit, nuts, honey, cereal, etc. Since the study mentioned above found that junk food lessens considerably the sensitivity of the pleasure centre to taste stimuli, it may take you some time to retrieve your ability to enjoy and fully appreciate the taste of natural food. But be sure it will happen! Here are some ideas for tasty desserts:
- Mix two table spoons of sesame paste with one table spoon of honey and stir well (my favorite one). - Note from the editor: sounds disgusting
- Combine eating a banana with peanuts (or other nuts).
- Fruit smoothies or just sweet fruit like melon, peaches, cherries, etc
- Oatmeal and honey
- Chocolate desserts bought from organic and healthy food shops. They don’t contain refined sugar or preservatives.
Beware of the “healthy” desserts that are sold in ordinary supermarkets. Often the manufacturers promote one of the ingredients which is healthy but the rest of the ingredients might still be unhealthy. Read the labels to avoid being deceived by the manipulative marketing tactics.
Having healthy weight without sweating in gyms is possible if you stay away from junk food. Your body will be able to fully take advantage of the nutrients in natural food without converting it quickly into fat. You’ll also feel a spike in your energy level and derive many other health benefits!
If you liked this article you may also want to read:
and many more articles about nutrition and weight here: http://www.anotherway.org/save-your-health/