Do you have uncontrollable cravings for foods you know are bad for you, but you can’t seem to stop yourself from eating them–over and over again?

There are two reasons why we crave any food. The first is physiological. Your body needs that food or certain nutrients contained in it or has been inadvertently trained to want that food because of the pleasing effect it has on you. 

The second is psychological. That’s all about your mindset, beliefs and attitude about food. Have you ever had a craving for a particular food that you can’t stop thinking about, and the more you know you can’t have it, the more you want it? Here’s the rub, when you think of a food item as “forbidden,” something you can’t or shouldn’t have, then your brain automatically starts to crave it. 

Let’s be clear, almost all junk food is ultra-processed and made from processed ingredients and additives designed to make them taste good. I call this “fake food” because it has no real nutritional value. Its only purpose is to trigger your brain’s pleasure center to release endorphins like dopamine, a feel-good substance.

The feel-good rush only lasts for a short time, which requires you to consume more of the fake food than before to get the same response. The law of diminishing returns sets in and is part of what drives the addiction. And because you are not getting nutritional value, you never really feel full or satisfied. 

To eliminate your junk food cravings, you have to shift your mindset from focusing on trying to avoid foods that are “bad” to one that’s focused on finding foods that are “good” for you. Take the judgment and emotional charge out of the choice and find ways to associate that feel-good experience with healthier foods.

One of the most powerful ways you can do this is to stop looking at the offending food as something you have to deprive yourself of and actively resist. Look at it as something you are choosing not to eat.

Instead of saying to yourself: I can’t or shouldn’t have that. It’s bad for me. Shift to: I’m choosing to pass on that and opt for something better because I’m worth it, and I deserve better. This is a choice I am making, not a sacrifice.

Controlling your sugar and junk food cravings can be challenging, but it’s one of the most important steps you must take if you want to shift into a healthy eating style that both satisfies and nourishes you. The good news is we crave what we eat, so if you proactively choose healthier options, you will start to crave more of those. Remember to be gentle with yourself and celebrate every time you make an empowered choice.

By Donya Fahmy