Heavily processed food, high in fat, salt, and refined sugar, became a “normal” part of our modern everyday life. But how safe it is to consume these foods regularly or even once in a while? And how easy it is to break free from junk food addiction?
If you are struggling with fighting junk food cravings, you’re not alone. There are millions of people who are addicted to junk food, whether they realize it or not.
And since you are reading this article, you probably realized that junk food is extraordinarily addictive. And because it’s so widespread and perceived as “normal,” it makes it so much harder to get away from these highly processed foods.
What makes us addicted to junk food?
Before we attempt to break free from this powerful addiction, we need to appreciate the power of our subconscious mind, which takes up about 98% of our brain. So most decisions that we take in life are unconscious, especially when it comes to addictive substances.
In other words, we are following our instincts. But there’s nothing wrong with it. Our instinctive behavior developed in the natural world where there were no substances like drugs, alcohol, or junk food. So nature didn’t count on us having to face these substances. It’s tough to come across high-calorie sources in the natural environment. And there is a high probability of becoming calorie deficient and even dying from starvation. That’s why nature gave us a motivational triad, pleasure-seeking, pain avoidance, and energy conservation.
So when we are facing food choices, we will usually choose the most caloric option. And food manufacturers are using this instinct to make the foods that are the most attractive to our instinctive pleasure-seeking behavior. These are the most caloric foods you can make, high in fat, refined sugar, processed carbohydrates, and salt.
Instincts that helped us to survive
In nature, the sweetest fruit that is highest in sugar is the ripest, the most nutritious, and will provide us with most calories. It is essential because we were using a lot of energy to find it and get up on the tree. And fight other primates to get the most delicious fruit. This fruit would be the best and the healthiest choice we can make.
The food that tastes the saltiest is naturally higher in minerals. So the desire to eat salty food saves us from being deficient in a natural setting. But when we consume food that has added salt, this natural mechanism gets distorted. So we might get plenty of salt, but not enough of the other minerals.
At times of caloric scarcity, it was vital for us to seek out the fattiest foods, like nuts and seeds. It was essential to gain some body fat that ensured survival throughout the winter when the food was scarce.
Now you can see how all these taste preferences were significant for our survival and good health. But now we’re getting fooled by food industries, who are using our instincts for profit.
Besides taste preferences, nature gave us the drive to seek pleasure. The higher the food is in calories, the more dopamine we get. We experience pleasure as a result of the release of dopamine. The same, but the stronger effect we’re getting from sexual activity, which is essential to ensure the reproduction of our speeches.
The roots of junk food addiction epidemic
So pleasure-seeking is a vital part of our life and survival strategy. But the pleasures that we can find in our modern life are unnatural and interfere with the proper function of our motivational triad.
The doses of processed sugar, fat, and salt that people are getting from eating junk food are incredibly high. If someone who is only eating natural, unprocessed foods tried these junk foods, they would feel completely overwhelmed and repulsed by the taste. They would also recognize the powerful drug-like effect of these foods.
Many people are indeed using junk food as a drug to help them feel better. And one of the reasons they are not feeling so good is because their nervous system is suppressed by overstimulation. The more processed foods they eat, the less joy they feel from natural foods and activities. And the less enjoyment they experience, the more junk food they crave.
The vicious cycle of addiction
Heavily processed food is not only wearing the nervous system out. It also poisons the body and overburdens it with an excess of omega-six fatty acids and saturated fats that are reducing the sensitivity of serotonin receptors and dopamine receptors — making the experience of everyday life so much less pleasurable and joyful.
And on the other hand, junk food gives them high doses of pleasure. And it helps to numb out the feelings of unhappiness. But as soon as the jolt is over, the unhappy feelings are coming back with the new strength.
On top of it, the pleasure of junk food is not nearly as high as when the person first tried it. Because people get used to it, and the nervous system gets adjusted to these high levels of dopamine. It’s very similar to a drug addict or alcoholic getting used to higher and higher doses.
You are free to get away from it, but will you?
There was a sad but eye-opening experiment that was done on a frog in a pot with increasingly hot water. Researchers placed a frog in a pan with nicely warm water and started increasing the temperature at a slow rate. The frog was enjoying the warm water and stayed in the pot, although it had the opportunity to jump out of the water at any time it wanted. When the water temperature started getting up to a dangerous boiling degree, the frog astonishingly stayed in the water and still didn’t jump out. Sadly, this frog died.
But it’s even sadder to realize that a similar phenomenon is going on with junk food addicts. They are slowly getting into higher and higher doses of dopamine and also sugar, salt, and fat. They don’t realize that the effect of these foods is becoming weaker and weaker. And their body becomes more and more overloaded with toxic substances and unhealthy fats. So they are staying with these health undermining habits and are slowly getting killed by them, just like the frog in the boiling water.
And sadly, if a person decides to abandon junk food and start eating healthy again, they will get way less dopamine from whole natural foods then they supposed to.
It’s just like getting used to increasingly warm water and then all of the sudden jump into colder water.
Breaking free. You can do it!
But luckily, people don’t have to be stuck in the junk food trap. If they understand the nature of their addiction, they can withstand the challenges of withdrawal and break free.
After just a few days, the whole natural foods start tasting less like cardboard and more like it supposed to – pleasantly delicious and refreshing. Also, the dopamine receptors are becoming increasingly sensitive, and natural food becomes more pleasurable again.
It generally takes about 1 to 3 months of nearly complete abstinence for the taste buds and dopamine receptors to completely recover.
So if you know where you’re going, and you know that you will get the same amount of pleasure from healthy foods so you will get both health and enjoyment, wouldn’t you agree to go through this challenge? The choice is yours.
Practical steps to break free from junk food addiction
Step 1: Surround yourself with an abundance of fresh, ripe, juicy fruits and veggies.
Step 2: Understand the mechanisms behind your addictions, like I explained in this article and the video above.
Step 3: Make your home a junk food free zone – get all processed foods out and don’t allow any junk enter your home, office or car.
Step 4: Visualize yourself being free from addictions, healthy and happy.
Step 5: Remember to stay away from it no matter what, just like former alcoholic needs to stay away from alcohol.
Step 6: Be accountable, let your good friends or loved ones know that you are committed to stay junk-food free.
Good luck! 🍀
Are you fighting with cravings? Let me know in the comments below. It makes it so much easier to quit when you admit that you have an issue.
And if you wish to jump right into refreshing raw vegan lifestyle, you can try my free raw vegan meal plan here.