What foods pop into your head when you think about junk food (aka processed foods)? Potato chips? Frozen dinners? Easy mac? Most likely, it is all the foods that trigger that pleasure reward for you. However, eating all the junk food can take a toll on your health without you even realizing it.
When I was in college, I ate A LOT of junk food. Easy mac, frozen dinners, and my go-to--- pizza Lunchables. It's what I lived on. Most importantly, to me at the time, as they were super easy to pack. I was student teaching during the time. So, I had no job but I needed food to take to school with me. What better than pizza Lunchables, right?? I just grabbed it right out of the mini-fridge I had in my room and off I went.
I sank into the ease of this routine and I carried it with me until I was 25 years old. Bringing more junk food to my actual teaching job. It became a habit. A junk food habit that I didn't realize was affecting my health as bad as it was.
Junk Food and the Invisible Effects It Has On Your Health
There are many things we can talk about here but I'm going to stick to the big three.
Most junk food has high-fructose corn syrup in it. Why is this so bad? Because it is specifically made to activate the part of your brain that gets addicted to things. It's in items ranging from ketchup to cereal! What does this mean? It means you are going to want more. As a result, you will overeat. Most likely, on junk food. You can toss satisfaction out the window because you are not going to get it with junk food. This cycle can be vicious for some people.
Junk food is filled with hidden sugars. It may not be on the nutrition label but it is in the ingredients label under a different word. Sugar is another addictive chemical that keeps you wanting more and more. Now there's a double whammy! Two addictive chemicals in one product. Yikes!
Not only do you have to deal with addictive chemicals in these foods, but the nutritional value. This means the benefits you think you are getting from the item, you're not. The little apple slices that come in packages that you think are healthy, they're not. The nutrients have been stripped from the products from the chemicals added to them. There are no nutrients to these apple slices. You are better off picking up a fresh apple and slicing it yourself. That's where all the nutrients are.
What Happens When You Cut It Out
When you cut junk food out of your nutrition lifestyle, your health, mood, and appearance will dramatically improve.
I can't tell you all the ways in one post because of the many benefits you would get but let's talk about the top three changes you would notice.
Less Junk Equals More Energy
Unwanted chemicals lurk inside of processed foods. These chemicals are foreign to our bodies. Unfortunately, our body still tries to figure out how to break it down. This requires a TON of work and energy, wasted energy.
It's like brushing your teeth with shaving cream... unnatural and it doesn't get the job done.
Your body becomes exhausted trying to break these chemicals down, chemicals that shouldn't be in your body. So, it naturally becomes tired. As a result, you become sluggish, worn down, and unmotivated to do anything else.
Once you get rid of these unwanted chemicals, your energy will increase.
My advice: start getting rid of junk foods slowly. It's not easy to just cut it all out at once. But, once you start balancing junk food out with fresh, clean foods you'll start to notice a difference in your energy.
Cut Out Junk Food, Boost Your Immune System Health
When you eat junk food, you are not getting enough nutrients to properly fuel your body. Likewise, the nutrients that fuel your immune system.
Earlier I said that junk food is stripped of its nutrients. You are getting very little, if any, nutrients that your body so desperately needs.
This can cause a weak immune system. If you are sick all the time or it takes you FOREVER to fight off a common cold, something is going on.
Your immune system needs Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, Carotenoids that are converted into Vitamin A, and Omega-3 fatty acids.
If you are eating junk food, you are not getting these essential nutrients to boost your health. As a result, you will have a weak immune system.
My advice: start adding fresh, cooked vegetables into your dinner plan. Many vegetables have immune-boosting vitamins that can help strengthen your immune system.
Gain More Discipline
When you get rid of the junk, you will gain more discipline over your eating habits over time. The most important word here is OVER TIME. This is not something that will happen overnight.
I've helped and listened to many people when it comes to eating habits. A pattern is they expect this big transformation overnight. When that doesn't happen, they give up.
What they are forgetting is the foods that they are eating have a hold on them. The sweeteners, unhealthy fats, and specific textures have already sunk their teeth into you.
Literally, junk food is made specifically to trigger your pleasure. You feel rewarded when you eat them because that is what they are made for. They have a grasp on you. You have to be strong enough to unhook that grasp.
The chemicals cause cravings because of the part of the brain it triggers. When you get these foods out you will not crave them anymore. You will gain discipline.
Your desire for these foods will, most likely, go away.
For example, I loved Wendy's and when I craved it I had to have it. And EVERY. TIME. I felt terrible after. I was sluggish, my stomach was upset. But I couldn't control those cravings because I had already been eating junk food.
Since I've cleaned up my eating, I don't crave Wendy's anymore. I can't even tell you the last time I had it. The best part, I don't WANT Wendy's anymore.
My advice: get these out of your daily eating or at least reduce them. It doesn't happen overnight. Do this slowly. You will get to the point where you can resist cravings. How good would that feel? To have power over food!
Get Rid of Junk Food For Your Health
If you want to increase your energy, boost your immune system, and gain discipline over what you eat, cut out the junk food slowly. Make a menu and put it on the fridge. You are less tempted to go out or make a frozen dinner if you have a menu written out. If you are struggling with this, don't go full force. Start slowly. Make it a goal to have a fresh, whole food dinner 2 days out of the week. Once you get this down, add on another day and so on until you have cut it down to twice a month. The habit will build on itself. You just need to get started. Start today. Start a menu, pick 2 days where you will cook at home a fresh meal, and not go out.
Oh and don't give up if you slip up. You got this :)
Your Certified Brain Health,
Owner of SustainaBRAIN