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Junk food: how to break this cycle?

by 15380 · February 16, 2012 at 04:54 PM

Dear Paleohackers,

I have a problem that I want you to help me with. I am open to any ideas so I am asking you please NOT down vote anybody - any ideas are welcome.

Here is the thing. My body seems to function in cycles:

  1. I eat super healthy Paleo foods.

  2. I get tired of eating super healthy Paleo foods and start craving things like chocolate, ice cream, etc.

  3. The cravings are too strong. I give in and eat some gluten-free junk food.

  4. It makes me sick (I am gluten intolerant, have gastric erosion and leaky gut syndrome and I cannot handle any junk food, even if it is gluten free)

  5. I go back to eating super healthy Paleo foods. The cycle perpetuates itself.

Any insight on why I do that and how to break this cycle? Thank you to every one who replies in advance.

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9 Replies

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2065 · February 16, 2012 at 01:59 PM

My name is Ralph Furley and I'm a junk food junkie.

I've always liked junk food and it has always gotten in the way of having the best health that I could have and the best body that I could actually have. I've been in decent shape, but never really great shape and I think that it has been a result of occasional junk food binges. So, I feel your pain. There are probably a lot of "tricks" that you can adopt to trick yourself into not eating it, but I think there is a better angle. You have immense power within you. You are an incredibly strong person. Things that you determine to have happen can and will happen. If you determine to forgo junk food, you won't eat it. It may call you from time to time and you may want it, but you have the power to leave it. I came really close to being tempted by cookies that I was offered last night. For one split second I really wanted them and thought that it would be okay. Then, I remembered that it would make me feel lousy so I declined.

I have a good friend who is a recovering drug addict. He invited me to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting where he had committed to speak about his story of recovery. I joined him for the meeting and it was really interesting. This was an entire group of people who live one day at a time. Whether you like 12 steps programs or not is beside the point. These people put some effort into their "recovery" and I think it's possible to draw some corollaries to other bad habits: alcohol, junk food, tobacco, etc.

Use your inherent strength. You have a surplus of it.

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5115 · February 16, 2012 at 02:11 PM

Chocolate (and ice cream if you're lactose tolerant) aren't necessarily non-paleo. I understand how binging on the tastier proper paleo items doesn't satisfy the same way as junk, but there's junk and then there's junk. Frozen milk, egg and sugar isn't the worst thing in the world. Throw in some cocoa for the sugar, swap the milk for butter and you've got an awesome cake. It's not a solution but it's a step in the right direction from binging on what's in the store.

Of course it may be that there's things missing in your normal diet, maybe simply not eating enough, or maybe you just need to throw your whole day into one feast occasionally so your body gets that experience of overloading.

Or you may simply have a deep habit, or even more general self-destructive tendencies that make bad ideas impossible to resist. If nothing else, once you get the idea you want to binge it's often best to indulge as you won't shake it otherwise. In any event, you're certainly not alone. You can try directing your binges to other foods, or other activities (go for a walk). Without all the chemicals that leave us happily eating cereals every day without getting bored, you often need to look at other aspects of your lifestyle to maintain a positive hormonal balance. Exercise and sleep mainly.You can try changing some aspects of the rest of your diet, either adding more variety to what you eat or to how often you eat. A change is as good as a rest. I think many find that over time as they learn more and adjust their 'super-healthy' diet, the urge to eat junk food just comes less and less often. Every time you successfully resist it is a step in the right direction.

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2851 · February 16, 2012 at 04:09 PM

I don't have anything inspirational to say, but you can try incorporating 85%-100% chocolate into your diet- it's good stuff to quell a sweet tooth.

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15070 · February 16, 2012 at 03:03 PM

Do you supplement magnesium? A deficiency seems to be related to chocolate cravings.

There are different forms, I use Magnesium glycinate, which seems to be better for me than the magnesium citrate in natural calm (which may loosen stools too much).

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1066 · February 16, 2012 at 01:02 PM

  1. Make your paleo food more tasty. Herbs (pour out of the bottle through the big opening, not the small holes), salt, cheese and olive oil are your friends. I add those to nearly everything I eat.

  2. Make your junk food more paleo. If you are going to sugar binge, why not binge on frozen blueberries?

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1582 · February 16, 2012 at 04:54 PM

Have you ever looked into Candida? Supposedly a big symptom is craving sweets. Besides sweets I also crave alcohol. Been on an anti-candida/Paleo protocal for 8 days now. So don't feed it with Paleo sweets and carbs. You've got to slowly kill it off and then support a healthy digestive system that can keep it in check.

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12405 · February 16, 2012 at 04:38 PM

For me, it was never about how the food tasted. It simply doesn't taste very good any more--especially compared to the awesome stuff I make now... but you know what? I STILL crave junk food... JunkInTheBox, TacoHell, PizzaSmut... I get cravings for those -specific- nasty things all the time.

Getting through it is a day-to-day struggle. Especially when tired, hungry, rushed, etc. Some things I've found that help me to be able to make different decisions are making sure that I have something easy to fix at home (which makes it possible for me to say "nah, I've already got something ready at the house" when I'm rushed or had a late day or long commute from work). Knowing where to pick up healthier alternatives helps, too -- substitute some almond-butter-stuffed-dark-chocolate-cups for Reese's... yeah.. I can do that. Having pao-de-caejo ingredients at home to make Chebe-style pizza crusts instead of PH... ok.

In the end, though, I find that even after almost 3 years, I still have to 'muscle through' these cravings. I thought they'd eventually go away -- especially when the food started tasting really bad to me -- but they didn't. So now, I just do my best, occasionally slip and am reminded why I don't really like those things any more, and repeat the cycle. I remind myself, when I do slip, that I can pick myself up and get back on track again as soon as the NEXT MEAL CHOICE, so all isn't lost. And I remember, always, that making a bad choice doesn't -doom- me, and doesn't make me a weak person or a bad person... it just makes my road a little rougher for a brief stretch, and this, too, shall pass.

I may not be in the "perfect" health that MIGHT be out there if I could just eliminate my cravings -- but you know, I'm -better- than I'd be if I was doing NOTHING, and some days, that knowledge just has to be enough for me.

Best of luck to you.

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550 · February 16, 2012 at 03:58 PM

There are some great ideas here. The narcotics anonymous story was a great one. The reason why you break it down and take one day at a time is because it's easier to say, I'm not going to eat junk food (or do drugs) at all today! I can do anything for 1 day.

Another idea is throw away all junk food or anything that could be causing junk food cravings, even sweet fruit like bananas. Get rid of sugar, honey, everything. Then you conquer your eating at the grocery store. Before you go in mentally prepare yourself to not buy anything even close to junk food. No compromises at the grocery store. If you don't have it at home you can't eat it.

Another way to help is to write down everyday that you eat well. It's motivating to see how even though you're taking it 1 day at a time, it's already been 2 weeks since your last indulgence. If you could make it through 2 weeks you can make it through today, today is easy compared to 2 weeks.

One last note for the grocery store: Try to buy one paleo friendly food per week that you've never tried before. It's a good way to explore new things you might like.

Good luck!

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19504 · February 16, 2012 at 03:58 PM

Allow yourself Vanilla Ice Cream in the evenings as your only treat. Eat a large protein breakfast and lunch.

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