3 Tips to Stop Overeating on Junk Food
Updated: Jul 13
Have you ever opened a bag of chips intending to eat a few pieces, but end up finishing the bag? The same thing happens with cookies, ice cream, and all the other snacks you are craving for.
It's not because you have poor self-control or discipline. These foods are actually designed to make us overeat.
Here's how it works, and some tricks to overcome them.
Companies use clever marketing and flavor-packed products to entice us to eat more than we intended.
By reducing the "temptations" in our immediate environment, we reduce the likelihood of us binge snacking when cravings hit.
Find healthy substitutions to satisfy the same cravings to reduce our need on junk food.
Junk food companies design their products specifically to do achieve one objective:
To eat their food and to KEEP eating more and more.
They do this in 3 ways:
1. Marketing tricks to make their junk food seem healthy.
Bright colors and friendly cartoon characters on the packaging help us to form positive associations with their brand and product. They do this with commercials as well.
Catchphrases like "Have a break", "You deserve it" and "We satisfy", makes us feel the need to treat ourselves.
Healthy buzzwords like "organic", "sugar-free" and "gluten-free" tricks us into associating their products as healthy.
2. Better value meals
With fast-food, you often get much more value for your money in terms of volume (and calories). Consider a $6 fast-food value meal that comes with fries and a drink versus a $6 salad.
This makes us feel that we are getting a good deal and keep us coming back.
Additionally, it often costs less than $2 to "up-size" our meals to get even BETTER value. This strategy gets us to consume more than we actually need.
3. Offer much more variety and flavors
Compared to non-processed foods, junk foods offer us much more variety, with different flavors to cater to our different moods and taste, which gives us more options to choose from.
Consider eating an apple every day. Compared to eating a different flavored snack every day. Which would you naturally prefer?
Now that we understand the tricks that have been used to skew our behavior and consume more than we intend to, how do we combat them and stop us from overeating?
1. Chew slower
It's usually much easier to chew junk food (candy bars, chips, gummy bears) than it is to eat normal whole foods. This makes us pop them in our mouths more frequently and quickly, leading to us consuming more before we start to feel full.
By slowing down our chewing process, we control the speed we consume junk food and allow our brain the opportunity to process our satiety levels. Leading to us consuming less.
2. Look at your environment
Whatever is consistently in your immediate environment, you'll eventually eat it.
Look into your fridge and kitchen cupboards. Evaluate what you have stocked and ready for you to easily consume. Consider these things:
How many of the junk food has been marketed to you as "healthy"?
Are there any that use catchphrases that invoke a need to treat yourself?
By simply being aware of your purchasing choices, you might consider removing some of these junk foods from your next grocery list.
By having less readily available junk food. You're less likely to give in to your midnight hunger cravings.
3. Find substitutions
If throwing out ALL your favorite snacks seem daunting to you. You don't have to get rid of them all at once. Take it a step at a time. Pick your least favorite snack, consider what you like about it, and how it satisfies a certain craving.
Find a reasonable healthy replacement that might still meet that need and place it in your immediate environment.
You might enjoy M&Ms because they are sweet and can easily pop it in your mouth while you are watching Netflix.
Could you replace them with grapes on your next movie date night?
By consistently being aware of your own behaviors and practicing these 3 strategies, you would have already substantially decreased your consumption of junk food, and hopefully added more healthy whole foods into your diet in the process.
Don't feel overwhelmed if any of these tasks seem out of your capabilities or comfort level. What's most important is for you to start somewhere, and aim for incremental improvements over time.