Six Methods to Help You Say No to Unhealthy Foods

Our environment is saturated in calories-- cheap, appealing, unneeded calories. You can't run errands or take a trip to the shopping mall without dealing with a constant barrage of the advertising of processed and 'junk' foods.  It's very easy to say 'yes' to them, though they do our health no favors.

Here are 6 strategies you can utilize to withstand the flood of unhealthy foods that are all around you.

1. Do not let yourself get too hungry.

If you're too hungry, "your gut signals tell the reward system in your brain, 'You have to truly watch and respond extremely to any food cues you see,'" states Ashley Gearhardt, assistant teacher of psychology at the University of Michigan. Her guidance: Avoid the fad diet and "focus on the quality of the food you eat."

2. Do not drink your calories.

Sweet drinks-- soda, sports beverages, energy beverages, or sweetened teas-- result in weight gain. It's somewhat unclear why. One possibility: liquid calories may not "register." People consume just slightly less food when they consume a 150-calorie glass of cola with lunch than when they drink a zero-calorie glass of water or diet plan soda pop.  In other words, if you are drinking high calorie, low nutrition value drinks you may not realize to what extent it is effecting you as you don't feel as 'full' as you would from eating.

3. Find foods that don't cause a battle in your mind.

Starving in between meals? Try fresh fruit or carrots with hummus. "Try to determine foods that you take pleasure in but that don't cause an intense internal struggle as sweets can do for many people out there --' I'm only going to have one bite of this however, oh, goodness, I want more,'" suggests Gearhardt. "That's stressful. The self-control parts of our brain can only take so much.".

4. Resolve your stress.

"Stress can be a substantial hint," keeps in mind Gearhardt. "Notice the emotional triggers that can set you up to yearn for palatable gratifying foods." Choose a walk, call a good friend, attempt some meditation, or distract yourself. "The yearning will peak and then go down if you don't give in to it," states Gearhardt. Why does stress take a toll? "When we're stressed out, the executive control system in the brain-- the signal to stop consuming-- is deteriorated. Stopping ourselves from doing things we want is taxing and energy intense. So when we're stressed out, there isn't as much energy for that.".

5. Get enough sleep.

When researchers let people sleep only 4 hours a night for five days, they consumed more and gained weight. In comparable studies, "participants reported increased hunger," states Erin Hanlon, assistant teacher in the department of medicine at the University of Chicago. "And their hunger was greatest for high-carbohydrate or high-fat foods.

6. Give yourself a break.

"I ask people to have some empathy on their own, because it is really hard," states Gearhardt. "Our food environment is established to make it hard for individuals to eat much healthier."  Don't be too hard on yourself if you face struggles with food decisions, but don't give up either.  If you guilt yourself heavily for eating something unhealthy it can actually lead to worse cycle over time of repeated guilty or stress related eating.

So, take it easy, and steadily lower the amount of unhealthy foods you are consuming instead of making huge changes overnight.

Replacing sodas with water is an excellent and cost saving first step that many report also gives them more overall energy once dependence on caffeine subsides.

 

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