Junk food ADDICTION: Cutting back on fries or chocolate may trigger WITHDRAWAL symptoms

Trying to quit eating junk food is easier said than done. This is because addiction to junk food is real and attempting to give it up may result in withdrawal symptoms. People who try to quit eating junk foods may experience the same withdrawal symptoms similar to drug withdrawal symptoms. A study by University of Michigan researchers found that people who try to reduce their intake of highly processed foods like fries or chocolates experience withdrawal symptoms, such as mood swings, cravings, anxiety, headaches, and poor sleep.

In the study, which was published in the journal Appetite, the researchers created a new tool designed after the withdrawal scales that are used to assess symptoms that occur after people quit smoking or stop using marijuana. The researchers gave this modified questionnaire to over 200 adults who had dieted in the past year by attempting to limit their junk food consumption.

The results revealed that the symptoms people experienced during withdrawal from tobacco or marijuana may be similar to when people cut down their junk food consumption. The participants reported symptoms such as sadness, frequent irritability, cravings, and even exhaustion.

Based on the self-reported symptoms of the participants, these withdrawal symptoms were the worst two to five days of trying to cut out junk food consumption. This time frame is similar to that of people who quit highly addictive substances like drugs and tobacco.

Why it is difficult to stop eating junk food?

People know that junk foods, despite being delicious, are unhealthy — but why do people have a hard time stopping themselves from eating them? Researchers at the University of Tasmania has looked at why it is hard to quit eating junk foods.

Also published in the journal Appetite, the study evaluated the factors that particularly influenced the eating and drinking habits of 50 adults. For 10 days, the researchers observed the participants’ moods, social behavior, and eating habits.

The results revealed that the availability of food is a factor. Whenever there is junk food in sight, people are more likely to eat it. Therefore, it’s best to keep food out of sight in any place you spend a lot of time in like your workstation. Keeping yourself busy, with no junk food around, will also help limit your food intake.

Another reason why junk food is hard to resist is because of negative emotions, such as sadness or depression. Whenever you feel these negative emotions, you are more likely to start snacking and binge eating because you find comfort in junk food. To prevent this behavior, you must try to control your food intake and be mindful of what you are eating, or learn to deal with negative emotions in other ways.

The study also found that people who eat alone tend to eat more than those who eat with other people. People who eat with company eat less and limit their food intake as they enjoy their meals. Eating with other people like your friends and family will help you control the amount of food you eat.

Junk food also makes people avoid healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology revealed that excessive consumption of junk food can change behavior, weaken self-control, and lead to overeating and obesity.

When researchers at the School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia fed rats junk food, the rats gained weight and had reduced appetite for novel foods. Even after putting them back on a healthy diet, the rats’ behavior remained the same for quite some time. With these findings, the researchers concluded that junk food causes lasting changes in the reward circuit of the brain.

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