As a wellness professional, you encourage your clients to change how they eat, removing factory processed foods and junk foods. You have most likely discovered that it is not uncommon for certain clients to struggle to overcome junk food cravings as they attempt to transition to a new way of eating. You know that it is important to eliminate junk food from the diet because these foods contain little nutritional value, are filled with refined sugar, white flour and additives that are detrimental to the body. The biggest downfall is that these “foods” can actually cause people to become addicted to them.
It’s up to you to work with your clients and dig deeper to understand what underlying areas of dysfunction may be contributing to their cravings, so that you can help solve them once and for all!
What can you do to help your clients combat junk food cravings?
Test them to see if there is HPA axis dysfunction occurring
One of the most common tests that FDN practitioners run for clients helps to give clues as to the state of HPA axis function. This test looks at cortisol, DHEA, progesterone, testosterone, melatonin, estradiol and estriol levels. If tests show that the levels of these hormones are out of balance it can indicate that the HPA axis is not functioning properly. If the HPA axis is in a state of dysfunction and cortisol levels are high, then it can throw blood sugar levels out of balance. When that happens it is very common for people to experience intense cravings for sugary, highly processed carbohydrates. If a woman is in perimenopause or menopause and is experiencing lower estrogen and progesterone levels, it can also cause increased cravings for sugary snacks. The good news is that testing can show you which areas need the most supportive care. And with proper dietary and holistic support, HPA axis function can be normalized, and hormones can be brought into balance. This in turn can reduce overall stress levels and reduce cravings.
Check their metabolic type
Every person requires a different balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat. But if your clients are eating the wrong balance of macronutrients for their body, then they could wind up struggling with cravings for foods that aren’t so good for them. And giving into the cravings can derail any progress they’ve made on the road to getting healthy. Discovering their metabolic type and getting them eating the right balance for them can help them to feel more satiated and keep them from reaching for junk foods.
Make sure they are getting adequate sleep
In studies, sleep deprivation has been shown to reduce the activity of important areas of the brain that guide complex decision making while increasing the areas of the brain that control desire and motivation. This leads to cravings for junk food and reduces cravings for healthier options. Be sure your clients are getting at least 7-9 hours of sleep nightly, and this will help to prevent cravings caused by sleep deprivation.
Make stress management a priority
When people face stress, their bodies release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. When cortisol levels are elevated, appetite is increased. So for many who deal with chronic stress, appetite levels may stay increased causing overall calorie consumption to increase as well. In times of stress, people tend to crave foods that are high in fat and high in sugar. So making sure your clients are managing stress daily through exercise, meditation, or deep breathing exercises can help to reduce stress related junk food cravings
Make sure they are eating regular meals
It can be tempting for busy clients to skip a meal in order to get more done. But it is important that they are eating regular meals throughout the day, or else they might be tempted to indulge in fast foods and convenient junk foods. If a client allows themselves to get too hungry, reaching for junk food snacks to tide them over until the next meal can become very tempting. But you can counteract this by encouraging them to plan ahead and eat regular, healthy meals throughout the day. They should also keep healthy snack options close by, in case they do find themselves unexpectedly getting hungry before meal time! A small, healthy snack can keep them on track and subdue their hunger.
Make sure they don’t go to the grocery store hungry
When a person is hungry or is experiencing cravings, a grocery store is the worst place to be. This is because it allows access to a large variety of foods…including foods that are better left in the store. To make matters worse, grocery stores typically put the least healthy foods at eye level, which makes them much more tempting and easy to add to the shopping cart. It is not uncommon to bring home more junk food after shopping while hungry than your client would have when shopping after eating. Therefore it is best to plan grocery shopping trips after eating a satisfying meal to help your clients resist junk food temptation.
Have them check their emotions
Many people eat in response to specific emotions, even though they may be unaware that they are doing it. Certain foods can act as a form of comfort when they are feeling sad, lonely or bored. In response to these emotions it is not uncommon to eat junk food mindlessly, without realizing how much is being eaten. When emotions come up, it is best to have your clients distract themselves with other healthier options, instead of reaching for junk food. Encourage them to call a friend, go for a walk, enjoy a hobby, do some yoga or read a book. Any of these options are much healthier than resorting to junk food to fill the emotional void. And ultimately, choosing a healthier option will help them to feel better about themselves in the long runl.
Junk food cravings do not need to run your client’s life, or derail the progress they’ve already made. You can help your clients combat them easily by following any of these healthy tips. If your client does slip and has a day where they reach for junk food, it is good to keep them from beating themselves up over the slip. Mentally punishing themselves for their slip will create additional stress in their body, which can quickly become chronic. Gently remind them to begin again making healthier choices with the next meal to help get them back on track and on the road towards optimal health!