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8 reasons we eat junk food

Updated: Apr 24, 2019

Even the best of us is guilty of making poor nutritional choices... we are all human after all!

Even with professional nutritional backgrounds and certifications to boot, even us Coaches have days where KNOWING what's “good” and “bad” for our bodies just doesn't factor in. Or we legit could care less, because DARN IT, sometimes ya just need a donut!


Some days, you SHOULD HAVE that donut! It’s called LIFE.

But, that time is not the normal everyday…no it is not.

Most days are just normal days, where one poor decision turns into another, turns into another, and so on. Before we know it, we've walked so far away from our goals and dipped so deep into our emotions that we are wading in a pool of them. Until that “Oops I did it again…” musical and wash of guilt takes over.

Eventually we snap back ON to our plans hoping to undo the damage. Been there, DONE THAT.

This cycle is NOT LIVING and it robs us of our confidence…So what gives?!

Here's THE 8 REASONS WHY we all fall off the nutritional bandwagon, and here's HOW to prevent them from recurring…with a little practice.

1} You're Looking for a Distraction

Raise your hand if you've ever sat down at work to do a task, and then said, "hold on, I think I'll go

get a snack first" {Hand raised over here!} Next thing you know it's 15 minutes later, you've heard a whole life story about the weekend of manager Jake, and now you're walking away from the Pantry with 3 cookies from coworker Jane's mother. This is called avoidance: purposely distracting ourselves from activities we'd rather NOT do with something else that still kinda-sorta feels productive, but also feels good {eating}!

In life, and DEFINITELY in work, we will always find things we don't want to do but have to do. Procrastination will always be a part of human nature as far as I am concerned. The key is to NOT let it derail you from you being your healthiest you!

Solution: Make a list of 3 things you can do instead of reaching for food to fill that procrastination time that will either a} entertain you or b} make you feel accomplished. Some of my top suggestions are: go on 10-minute walk, finally drop those clothes off at the dry cleaner like you said you'd do 3 weeks ago {or other errand}, call a friend who will re energize you! And before doing any of these things,

GRAB A GLASS OF WATER...sometimes when we THINK we are hungry, we actually just need to hydrate.

2} You're Bored

Another common problem...having NOTHING to do! So, LET'S EAT! Sometimes we just need to be kept busy!! And what's better than letting our mouth do that work...we NEED to eat, so HEY, it's kind of necessary, right?! But these are the moments when we typically eat food to entertain us instead of nourish us.

Don't tell ME you reach for the baby carrots when you're bored! For some reason, that just doesn't


So here's what to do:

Solution: Whatever you do, DO NOT watch Netflix {and chill} unless you already planned to. Because when we do this to fill time, we tend to turn it into an entertainment EXPERIENCE, which includes SNACKS. Instead, GET OUTSIDE... go somewhere new you've been wanting to explore, a hike, a bike ride, a museum. GET OUT of your routine and change things up! When we do this, our energy tends to shift and our excitement about the world around us expands. Instead of thinking about food, we fill our time and use our bodies in ways that are productive and positive.

3} Sadness / Heartbreak

Oh honey bunch, have we all been in these shoes more than once! There is nothing like sadness to make the call of Ben & Jerry's louder than ever before. When we feel sad, everything in our biology is telling us to find something to make us happy. And our biology is SMART ENOUGH to know that the simplest way to do that with the least amount of effort is PROCESSED FOOD...and not just any food.

Simple usually high-carb/sugary food. The kind that breaks down fast & gives us a surge of insulin and energy. These foods also trigger neurotransmitters in our brain connected to feelings of pleasure, creating a brief endorphin boost providing instant calming and happiness…YAY! {No…we are kidding…put down that Kettle Corn}.

It's fine to settle into our feelings for a night or two, hell, even a week if it's a really bad time, but BEYOND THIS...that is just not healthy, and you my friend don't deserve to feel more like ka-ka than you already do.

Solution: Feel what you're feeling girl, but then eventually, put that pain into therapeutic action. Invest in an audiobook that will help you past your struggle, heartbreak, death, loss of job, whatever.

Set some new goals that have NOTHING to do with the sad event, but will help pull you out of the sadness, such as signing up for a race that you'd have to train for, taking some new classes for that dance or skill you've been eyeing to master. And if none of those things things that make you FEEL like one HELL OF A WOMAN.

Examples: wear lingerie for YOURSELF, take bubble baths, take a booty twerk or pole

dancing class...ANYTHING that will help you take YOUR POWER BACK, rather than waste it away.

4} Unprepared / Hangry

Hell hath no fury than a woman whose hangry {okay, let's not be experience this, too}!

But I am serious about this...when you get home at night and you'e been moving at full steam all day, all a normal person has energy for is to kick off their shoes off and lay spread eagle on the couch!

Our blood sugar is LOW, especially if we skipped lunch to keep working that day, and we just want FOOD. ANY FOOD. NOW.

Our brain sends signals that it needs the fastest form of energy it can get it's hands on, without expending any additional effort...and that form of energy is usually anything in a box or that can be popped into a microwave. Peanut butter & jelly anyone? The common denominator - none of these foods is fresh, free of processed sugar, excess salt and preservatives, or will keep us full for very long.

So we tend to eat even MORE after the fact. We are literally in survival mode in moments like this, which is something NONE OF US CAN CHANGE OR HELP {they will always exist}. What we can change though is how we PLAN for it.

Solution: Meal planning & food prep. We know, we know...we just told you how busy you are and here we are asking you to do MORE work! But I PROMISE, it gets easier the more you do it. Pick a day between Friday and Sunday, preferably a day or two before you can shop. Break out your meals for Breakfasts, Lunches & Dinners, and move any ingredients you need to a grocery list.

When you shop,

ONLY purchase those items {this will omit any last minute impulse purchases that our cravings/emotions like to trick us into getting}. And whatever you do, DO NOT SHOP HUNGRY.

Pick one day on the

weekend you can spend 2 hours baking two types of meat or protein, chopping veggies to throw into salads, washing lettuce, and preparing something for to-go breakfasts.

YES, this does all sound like work now... but it saves SO MUCH TIME during the busy week, AND it also makes it easy to grab something healthy when you just don't have the energy to cook something.

5} Anxiety

Anxious eating....ohhh yesss. This is one some of us Coaches have personally struggled with in the past.

People are one of two types when they are stressed or nervous: over-eaters or under-eaters.

It’s our body’s way of expending the extra energy it’s harboring and releasing it….with food, distractions, or sleep.

Solution: Two things - 1} Meal Prep and 2} Exercise and/or Meditation. We find doing meal prep is the number one habit to prevent you from reaching for crappy foods when you're just feeling that need to nosh on something.

When we are anxious, more often than not, we are simply looking to get out some energy and keep our mouths busy. But there is also that desire for something to calm us, and sugary foods tend to be the ones that calm the anxious centers of the brain because our body breaks them down the fastest.

Our mind chills out knowing it’s at least fed, has some energy, and won’t get eaten by a bear….momentarily anyways.

Sugar also sends our blood sugar higher and excites our cells which has

an alternate effect…INCREASED ANXIETY & sometimes even IRRITABILITY.

In this case, exercise and/or meditation are great ways of getting out energy and calming the brain in a way that is beneficial long term. Yes, IT WILL take more effort initially to do these things because you must EXPEND energy in order to reap the benefits, but focus on slowing down a bit and exercise your brain to discipline itself and resolve stress with healthier habits.

Some other hobbies you may even want to pick up to slow down and quiet that anxious brain are knitting, crochet, working on a puzzle, or playing an instrument. These are tasks that utilize energy, but also have rhythm, repetition, a sense of satisfaction and zen to calm the adrenals, and thus reduce stress.

6} Chemical Imbalances/Hormones

Two things can cause this: 1} Diet and 2} Stress.

Having a diet high in processed foods, GMO's, unhealthy fats, alcohol, and preservatives can create an environment of undigested and irritating food that becomes a breeding ground for bad bacteria. STRESS also contributes to bad bacteria overgrowth - stress kills off our good bacteria because our gut is not given the chance to relax &repair itself because you're too busy freaking out about life!

When bad bacteria rule our digestive tracts, they can actually alter our hormones, such as cortisol, which is responsible for storing fat. When cortisol is HIGH, like in times of chronic stress, we continue to store fat. PERIOD. No matter how many veggies you're eating.

There's also this thing called the Vagus Nerve, and it runs directly up to our brains from our guts. This nerve is the pathway our gut uses to send messages to our brain, which regulates hormones, and determines when to send us those rumbly-tummy hunger signals. An imbalance in the gut can throw off our leptin and serotonin levels, meaning we may be hungrier MORE OFTEN than we actually really need to be {medications can do this, too}, and we may also crave sugary and comfort foods that gives our pleasure centers in the brain a dose of happiness.

Through the Vagus Nerve, bacteria also make special requests for foods that they can live off of. So as your blood sugar gets low, your bad bacteria screams, "Hello! Need more candy bars down here!!"

Cravings for high sugar and processed foods will be the place we feel most nourished {for a moment}, because it is exactly this type of food these bacteria eat. But your body, not receiving the energy IT NEEDS to regenerate healthy cells and supply you with fuel, will often feel very tired and sluggish.

Solution: First things first, get your blood work done and a hormone panel test. This will help you at least get a good look at what is going on inside. Sometimes things show up on these test, and sometimes they don't, but it's always a good starting point.

Second thing is, for three weeks, cut out processed foods, eat foods as close to the way they came out of the earth, and cut out the top most common inflammatory foods: gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, corn, red meat,and alcohol. Limit gas-causing high-fiber foods such as beans, apples, pears, asparagus, beets, and celery {Google the words "FODMAP foods" and you'll find a slew more of these}.

COOK all of the veggies you DO eat, so your gut doesn't have to work so hard during this time and can focus on healing. A soup recipe I highly recommend is Bieler Broth, which mixes great with some brown rice and ground lean turkey! YUM! Add in other healthy fats like avocado, wild-caught fish, coconut meat, and ghee.

Healthy fats are great at healing our gut lining so the more the better!

Lastly, take a prebiotic/probiotic supplement such as Amazing Grass Superfood Protein, to repopulate all your good bacteria.

This "reset" of sorts should get your gut back on track in no time and your hormones firing at much more stable levels.

7} You Need Sleep


If you're feeling low on energy, there's a very good chance you are reaching into that

box of donuts the rep dropped off at the office earlier. '

This is just your body being extra smart in knowing exactly the type of food that will give it the biggest burst of energy the fastest.

The problem is that energy boost only lasts for a few minutes, and then you usually end up feeling worse later on in the day...and thus the cycle of eating junk continues.

When you're consistently low on QUALITY sleep, cortisol runs at higher levels in the body. The natural rhythms of cortisol being released by your adrenals are simply thrown off because your body is in a more

constant state of "awake" and it assumes you're in a state of stress.

Cortisol is trying to do you a favor, but it can pack on pounds in the process.

Solution: This will not be the first or last time you hear this, but get your 7-9 hours of sleep as often as possible! Make it an appointment in your calendar, set a timer to remind you to start getting ready for bed each night.

Use an essential oil diffuser with lavender to calm you down at the end of the day and begin

to induce sleep and set the right tone. Also avoid caffeine within 6 hours of bed time, and try to do your workouts 3 hours or more before bed. Life will always be crazy, but sleep is simply the one thing that shouldn't be sacrificed, as it predicts how WELL you can show up every day, and how CAPABLE your body is able to support you.

8} Peer Pressure

Last but certainly not least, as this is probably the MOST COMMON issue...You're friends!! {In some cases, FAUX-friends, who are uncomfortable with you changing for the better}.

We are big fans of the saying, "You are who you surround yourself with" or "You are an average of the five people you talk to most"

So take a look around you! Who are "Your People"

Are they embodying the lifestyle, vibrancy, health, and priorities that you envision for yourself?

Do they DO the actions that take you FURTHER from being the best vision you have for yourself?

Are they there to CHALLENGE you and PUSH YOU towards your goals?

It's hard when we plan to get out of our own way, set new fitness goals, and are doing a million new things to try to get there. Our body and mind is PROGRAMMED to reach for what is COMFORTABLE, and IT, not knowing what's really going on outside our body, assumes anything UNCOMFORTABLE is dangerous and should be feared.

This is how we end up with a foot back in our old habits, which our friends are probably still partaking in: gossiping about people, going to happy hour, wine tours every other weekend, eating out and buying lunch every day, checking out that new bakery or ice cream shop, going to the bar to watch football on the weekends, and not sleeping.

All these things are HELLA FUN, don't get me wrong, but they can't be done on the regular AND provide us the support we need to keep us in line towards our well-intentioned fitness goals. Our adrenals DO NOT HAVE the capacity to play Dr. Jekyll &Mr. Hyde 24/7!

We are a chemical beings…our hormones WILL eventually get out of wack, we WILL become worn out, our guts will likely NOT be happy, and you won't feel like your best self to do the actions that take care of YOU.

Solution: BOTH lifestyles can be a part of the equation, but you have to CHOOSE which part of that equation should matter more. We like to teach clients to practice the 80/20, or even better, the 90/10 rule.

80-90% of your actions should be towards your goals, and 10-20% can be whatever your emotional soul needs to balance that out. This applies to food, activities, who you hang out with, all of it.

So maybe you talk to that flaky Jane chick a little less...No, you don't have to cut anyone out

COMPLETELY here. All of our friends and family have a purpose. But just because they choose to live a certain way doesn't mean you have to surround yourself with it all the time.

Keep taking on the actions of the person you wish for yourself to be, and focus on being the

INSPIRATION as opposed to the follower. YOU DO NOT OWE MAKING OTHERS COMFORTABLE by SACRIFICING YOUR HEALTH. And besides, you never really know whose watching. Lastly, we can bet that on the way to taking the actions of becoming that fabulous alter ego of yours, you will likely make space to MEET the type of people who will hold you accountable to being your best self & who will push you closer to the person you were meant to be.

SO HOLD ON to those goals, DECIDE they are a priority, so that YOU can GIVE your best self to others over and over. It is NOT selfish to come first, in fact, it is necessary.

PUSH through the PAIN POINTS, every one of them makes you stronger. PLAN to SUCCEED or PLAN TO FAIL. And above all, know the journey never ends, there are always ups and down, but it's not about the destination. It's about how we choose to overcome every pitfall, the excuses we learn to toss, and how much we learn along the way.

Heather Unger, Coach INHC

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