Three Steps to Start Crushing Junk Food Cravings

Beth Thomas, PharmD talks about how to curb junk food cravings

For those trying to lose weight, junk food cravings can interfere with meeting your goals. Identifying what factors can contribute to your food cravings as well as what strategies you can use to start fighting those cravings is very important.

Here are three steps to help you:

Step #1: Become aware of the following common contributors to junk food cravings. Some of these factors are:

  • Stress⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Lack of Sleep⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Poor Hydration⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Negative Mood⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Environmental Factors
    • People may associate a particular place, social setting, or time of day with a certain food, which can trigger a craving for that food.
  • Food Formulation/Composition
    • Often, food cravings are for highly processed foods high in salt, sugar, and fat. Junk foods are manufactured with specific combos of flavors, textures, and artificial ingredients to make them taste better and cause us to eat more of them. This concept is called making the foods "hyper-palatable." Hyperpalatable foods include many sweets and chips. It’s common that we may not even be hungry when we're having these cravings.

Step #2: When you experience a food craving, try to note what's happening at the time. Consider asking yourself questions like:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

  • What kind of food am I craving?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • What's my mood (happy, sad, bored, angry, frustrated)?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Where am I (specific location)?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • What time of day is it?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Am I around certain people?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • What have I already eaten today?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  • Did something happen today at work or home?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

After answering these questions, you can start to tweak your habits or routines to help reduce or fight the cravings.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Step #3: Start experimenting with the following strategies to crush your cravings. Some strategies are:

  1. Take 10 to 15 minutes to check in with yourself about your emotions before eating the food.
    1. You may find that you're not hungry, and you may decide not to eat anything.
  2. As I tell my clients, if you choose to indulge the craving, do it and "declare it done."
    1. Move on and be kind to yourself. Celebrate the win that you took some time to pause before making a decision. That's progress!


  1. Choose to do something else not related to eating.
    1. Phone a friend.
    2. Journal.
    3. Get up and walk around.
    4. Paint your nails.
    5. Brush your teeth.
  2. Drink water.
  3. Prioritize sleep. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
  4. When appropriate, aim to include more foods with protein and fiber in your meals to keep you fuller longer. ⠀⠀

*Nothing in the preceding article should be construed as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider for individual recommendations.*

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