I want to bodybuild and have a nice body.  However I eat a lot of junk food but want to stop it now.  However i do not know where to start.  Can you advise me how to do it?



You ask a good question: how do you stop craving junk foods? You are clearly interested in improving your health as you are a body builder and are most likely aware of the importance of nutrition in keeping your body strong. There are many nutritional supplements that can aid  in body building and to help with food cravings. Supplements are not my expertise, so may I direct you to one link of many, the personal trainer Sean Croxton. He has some very educational podcasts, and his book: The Dark Side of Fat Loss is very good. If you are a food addict, however, a good lifestyle and supplements may not be enough.  

Even if you are not a food addict, you will be lured by the tasty quality of junk food. Dr. DavidKessler in his excellent book, the End of Overeating, talks about how the food industry deliberately makes food highly palatable so that it will sell. He makes the analogy between the golden triangle of opiate addiction  (Thailand, Burma and Laos) where most opiates are produced – to the food industry. The golden triangle in junk food is: sugar, fat and salt. Any version of this is likely to sell because this combination is extremely energy dense, and will overpower our natural inclination to prefer energy dense foods (like sugar, flour, especially if it has fat in it) over less dense foods like green vegetables. These foods are intentionally made so that it becomes difficult to ‘not want them’.

The reason for this is because these highly palatable foods potentiate our neurochemistry of pleasure. Once we eat these foods, our brains get ‘high’ with the pleasure of the increased neurochemicals.  In a short time, we become tolerant to this excess of neurochemistry that the junk food has created. Our brain does not want us to feel this excess for very long and we will adapt to the increased pleasure by creating more receptors sites. Soon that excess will be the required amount of neurochemicals just to feel normal.  

This is why one piece of chocolate is enough the fist time you eat it, and it is the most memorable (akin to chasing the dragon with drug use). But most people find that after a week or so, they need more than one piece to feel the same pleasure as that first memorable experience gave them. Once the person has become dependent on the junk food – they find that they need to eat more and more to feel any pleasure at all.  And, if they do not eat their desired food, the tolerance that has developed will lead  to ‘withdrawal’ of the pleasure state. The first ‘symptom’ of withdrawal is craving – you want the food, in fact, you may feel that you need the food just to ‘feel normal’. If you don’t have it, you might be dissatisfied and irritable. Hence, it becomes hard to stop the junk food, even when you know you should not be eating it.

You  may have found that you are now addicted to junk food (or some of the substances  in it). Many people are. The way to combat a food addiction  is to stop eating the junk food, and accept that you will feel withdrawal: this will feel like cravings, agitation, irritability, and you will probably find yourself giving in when you are hungry, angry, tired.  . These are the times that people relapse the most, as with any drug addiction. Do not underestimate the power of this withdrawal. It will undo the person who has the best will power.

The good news is that it only takes about three weeks for cravings to start to subside IF you stop eating junk food completely. Unless you sneak in a few treats here and there (like on a weekend or as a special treat)… which will serve to prolong the cravings indefinitely.  If your addiction has advanced enough, that treat will be enough to make the cravings return even worse that before. You might find that you can ‘get away’ with eating junk food here and there – this really depends on how advanced your addiction has become. If you find that you simply keep relapsing back to your junk food, then you will have to stop completely. You can no longer ‘cheat’, even once in a while.

In some cases, people find that their food addiction is so advanced, that despite all efforts, they keep relapsing. If you find this is the case, you may need to get more help than just stopping the foods. You may need to follow a special food addiction diet and get community or peer support.