I took this picture at my local Kroger checkout line. Did the 88 cent M&M's call to you?
First, let me start by saying that this blog post is not to be used seriously as a diagnostic tool, but merely as a wake-up call. I hope it stops to make you think about behavior that may just be a mindless bad habit.
You might be a junk food addict if you agree to the majority of the following:
1. I often find myself purchasing candy or soda impulsively in a checkout line.
2. I often skip breakfast, but can’t say no to doughnuts at the office.
3. I like my cream and sugar with a little coffee.
4. I don’t know what I’d do without vending machines accessible to me.
5. It takes me no time to decide what to order at a fast food drive-thru because I already know the whole menu.
6. My pantry is filled with items like cheese puffs, cookies, chips, candy, snack cakes, etc.
7. No matter how much I just ate, I always have room for dessert.
8. If someone talks about a certain kind of junk food, I have to buy it within 24 hours.
9. When I dine out, I typically choose the fried version over the grilled.
10. I eat until I’m stuffed for most meals.
11. I have no time to cook a proper meal at home, so I have to order out most nights.
12. I only eat vegetables if I can dip them in Ranch dressing.
13. I’m constantly thinking about food.
14. If I see a new junk food advertisement, I get so excited that I have to share it with my friends so that we can all salivate together.
15. I have been on numerous diets and nothing works.
16. When I’m stressed, I find myself eating without being physically hungry.
17. I enjoy eating out of a bag of chips or pint of ice cream while watching TV.
18. I wish the fair didn’t just come once a year so I could eat that food more often.
19. My schedule is so hectic, there is no point in trying to plan meals.
20. I would literally have no idea what I would do if fast food and junk food disappeared from the planet.
If you agreed with more of the above statements than not, then you might be a junk food addict. Some people will be able to work with a Registered Dietitian or a health coach to combat these behaviors, but others may need to work with an actual certified mental health specialist to identify some root needs that the individual is filling with junk food. Dietitians and health coaches can problem-solve with you on how to plan around your life with healthier choices, but they might not be the only resource that you need to be successful. You may need to sincerely treat your current eating habits like addiction, and learn to think about food in an entirely new way. Establishing a healthy relationship with food as fuel for your body will require more than simply making a goal to pack your lunch most days. Identifying that you have a serious problem with food is the first step, and not a joke. If you find that food has more control over you than you have over it, then it’s time to reach out for professional help.
Your doctor may be the first stop to see what local resources they are aware of. Check to see if there is an Overeaters Anonymous near you. Another idea is to see if your employer has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) with free or reduced priced counseling available. When looking for a dietitian or health coach, ask if they offer nutrition counseling, and be open and honest about your disordered eating patterns. Again, not every dietitian is equipped or trained to speak with someone effectively on this level, so be sure to vet the company you work with first. The nutrition industry makes a lot of money on people with poor eating habits who would do anything to be thinner, so be wary of those who begin talking about products they want to sell you, without addressing the root causes of your issues.
Nutrition psychology is a newly emerging science, but medical professionals are realizing that it is a piece of the puzzle that has been overlooked for too long. You are not alone, and there are now ways to get help to live a longer, healthier life. If there's only one thing worth investing in, it's your health and wellness, so please, take care of yourself.