Why do we get stuck in an unhealthy food rut?

Too much to do, too little time – does this sound familiar? We live in fast-paced world that just seems to become more overwhelming every day. To cope, we look for convenience wherever we can find it…and fast food is one of these options. But, is the 30 minutes you’re saving really worth your health?

Convenience – the solution or the problem?

In today’s crazy lifestyle, 24 hours doesn’t seem to be enough time: managing your career, caring for your family and everything that comes in between, can wear you down. These stressors trigger three problems that have us searching for convenient shortcuts:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of sleep

Stress, anxiety and snacking

Your body uses energy to do the basics: eat, breathe, move, think, etc. If you are stressed or anxious, your body actually uses more energy than normal – the feeling itself puts a bigger demand on your body than normal. That’s why, at some point during the day you get that “craving” – it’s your body crying out for high-energy food! And the easiest foods to get your hands on are sugar-rich, fat-laden and salty fast food.

The junk food/sleep connection

We know that when your schedule is jam-packed, it’s difficult to get a decent amount of sleep, but sleep is essential to your health. Believe it or not, lack of sleep can actually affect your craving for junk food! In fact, studies have shown that people suffering from a lack of sleep are more likely to choose foods that are high in fat and sugar when they’re hungry.

Unhealthy food stimulates your brain by releasing dopamine. This chemical, produced in the brain, is linked to pleasure and reward.

So, the cycle works like this:

Lack of sleep = a craving for unhealthy food, causing the release of dopamine = unhealthy food choices because it’s seen as a reward, which just makes you crave it more! You can stop the cycle by making sure that you get enough sleep.

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Another issue that causes us to eat unhealthy foods, is cost. Unfortunately, healthy food choices are often more expensive. It makes you cringe when you look at your till slip and see a ghastly total – printed in bold. You find yourself needing to cut back on certain foods and find cheaper alternatives, many of which, are more unhealthy: e.g. instant noodles (packed with unhealthy preservatives) vs organic pasta (preservative-free.)
So, the reason that you wolf down a burger from your nearest fast food joint is because it’s cheaper and more convenient, but is it worth it?

It’s a tough situation, but we’re here to help you and have come up with healthy, cost-effective solutions.

Healthy, finance-friendly solutions

  • Look for quick, easy and healthy recipes that provide you with a balance of healthy carbs, fats and protein.
  • Check which fruits and vegetables are in season – they will cost less.
  • Take more time in the supermarket to look for specials on meat, fish, chicken, dairy and fresh produce.
  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry!
  • Make sure that you get enough sleep. If you’re battling to fall asleep, you may be suffering from excessive stress or even insomnia; read these tips on how to get a good night’s sleep.
  • You need to be more physically active: create a workout plan that is suited to YOU. Speak to a nutritionist and your doctor for the advice that you need.

If you feel that none of this is working, make an appointment to see your doctor, a nutritionist or a psychologist. They’ll be able to help you find the underlying problem.