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Junk-Food Habits

It’s hard to know where it all started. No doubt our pre-historic ancestors had their favourites when it came to food; and it is quite likely that they would have acquired a taste for certain delicacies when it came to nibbling on the left-overs. All humans, perhaps living creatures in general, develop preferences and, given the choice, will opt for the most satisfying.

This is where junk food comes into its own, that and the convenience of being instantly available. So it might cost a bit more, but it saves on preparation, cooking, AND it tastes good! The fact that it is detrimental to our health is not of major concern, because we only have it once in a while. Unfortunately, the “once” becomes twice then, before we realise, an increasing percentage of our main meals comprise take-aways and snack food.

The chain reaction has begun. Balanced meals have given way to party food. Hunger-buster carbs make up the bulk, fats add to the flavour, spices give it zing and the humble vegie, if present at all, is reduced to a few coloured specks in the fried rice. Washed down with the soda that often comes with the meal-deal, the problem is compounded by yet more incidental chemicals. And they are present for one reason only – to make us want more!

Pooh-pooh the suggestion, if you like, but think about it. Try to resist opening the packet of potato chips you nibble while reading, or watching TV and see how you feel. Serve plain cookies instead of cream cakes at your coffee morning and check out the looks on the faces of your guests. The reason for the disappointment is very likely caused by a feeling of deprivation and the first signs of withdrawal symptoms.

If I’m wrong, cutting out one, more, or all junk-food items should have no ill-effects. Simple hunger ought to be satisfied by an appropriate amount of wholesome food. Ignoring the pastry-display in the bakers, or the snack-food shelves in the supermarket shouldn’t be a problem, not when there are fruit and vegetables on hand. And the aroma of pizza and flame-grilled burgers on the breeze would no way be responsible for a sudden detour downwind.

One Man’s Poison

Whether you agree with my fears or not, go with me for a bit and see if my experiences with food addiction are similar to yours. In my early twenties, I lived and worked two doors down from a candy store and I’d pop in once in a while for a bag of sweets. However, what began as an occasional treat evolved into a daily necessity. It progressed to the sad point where I was ordering my favourites by the jar! My teeth suffered and it probably did no good for my general health, but I was hooked on the taste. I loved the combination of sugar and different flavours. Did they use artificial additives in those days? I don’t know, but I would imagine so.

Later in life I was less into sweet things – I graduated to savoury. Oops! Sucked in again, probably more so. A quarter of the weekly shopping trolley was taken up with bags of potato chips, snack biscuits, salted nuts and spicy noodle mixes. I wasn’t concerned over getting through at least a box of barbecue shapes a night. I did develop a few fatty spots around the eyes, but I was never Prince Charming, even in my heyday; and I did a pretty physical job, so my weight didn’t increase. Only after taking a vacation did I notice a really adverse effect – my pants didn’t fit and I had to go to the next size up.

I tried to ween myself off, initially by going cold turkey. I was miserable and cranky. I couldn’t enjoy my favourite TV programs without something to nibble. Meals I used to like seemed bland and dissatisfying, and there was nothing to look forward to afterwards as compensation. Less than two days into my abstinence I was feeling physically uncomfortable, fragile, sick even.

Withdrawal had kicked in. If I needed proof at all, it arrived the instant I dropped off the wagon and began ploughing into a bag of potato chips. The extreme relief of feeling human again was just what the Doctor should have ordered! Some men cannot live by bread alone!

That was my excuse. I didn’t need the snacks to survive, but my body and mind had became so used to them that they couldn’t do without those tantalising extras. Unfortunately, recognising the problem and finding a way to fix it was destined to take much longer than I could imagine.

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