When does an indulgence turn into excess?


If you're like many Americans, you probably consume more junk food than you should. Ice cream, baked goods, cookies, candy, chips, pretzels, crackers-even fancy sugar-laden coffee drinks make it into your daily diet. You probably know you should eat better-maybe you've even tried to cut back-but have you ever wondered if your junk food consumption is a full-blown addiction, rather than just a lapse in judgment? The word "addiction" doesn't just relate to drugs and alcohol-junk food can take hold of us and control our eating habits in a similar way. These five signs could mean your junk food dependence has turned into more than a simple craving.

1. You crave junk food first thing in the morning.

Most people crave junk food during the mid-afternoon when they're tired or bored, but if your cravings kick in first thing in the morning, there may be a problem. Similar to an alcoholic who needs a drink to function, your body may feel like it needs junk food to operate. You may be so used to being "high" on junk that your body goes through withdrawal, as it's been several hours since the last fix you got before bed.

2. You have headaches several times a week.

A headache can be your body's signal that something is wrong. If you've been consuming excess junk food in the form of sugar, salt, fat, and artificial colors and sweeteners, your body gets accustomed to those items and has difficulty functioning without them. Just like with caffeine, your body relies on the junk food to get through the day. (Sometimes it can even make you depressed.)

3. You crave sweet or salty foods even when you're not hungry.

Junk food consumption can become more about fixing symptoms like lethargy, headaches, jitters, and brain fog than about actual hunger. If junk food "cures" your ailment-even only temporarily-then addiction could be the reason. It may be time to cut back and resolve your symptoms without using junk food to mask them.

4. You can't have just one slice, piece, or bite-if it's open, you consume the entire package.

We often blame lack of willpower for our overconsumption of unhealthy foods, but processed junk food is designed to make us crave that salty or sweet taste. A great deal of time and effort goes into making food with just the right amount of sugar, salt, fat, and artificial colors and sweeteners to keep us coming back for more. If you feel like you can't have just one slice, piece, or bite, you may be addicted to one or more of those ingredients. (See: 7 Suprising Ways Junk Food Can Make You Miserable)

5. More than 50 percent of your daily calories come from junk food.

People who have a healthy relationship with junk food consume it only on occasion and in moderation. They see highly-processed sugary or salty bites as a treat-not a staple in their diet. If junk food starts to make up the majority of your daily calories-think breakfast pastries, pizza, ice cream, or potato chips all in one day-it may be time for a change.

Want to conquer your junk food addiction, improve your overall health, and lose weight? A junk food detox may be just the catalyst you need to make positive changes. Shape magazine's highly anticipated launch of Junk Food Funk: The 3, 5, and 7-Day Junk Food Detox for Weight Loss and Better Health gives you the tools you need to eliminate your junk food cravings and take control of your eating, health and weight. Purchase your copy today!