Do you wake up feeling terrible? This could be caused by a number of factors, but the first thing to look at is the food you eat. A “junk-food hangover” is a compelling reminder that we are what we eat.
Let your appetite override your discipline, swipe your card, bring these enticing products to your car or table or home, and soon you eat them, they become part of you, and you experience their effects.
We acknowledge that these products are “junk food.” We know that we often feel like garbage after eating them. But we keep on buying. In fact, if you are the average person living in North America, these ultra-processed foods account for 60 percent of what you eat.
Why do we eat so much junk? The “bliss point.” This is what food manufacturing industrialists call the sensation of biting into a mouthful of chips, candy, combo meal or restaurant entrée and tasting a formula of excessive salt, sugar and fat engineered to produce a pleasing sensation on your tongue. That formula also allows the item to remain in a stable, salable condition while it sits in factories, trucks, warehouses and stores for months. That is why junk food is everywhere, from convenience stores to drive-throughs to sit-down restaurants to supermarkets. You are never more than a couple miles and a couple dollars away from the “bliss point”—and a hangover.
Some junk-food manufacturers add more than 100 grams of artificial trans fats and saturated fats to each meal. This can delay gastric emptying by 12 hours. Food remaining in your digestive system for so long causes bloating, indigestion or heartburn the next day. Dehydration from excess salt causes your brain tissue to shrink and pull away from the skull, causing pain. Your blood volume drops, reducing oxygen flow and blood to the brain. Your blood vessels dilate in response, leading to inflammation, swelling and other kinds of pain. Sugars and refined carbohydrates in breads, pastas, cereals and drinks give a surge of initial energy, then a blood sugar drop that makes you feel irritable and tired and impairs your ability to think.
Permeating these salts, sugars and rancid trans fats are numerous chemicals, leeching from their polypropylene packaging or injected into the product during manufacturing. Healthing.ca reported that a study of people’s bodies found a shocking 55 chemicals circulating inside that could be identified—and 42 more that couldn’t be. Several studies have linked perfluorooctanoic substances, referred to as “forever chemicals,” to liver damage, endocrine disruption, immune disorders and cancer, far worse than just a Sunday morning “hangover.”
Some scientific studies have found that the overall chemical effects of these foods have addictive properties remarkably similar to those of hard drugs. They overstimulate the brain to release dopamine, a natural molecule, in unnatural amounts, triggering a sense of pleasure. But as with narcotics and other drugs, you build up a tolerance, which means you need more junk food to feel the same pleasure. If you eat junk food for just seven days, then try to stop, you could experience withdrawal symptoms of changed appetites, increased cravings (even when you are not hungry) and altered moods (ScienceDirect.com).
Can you get off of junk food and stop the hangovers before they start? Yes!
Every time you eat, remember that you are not just satiating an appetite: You are investing in your short- and long-term future health. Understanding the importance of your food choices helps motivate you to deny yourself that sweet-salty-fatty “bliss point” and to endure withdrawal symptoms like lethargy, irritability or headaches.
You might think, This is about the same as a junk-food hangover. But stick with it! Every time you resist the urge is a victory for strengthening your body, not to mention strengthening your discipline and your character. The withdrawal symptoms will subside, and your energy, body weight and freedom from minor sicknesses and major diseases will improve.
Start with a simple, small, definite first step. Make cereals, cookies, candies, white bread, unhealthy salad dressings, soft drinks or drive-through food your first target. Cut them out completely, and replace them with healthier options like brown rice, steel-cut oatmeal, unprocessed meat cuts, whole-grain wheat bread, homemade dressings and sparkling water. Start by throwing into the garbage all the chips in your possession, for example. Plan ahead to have alternatives easily accessible: your favorite unsalted, unsweetened nuts and sliced vegetables, perhaps.
Make a definite change, and you will begin to notice cravings, patterns and differences in how you feel based on what you eat.
There is a cacophony of nutritional advice out there, but keep this basic axiom from Herbert W. Armstrong in mind: “Eat only those natural foods that will spoil, and eat them before they do.” Even after you’ve overcome one junk food habit, then the next, then the next, you will still find this simple sentence to be one of the most effective rules of nutrition you’ll ever encounter. It will save you from many a junk-food hangover.