Junk Food: Is It Always Bad?

junk food

If you’re like most people, you feel guilty when you eat “junk food”. Junk food can range from chocolates, to peanut butter, to biscuits, to cake, to donuts, to chips, to pizza, to hamburgers, etc. The list can go on and on.

We know we “shouldn’t” be eating it. Yet we do. And the results can range from:

  • Just feeling bad for doing it
  • To blaming ourselves for our low willpower
  • To eating junk food in secret, because we’re ashamed of our behavior and we don’t want to be “caught”!

Just like you wouldn’t want to be caught if you were a criminal stealing a bank, for some people, eating junk food can seem THAT bad. They see themselves as “bad people” – and hence the desire to hide this “BAD” behavior from others.

Even though we know it’s absurd to feel THAT bad, we still cannot make ourselves feel better about our junk food eating habits. And we can still not stop ourselves from actually eating it!

But is Junk Food THAT bad? Is it ALWAYS bad?

Cake is junk food. All desserts would be considered junk food. Yet, imagine birthday parties without birthday cakes.

Birthday cakes serve their purpose. They taste sweet and the whole candle blowing thing brings us all together. It’s a tradition. It helps us bond.

Birthday parties would no longer be the same without birthday cakes!

is birthday cake junk food?
Just imagine throwing a birthday party for your grandma without a birthday cake, because birthday cake is “junk food”. It just wouldn’t be the same right?

Same is true for wedding cakes. Imagine weddings without wedding cakes. We’d miss out on the wedding party experience, right?

These are just two example that show that junk food is not that bad after all. It has a place in our lives. Life without it would just lose some of its sweetness – literally and figuratively. We should “keep it around”.

But that’s not an excuse to eat, and eat, and eat lots of it.

The problem is not “junk food” per se. The problem is the quantity of Junk Food we consume.

Almost nothing is either purely good or purely bad. It’s all about the quantity.

Take oxygen for example. We’d say that oxygen is good – without it we wouldn’t be able to breathe! Without oxygen we’d all be dead.

But the air only has 21% oxygen. What if there was more around? Oxygen would become toxic. Fires would start just like that! Even lighting a cigarette could set your nose on fire!

Even sugar, yes sugar, can be good in some quantities, bad in some others.

Our bodies need sugar (glucose) in order to function properly. It’s basic biochemistry. The problem is how much we eat.

The World Health Organization’s sugar recommendations are 5 percent of your daily calorie intake. For an adult of a normal body mass index (BMI), that works out to about 6 teaspoons — or 25 grams — of sugar per day.

Of course the 25 grams a day is only a recommendation. This is not an absolute law. It doesn’t mean that if you go over it, then something REALLY BAD will happen. It only means that on most days it’s best to follow it. That’s it.

It’s not about eliminating sugar, it’s about having habits that keep us on track. Obviously, eating half of the birthday cake on your own doesn’t seem like a good decision, and it’ll probably cause stomach pain. If I was eating so much birthday cake, then I’d ban birthday cakes from my birthday parties. I’d prefer to miss out on the birthday tradition, in order to keep my stomach pain-free.

But do you really have to BAN junk food to not eat so much?

When I was in undergrad, I used to buy a giant nutella crepe and eat the WHOLE thing. That was definitely 1200 calories – which is a lot considering it’s only a crepe and I only need 1600 calories every day. Eating that crepe is eating almost all of my daily caloric intake in one meal!

Still, I’d eat the whole thing. My stomach would feel terrible afterwards, but hey, I had really enjoyed the feast!

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the same place and bought the same crepe. I hadn’t eaten something like that for more than 5 years.

junk food
Me when I had just started eating the giant nutella crepe!

The crepe was the same, still giant-sized filled with nutella, but apparently, I was different.

This time I couldn’t finish it! After having one third of it, I was like “enough”, “it’s too much”, “too much chocolate”, “too sweet”. So I stopped.


I didn’t have to yell to myself to stop. It was just natural. I had had enough. This whole thing was just too much for me. Even the idea of having to throw away food didn’t stop me from actually stopping eating.

So what’s different between now and then?

Why could I then eat the whole thing, yet now I could just not do it?

First off, I have no shame or guilt around food (or junk food).

If I felt ashamed for eating that crepe, then I’d eat the whole thing. Shame or guilt blurs your mind and covers up your body awareness signals – which is exactly what you need to know when it’s time to stop eating.

Feel guilty about what you’re eating, and you’re sealing the deal: You’ll be eating MORE of it, not less. Watch last week’s episode on how to stop eating when you’re full to learn how to deal with guilt.

Second, when my body is sending me signals that I’ve had enough, I listen.

I don’t wait till I have stomach pain to listen. I have better body awareness.

Think about it. When you want to pee, your body sends you signals. If you ignore those signals and “hold it”, then the signals will just get stronger.

If you keep “holding it”, then something bad will happen! Maybe you’ll just let it out suddenly in a public place, and the embarrassment will be very hard to deal with!

Bad things happen when you don’t listen to your body’s signals. (tweet this)

It’s the same thing with food. When you’re hungry, it feels so good to eat. Once you’re full, your stomach is letting you know it has had enough. Yet, for whatever reason you can ignore the signals.

The signals will just keep getting stronger. If you keep eating, you’ll either end up with stomach pain, or you’ll throw up because your body won’t be able to take it!

You won’t throw up because you make yourself throw up, you won’t be able to stop yourself from throwing up because your body will make you do it!

Last time we talked about how to stop eating when you’re full (and you find it really hard to stop yourself from eating some more). I covered developing this type of body awareness in detail. Watch it now to learn exactly how I did it.

Finally, I have developed better eating habits.

I now eat better than ever! I messed up my eating when I first came to the USA, and that’s a big reason why I gained weight back then, but now I eat better than even when I was in Greece as an undergrad. AndI witness this change all the time.

I couldn’t even finish that crepe, because now I’m no longer used to eating foods that are that sweet.

The crepe incident is not an individual incident. I have tons of incidents where I just cannot eat foods that are very sweet. I don’t eat biscuits I used to enjoy. I use less sugar in my food, including my coffee. As my eating habits changed, my taste changed too.

If Junk Food Makes You Feel Guilty, Here’s What To Do To Stop Eating It:

Now, I want to hear from you: Do you eat more junk food than you think you should? If yes, what insight from this article will you apply to reduce or stop this bad habit? Leave a comment on Facebook, I read every response.

Photo credit: RBerteig (birthday cake with grandma); Michael Bentley (birthday cake with young kid)

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