Why do I keep craving junk food?

Have you been craving junk food at the worst possible times? I hear this question all the time, ‘why do I crave junk food when I’m trying to lose weight?” No matter how hard you try to stick to your diet, you can't make yourself crave broccoli or carrots. And this is so frustrating!  There are many reasons why you might have cravings for junk food.

If you're struggling with cravings for junk food, it can be helpful to try to figure out what's driving your cravings and then develop a plan to address the underlying issue.

For example, if you're craving junk food because you're bored, try finding a new hobby to keep yourself occupied.

If you're craving junk food because you're stressed, try practicing stress-management techniques like yoga or meditation.

While you are following a meal plan or diet for weight loss, you may crave junk food because unconsciously you are trying to self-sabotage. Getting help from a coach or nutritionist is a great way to have accountability and support so you can stick to your plan.

Myths about craving junk food

A myth about why you are craving junk food

One myth about craving junk food is that it is solely caused by a lack of willpower or self-control. In reality, cravings for junk food can be influenced by a variety of factors, including genetics, hormones, stress, and past experiences.

Some studies have also suggested that the consumption of certain processed foods can lead to changes in the brain that make it harder to resist cravings for those foods.

So stop blaming your lack of willpower and see what is causing you to crave junk food.  Once you identify the reason you can do something about it by changing your habits.  Grab our FREE 2023 Goal Crusher Guide to help you do it!


Here are a few more potential explanations of why you might be craving junk food

Your body's nutrient needs

If you are lacking certain nutrients in your diet, your body may crave foods that are high in those nutrients, even if they are not healthy choices. For example, if you are low in iron, you may crave red meat, which is a good source of iron.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes in the body, such as fluctuations in blood sugar levels or changes in levels of hunger-regulating hormones like ghrelin, can also cause cravings for junk food.

Emotional factors

Stress, anxiety, and depression can all contribute to cravings for junk food. Eating high-fat or high-sugar foods can temporarily boost mood and reduce feelings of stress.

Habit and environment

If you are used to eating junk food at certain times of the day or in certain situations, your body may come to crave it as a conditioned response. Similarly, if junk food is readily available and heavily marketed, it can be more difficult to resist cravings for it.

Psychological factors like addiction

Food addiction is a potential cause of cravings, even though there is still an ongoing debate on the field, the addiction is considered to be similar to drug addiction, where the brain chemistry is affected by rewarding chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.

Tips to curb your junk food cravings

Here are some tips for curbing cravings for junk food

Eat a balanced diet

Make sure you're getting enough nutrients from a variety of healthy foods, as this can help reduce cravings for junk food.  Many fad diets have you cutting out fats or carbohydrates but this is a mistake.  Make sure you are eating enough of the three macro-nutrients to keep you satiated.

Don't deprive yourself

Depriving yourself of your favorite foods can lead to cravings and overeating. Instead, allow yourself to enjoy these foods in moderation. There are many recipes on Pinterest from where you can take inspiration.  Have you made carrot chips or zucchini chips in the air fryer? These are some of my favorites!

Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water can help curb cravings by helping you feel full.  A rule of thumb is to drink your body weight in ounces.  You might need to adjust this based on your activity level.  So if you are exercising, you will need more water. If you notice your urine to be too clear, you may want to drink less.  Read this blog post for more on drinking the appropriate amount of water.

Get enough sleep

Adequate sleep is important for good health and can help reduce cravings for junk food.  You'll see all over the internet that adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep. To see what is the best amount of sleep for you, try sleeping without an alarm clock or distractions over the weekend.  Cut off screen time the night before (yes that includes your phone) and see how your body wakes up naturally the next day.  You may be refreshed and well-rested with as little as 6 hours of sleep!

Find healthy alternatives

Try to find healthier alternatives to your favorite junk foods. For example, if you crave chips, try snacking on baked vegetable chips instead.  You can try frozen yogurt mixed with fruits instead of full-fat ice cream.  Or even take advantage of your air-fryer to make faux fried favorites.

Avoid keeping junk food in the house

If you don't have junk food in the house, you'll be less likely to give in to cravings.  This one is super hard for me.  I still buy junk food and keep it in the house, but I have learned to say "I don't eat junk food in the work week" and wait until Friday nights to eat those cookies.

Practice mindful eating

Pay attention to your food when you eat, and try to eat slowly and without distractions. This can help you be more aware of your cravings and make healthier choices.  I know a lot of us eat in front of the tv or with our phones on the table.  If you start portioning out your phone and don't go back for seconds, then you should be ok with your distractions. However, something about your eyes seeing the evidence that you are eating helps convince the brain you won't be starving an hour later.

Keep healthy snacks on hand

Having healthy snacks available can help curb cravings for junk food. Some ideas include fruit, nuts, or low-fat cheese. Be careful when eating nuts as a snack since they are very dense in calories.

Find ways to manage stress

Stress can often lead to cravings for junk food. Try finding healthy ways to manage stress, such as through exercise, meditation, or talking to a friend or family member.


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Nancy Valdez with Rafael PT Fitness RPT Fitness in Austin TX

Nancy Valdez

Nancy is a certified personal trainer & transformation life coach.

Areas of Expertise

Online Training, Weight Loss, Nutrition, Strength Training, Core and Balance, Flexibility and Mobility, Muscle Gain, Stress Reduction.