Here's The Reason You Just Can't Resist Snacking On Junk Food

by Talia Koren
Kristen Curette

I love cookies. Forget cake, candy, muffins, doughnuts, cronuts, froyo or any other dessert trend. Just give me cookies.

OK, honestly, I think you can love something too much. Especially when that something is incredibly unhealthy if you have too much of it.

Cookies are my go-to sweet snack for sure. I crave them -- but after digging deeper, I realize it's more than just needing a quick sugar fix. Cookies provide me with comfort, especially when I felt stressed.

Like lots of people, I'm a stress eater. I actually eat when I feel negative and positive stress. I remember when I landed an interview for a job I really wanted, the first thing I did was run to the nearest cafe for a big, carb-filled treat. Those emotional rushes were always accompanied by a sugar rush, as well.

The reason certain foods are called “comfort foods” is that they're associated with familiarity. They make us feel safe. They're like the edible equivalent of curling up in bed when we're feeling stressed, tired, bored or literally anything else.

Eating comfort foods is like a little bonus for yourself when you're feeling a certain way. It gives you a way to balance the negative emotions. Unfortunately, it's that quick fix for relief in those hard moments that comes with a price, like weight gain.

If you actually kept track of every time you wanted to reach for your comfort food or snack of choice, you'd notice a clear pattern. For me? I'm craving that edible comfort every day at around 2 pm when I'm at my desk to cure that post-lunch slump. But on weekends, I crave them much less.

And that's not a coincidence at all. Just like feeling stressed, certain environments can trigger emotional eating.

There's a direct connection to how you feel and what you want to eat. Ever tell your friend you're “not in the mood” for sushi and suggest another kind of food instead? Well, what do you really think that "mood" means? It could be you're just craving food that's more comforting to you.

The connection between food and reward runs deep in our biology as humans, but since we have access to whatever we want to eat at basically anytime, we have to learn how to control it better.

Mastering that type of willpower seems damn near impossible at first. Especially in an environment like an office, where unhealthy snacks are both free and abundant, making you more likely to go for what you're craving instead of eating the apple you brought from home.

I'm definitely guilty of that. I used to work in an office that had Cliff bars, which you'd think aren't that bad because they're packed with protein, but they contain more sugar than you'd think. I switched back to eating apples, even though I wasn't necessarily "in the mood" for them.

That's how I beat snacking on junk: simply replacing the crap snacks with healthy ones. And even before I ate, I would always ask myself, "Am I really hungry? Or am I just bored, stressed or excited?"

Don't beat yourself up if you can't always avoid going for the snack that will comfort you. Sometimes I literally just cannot resist the office cookies -- but because I'm eating them less than once a week, I'm not worried about it.

Big lifestyle changes aren't easy. The most important step toward finally putting an end to snacking on junk is recognizing where and when you feel the urge to eat. Tune into your emotions and surroundings. By just learning how to be aware, you'll start to reduce snacking and feel better overall.