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A new study looks at cutting portions versus going cold turkey.

Jillian Kramer
Updated August 17, 2017

If you've ever tried to eat just a few potato chips, you know that strategy doesn't work. But now, science is here to back you up: recent research shows that if you want to beat your junk food cravings, you should eat junk less often—not necessarily in smaller servings.

Researchers from various universities tapped 367 participants for their study, asking each to log what they ate—and their cravings—over a two-year period. They found that when people consumed junk foods less frequently, their cravings for those foods subsided. But when people tried to eat junk food moderately and regularly, their cravings persisted.

The general lesson, then, is to curb your cravings, you should try to go cold turkey. Eating smaller amounts of Cheetos, soda, or French fries won't help you kick your junk food habit.

But there's a caveat to this conclusion, the researchers note: the participants in this study were classified as obese. So, to reach a conclusion applicable to all people—including those who are reticent eaters or those who avoid certain groups of foods, such as vegetarians—additional studies are needed to make sure the results are similar for different body and appetite conditions.

In the meantime, if going cold turkey from your favorite ice cream isn't in the cards for you, there are other craving-reduction techniques you can try. A 2014 study showed that if you add extra protein to your breakfast—40 percent protein, to be exact—you can significantly reduce your sweet and savory cravings throughout the day. And a 2012 study found that people who suffer from lack of sleep experience more cravings than those who clock a solid eight hours. So to reduce your junk food cravings, try to eat a protein-packed breakfast, and head to bed early. You'll start your day out right: rested, full, and (hopefully) junk food craving-free.