If you told me you had never experienced ‘the munchies’ I wouldn’t believe you. The idea would make me insanely jealous. It happens to the best of us. Every so often we relent and indulge ourselves (there’s nothing wrong with that). But sometimes the need to snack can become a problem. It can be the barrier between us and our ideal weight; it’s the reason we don’t fit into our favourite pair of jeans anymore; the reason our scales keep tipping up instead of down; or the reason we feel bloated and sluggish.
Of course, all snacks are not created equal. The problem is that, more often than not, it’s the sugary snacks that we crave. If you feel that snacking is an issue, and yet you can’t seem to stop, then perhaps it’s time to ask yourself why. Once you can answer this question you are on your way to making your uncontrollable munchies controllable. Here are 10 reasons you can’t stop snacking and ways to combat them.
1) You’re thirsty
Often symptoms of thirst are mistaken for hunger. Instead of reaching for food, try drinking a glass of water. Increasing water intake helps with a healthy diet; not only because it flushes out toxins, but because it can make us feel fuller so stops us snacking. Aim for 1.5-2 litres per day.
2) You’re emotional
In particular we may snack more when we are feeling stressed or low. If you’re feeling gloomy then an apple isn’t that appealing, but a tub of ice cream or a chocolate bar seems perfect. Stress has a similar effect. The first thing to do is to pinpoint how your emotions are connected to your food, and a food diary is a great way of doing this. Here is a link to my first post which has a downloadable food diary attached ‘My-Not-New-Year-Resolutions’ Once you see a pattern you can find ways to break this pattern.
3) You are actually hungry
It may be that the foods you’re eating at meal times aren’t sustaining you. Try starting the day with a filling and fibrous breakfast to keep you satiated longer. You could eat porridge, made with milk rather than water, or top a wholegrain cereal with fruit. This would help to keep you going until lunch. At lunch try adding some protein to get you through the afternoon, perhaps egg, tuna or lean meat. It could be that instead of three meals a day you would be better off with small, regular meals throughout the day, this works well for some people. Only you can know what will work for you.
4) Unhealthy snacks are an easier option
Snacking doesn’t have to be bad. It is down to what we choose to snack on and how much of it we eat. When at work, or chasing after children it can be easier to grab crisps or chocolate. However, healthy snacks don’t have to be hard work. Keep fruit handy, both at home and at work; buy nuts in small snack-bags so they are easy to transport around; if you have a fridge at work, keep some low fat or cottage cheese in there and then just pack whole wheat crackers to have with them. There are plenty of ways to keep healthy snacks hassle-free.
5) It’s someone else’s fault
Any unhealthy snacks in my house are usually my husband’s fault. And at work there is a drawer we call the ‘chocolate drawer’ which is always full of goodies. This makes it very difficult not to snack! The only thing you can do is find ways to avoid temptation. At home keep the healthy food where it’s easy to get to; keep it at eye level in the fridge, or in cupboards you visit more often, and keep the unhealthy stuff tucked away in less obvious places so you aren’t always faced with it. At work make sure there are other nutritious snacking options. Most importantly find snacks that are good for you, but that you also enjoy. If you don’t really like carrots then don’t take carrot sticks to work and glare at your colleagues as they munch biscuits. And if you know the temptation will be too much, then allow it in moderation. Have a biscuit with your cup of tea, just don’t finish off the packet!
Food is a good way of filling time when we are bored. I mentioned the chocolate drawer we have at work. If I’m busy then I don’t have much chance to think about it, let alone dip in it. However, on days where I’m not as busy the drawer just calls out ‘eat me!’ If you eat out of boredom rather than hunger then find ways of tackling this. Some suggestions are either start a new activity, chew some gum or go for a walk.
This is similar to boredom, but perhaps you simply snack unhealthily at certain times because that is what you’ve always done. It could even be that you’ve done it for years and it’s a habit from your childhood. If this is the case then it’s about breaking the bad habits and forming new healthier habits. This can be difficult to start with, but when you do something for long enough, it will become part of your normal routine. If you’re struggling with this, perhaps look for help in the form of meditation or hypnotherapy to help strengthen your resolve.
8) You crave it
As I mentioned, cravings can be caused by our emotional state ie. ‘I’m stressed and I need chocolate!’ But it has also been shown that cravings are a response to brain activity. So, ways to combat cravings? If cravings are a serious problem for you then try keeping a food diary so you can keep track of them, times of day they occur etc. Here is the link to the food diary. Don’t skip meals as, if you’re hungry, this can intensify food cravings. You could also look for lower fat alternatives; if you crave cake there are often healthier varieties of our favourite cakes (check out my carrot cake recipe), and if you crave chocolate try swapping to dark chocolate. It’s important not to completely avoid the foods we crave as this usually ends in binging. Enjoy it in moderation.
9) It’s sugars fault
Sugar is getting a pretty bad press at the moment and rightly so. When we eat a sugary food it causes our blood sugar levels to rise and we get a ‘sugar high.’ This can be just what we think we need at that moment to give us energy and get us going. However, it doesn’t last. Simple sugars leave our system just as quick; sending us from a high to a low. Then we feel the remedy is more sugary foods. However, what we should be doing is eating foods that provide us with long-term, rather than short-term, energy. These foods will help to keep our blood sugar levels steady and keep us going for longer.
10) Could it be a symptom?
If you have suddenly had an increased appetite or a hunger that you can’t satiate then it could be a symptom of an underlying condition, including graves disease, hyperthyroidism and diabetes. If you are concerned it is definitely worth a trip to your GP.
I don’t think snacking is simply all down to willpower. Find out what may be causing your need to snack and then take control of it. And if you’d like more of this straight to your inbox don’t forget to subscribe. Thanks for reading!