Getting Snacking Under Control

If you were a bear when you woke up from hibernation you would have dropped a lot of weight over the winter. Most of us have the opposite occur—during the winter we pack on a few extra pounds. Sometimes it is because we feel cold so we eat for warmth, probably a deeply ingrained survival mechanism that really isn’t needed in the days of central heat. We also gain weight because of various winter celebrations and the focus they place on food, typically high caloric ones. And sometimes we add weight because we have been eating out of boredom or depression caused by the winter weather and being stuck inside so much.

Spring is the perfect time to stop that cycle and wake our bodies up and get them ready for the beautiful weather ahead. We want to feel light and energetic like the spring birds flitting all over my yard!

One of the things I notice happens for me during the winter more is snacking. Now, some snacking is good, but I definitely tend to eat more carbs during the winter and now is the time to stop that. I’m not saying to stop snacking—I find more small meals or snacks rather than the traditional 3 meals a day helps me to keep my mood and energy more stable throughout the day—but it is important to evaluate our snacking.

When I find myself heading to the pantry looking for a snack it generally is because of one of two things:

Emotional—I may be bored or putting off doing a task that I’m not looking forward to, like the taxes for example…wow…lots of trips from my desk to the kitchen happen during tax time! I had to get more water, more tea, something to eat…in reality, MOST of the time it was because I was involved in a task that I wasn’t enjoying or wasn’t thoroughly engrossed by. If you are an accountant maybe you can’t relate to that comment about taxes…but the rest of you probably can!

Whether it is a delaying tactic to avoid doing the taxes or making a phone call that you are dreading, or cleaning the toilet, we all KNOW that eating doesn’t solve the situation or make it go away. By being aware of what I am doing I get to be in control—and sometimes laugh at myself (much better than beating myself up over it) and decide if I want to make different choices.

SO if you find yourself wearing a path to the pantry, take a look and evaluate where you are and whether you are actually hungry or maybe using food for some emotional reason.

  1. How am I feeling?
    • I am starving and I’m going to rip your head off if you get in my way—Major indication of a blood sugar crash. Get some protein in your system and a piece of fruit or small amount of juice to give you a little boost and keep that blood sugar more stable. Then go to question 2.
    • I’m feeling low energy—This is when a lot of people go for a high sugar snack, especially in the late afternoon when most of us have an energy dip. Be sure to review question 2 & 3…what and when did you last eat. Surprisingly, many people find they are low energy when they have not been drinking enough water, so grab a big glass of water and see if that helps. Or do you just need a break from what you are doing? Try a quick walk around the block or the office.
    • I’m kind of hungry, but I don’t know what for—this for me is frequently an indication that I’m trying to use food for emotional reasons. Think about what you are doing, is it something you are really enjoying or dreading? Try breaking it up for a bit, but first go to question #3
  2. What did I last eat?
    • Lean protein & complex carbs & healthy fat (like a chef’s salad, a sandwich on whole grain bread, yogurt and fruit and nuts, soup and salad, steak and grilled veggies and brown rice)—if you ate a balanced meal like this then go to question 3 “When did I last eat?”
    • I grabbed a bite a while ago—this is an indication that you are not being conscious about what and when you are eating. Becoming more aware of your eating patterns is really helpful for dropping weight without feeling like you are dieting.
    • I ate fruit and veggies—these are great for you and good for a snack, but without protein it will not sustain you. Go to question 3.
    • Chips, cookies, crackers, bread, or other simple carbs—it actually takes a large quantity of simple carbohydrates in terms of calories to make us feel full. They are rapidly converted into sugar and can lead to an energy crash which we sometimes interpret as hunger. The best time to have simple carbs is when you are eating protein and complex carbs too. This helps balance out the effects of those carbs. In the meantime, have some lean protein to get your blood sugar up—a few nuts or a hard-boiled egg, for example.
  3. When did I last eat?
    • More than 3 hours ago, you are probably actually be hungry—have a healthy snack or mini-meal.
    • About 30 minutes ago, it is possible you also may be hungry…that you just didn’t have enough food at your last meal.
    • I ate a meal a couple minutes ago—give your stomach and brain time to catch up with the food. It takes 20 minutes for it to really register.
    • I grabbed a bite a few minutes ago—grabbing a bite is often an emotional response. Think about what’s going on before you eat more.
    • I ate about an hour ago and I just want to eat something more—a good sign that either you didn’t get enough protein in what you ate or that it isn’t really food you are looking for.

These are some scenarios that happen to all of us and hopefully these questions will help you to be more aware of what, when and WHY you are eating.

General tips to get back in the swing without going on a diet?

  • Drink water, water, water. It keeps our bodies flushed and clean
  • Take breaks. Give your mind (and your rear) something different to do for a few minutes.
  • Keep your blood sugar balanced by eating small servings of lean protein throughout the day.
  • Stick to mini-meals and snacks. You get to actually eat MORE food and still lose weight.

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