“People spend more time eating. Eating while they’re watching TV; eating while driving; eating while getting dressed; eating while they’re doing almost everything else . . .”– Karen S. Hamrick, Economist, USDA
As you spend more time at home these days, do you find that you’re also spending more time snacking, grazing, munching – spending more time eating in general? Are you even snacking on something right now, as you read this? If so, put down your snack and keep reading.
Over the past couple of weeks (while in isolation) one of the main concerns I’ve heard from many of you is that you’re struggling with overeating. You’re bored, you’re stressed, you’re working from your kitchen table – so making a snack seems like a good idea. Unfortunately, it’s not. Among other things, constant snacking can wreck havoc on your digestion, energy levels and waistline.
Before I share 6 Strategies to Stop Snacking – Now, I want to share a few intriguing statistics from Michael Pollan’s must-read book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation.According to economist Karen S. Hamrick, we engage in 78 minutes a day of something called “secondary eating” – which is basically eating while we’re doing something else, like watching TV, reading, driving, surfing the internet, working, etc. That’s over an hour a day of extra eating, or eating without any mindfulness around eating.
And the type of food we’re eating during these other activities isn’t the healthiest. This is when we tend to eat things that go down quickly like chips, cookies, popcorn, crackers, granola bars, pretzels, etc. These foods tend to be high in all the bad stuff (bad fats, bad carbs and preservatives) and leave us wanting more. Even if you’re “secondarily eating” on healthy food, it’s still unnecessary calories, which can add up. According to Daniel Cutler, a behavioural economist, “secondary eating ” could bring us close to 500 hundred extracalories day!
I understand that these are unprecedented times and we’re all hoping to get back to our “normal” routines sooner than later. But please don’t let your good habits slide until that happens. Instead, try these strategies to help you get some control over your snacking.
Has social distancing got you snacking? 6 Strategies to Stop Snacking – Now
1.) Keep your usual meal planning and eating schedule.
Even if you’re not leaving the house, keep to your regular breakfast, lunch and dinner schedule. If it helps you to stay disciplined, you can even set aside (e.g. portion) your lunch the night before and plan for your afternoon snack (if you would normally have one). And since you won’t be spending all of that extra time commuting, it’s a great time to harness your inner chef by getting out some cookbooks and trying some new recipes.
2.) Don’t confuse thirst with hunger. If your cravings have you wandering in and out of the kitchen, consider having a glass of water rather than opening up the pantry cupboard for more snacks. Food cravings are more often related to dehydration rather than hunger. You can even add a slice of lemon or ginger to boost your digestion and add some flavour.
3) Replace snacks with tea, black coffee or sparkling water – just be mindful of your caffeine intake. Herbal teas come in lots of different varieties, and you can even add a touch of local honey if you’re looking for something sweet.
4) Give yourself a kitchen cupboard makeover. Get rid of all the unhealthy snacks taking up space in your cupboard that way you’re not tempted to eat any of it.
5) If you’re hungry – like really, truly hungry – then mindfully snack on healthy stuff in between meals. Have healthy snacks around like fruits, vegetables and nuts – but still avoid “secondary eating”. Mindfully eat your snack away from a screen, book or car so you can enjoy it and feel satiated. (Looking for snack ideas? I’ve got an extended list of healthy snacks written in this blog.)
6) Don’t use food to deal with your stress. Despite what those “Instagram Gurus” are saying, giving yourself permission to eat crappy food while you “Netflix and Chill” is not “self-care.” Instead, try journalling, meditating, going for a walk, exercising, talking to a friend or mental health professional. Real self-care is when you make good choices for your health and wellbeing, which includes eating healthy foods, staying active and taking care of your emotional health.
Snacking and overeating is something we’ve all been guilty of. But now that we have a name for it – secondary eating – we can call it out when it’s happening, and use the strategies listed above to avoid it.
P.S. If you enjoyed reading this blog, please forward it to someone you think it’ll help. Now, more than ever, we need to be looking out for one another!