As a nutrition consultant, I have found that the number one issue that most people face isn’t their planned out meals, but rather, the in-between time. There are a million reasons why we reach compulsively for unhealthy snacks, even though we know we shouldn’t, but here are just a few:
- Hormone Changes
- Low Blood Sugar
- Lack of Planning
I’ve helped my clients get past their compulsive snacking with the following strategies. Give them a try, and see if they work for you.
It may sound silly and the last thing you’ll want to do, but when you feel like reaching for the chips or cookies, make yourself a deal that first, you’ll do some quick exercise. Walk around the block, do 50 crunches, pushups, or jumping jacks. This accomplishes two things:
- The activity will release certain hormones that will calm your cravings and make you feel less hungry
- If you decide after you exercise to go ahead and snack, you’ll have increased your insulin sensitivity through the exercise, and the extra glycogen will be used to replenish what you just used instead of storing it as fat.
Try drinking a giant cup of water. Filling up your stomach might signal your brain that you’re full and help with the cravings. Adding some flavor, like lemon, cucumber, or mint, can help satisfy the cravings as well.
Save It For a Cheat Meal
Life is all about balance, and as long as you’re making healthy choices the majority of the time, a snack here and there isn’t going to hurt you. In fact, many people incorporate a cheat meal or cheat day into their lives with excellent results, finding that it keeps their bodies from “starvation” mode and is mentally helpful.
The problem arises when snacks become a compulsion and not a decision. So when you feel the urge to snack, try reminding yourself of an upcoming cheat meal. Another strategy would be to keep a “snack bag”. Every time you want a certain snack, take it, put it into a bag, and put the bag aside. You’ll collect the snacks all week, then at a planned date and time, allow yourself to eat what is in the bag.
This accomplishes a couple of things: first, it teaches you not to be compulsive with snacking. Second, it visualizes for you just how much all of those little handfuls and bites adds up in a week. Once you sit down for your “cheat” meal, chances are you won’t even be able to get through half.
Keep Your Inspirations and Goals in Mind
Remind yourself why you are doing this! Have it posted somewhere in your home or office where you can look at your inspirations and goals, and really let it sink in why you’re trying to stay on track. Whether it’s for health reasons, to feel better, to set a good example for your children, try and tap into your emotions that drove you to this point in the first place.
Eat Something That You Enjoy
There’s a reason we have taste buds. Food is supposed to be enjoyable. It doesn’t have to taste like crap to be healthy, and I think this is one of the greatest misconceptions out there that keeps people from trying a healthy diet. You might have to experiment a little to find it, but there are plenty of great-tasting, healthy snack options out there that will satisfy your craving. Here are a few of our favorites:
- apple and peanut or almond butter
- mixed nuts
- blueberries in plain greek yogurt
- roasted cauliflower dipped in “ranch” (greek yogurt mix)
- steamed edamame w/ chili powder
- bell pepper slices dipped in hummus
- kale chips
These are just a few of our go-to’s. You can find a large collection of Healthy Snack Ideas at Coach Calorie’s Pinterest page.
Listen To Your Body
Why are you having the cravings? Have you had enough calories today? Did you eat enough protein and/or fat? Have you had enough water? Sometimes your body sends you cravings because it’s trying to signal you that it is missing vital nutrients and vitamins. Ever wonder why you can get through an entire bag of potato chips without feeling full? The theory is that your body wants you to keep eating because it hasn’t received the vitamins and nutrients that it needs, so it never sends the “full” signal.
Chances are also high that your compulsive snacking isn’t about food at all, but rather a coping mechanism that you’ve developed to deal with emotions. Ask yourself how you’re feeling, and then think outside the box to find an answer. If you’re stressed, try some deep breathing and meditation, or do what I do and hit a punching bag. If you’re bored, find something you enjoy like reading (for me, again, this was exercise!) and do it! If you’re depressed, try journaling and getting to the heart of your emotions. If you’re lonely, try calling or texting a friend.
Prevention and Planning
Prevent compulsive snacking by eating enough during the day, with the right amount of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Try eating every 3 hours or so to keep your blood sugar level and prevent the drops that cause cravings. Keep the bad food out of your house if you can so that you’re not tempted. Keep a large supply of healthy snacks so that you can eat them instead. Plan your meals out each week so you know what to expect and what to eat ahead of time.
Have an Accountability Partner
Is there someone in your life who is supportive of your lifestyle changes and goals? Is there someone you can call or text and say “I really want to eat the cookies right now” and have them talk you through it, and not enable you? If none of your friends and family are supportive, try an online community or consider hiring a personal trainer or nutrition coach.
Just Get Through The Moment
When cravings hit, your brain starts telling you all sorts of crazy things. Your internal dialogue will likely be at war, and you’ll find yourself rationalizing why you should have the snack even though you know it’s not on your plan and won’t take you to your goals. Remind yourself that you do not need to get through an entire lifetime of these battles right now, but only this moment. Tell yourself “I will choose my health in this moment” and it will feel much less overwhelming than “I have to do this forever”.
So you had a bad night and your cravings won. You ate the cookies, or the chips, or the chocolate bar, or maybe all of the above. Do not give up. Do not beat yourself up and say “screw it”. Remind yourself that you are worth being healthy, wipe the slate clean, and start over as soon as possible. Learn from your mistake, use it to teach yourself what your weaknesses are so that you can find ways to deal with them.
Now that you have an arsenal of coping strategies to deal with the munchies, try them and find which of them or what combination of them works for you!MUST USE FITNESS DEVICE: BodyMedia FIT Calorie Tracking Armband
FREE EBOOK: The 10 Forgotten Rules of Weight Loss