Snacking has physical drivers. But there is also a subconscious element, meaning we often snack not out of need but out of habit. Habits can present challenges when you are trying to clean up your diet. For instance, if you are in the habit of having an afternoon snack as you work at your computer, you can make the conscious decision to stop, but you’ll need to deal with those habitual thoughts, saying, “Ooh, a snack would be great right now.” In this blog post, you’ll learn five things you can do today to break the habit of snacking.
Stop Snacking At-A-Glance
- Swap sugary drinks for those sweetened with sugar substitutes. This low-effort swap is a step toward unsweetened beverages.
- Skip the snack with a Stopper, which is an item or activity that changes the taste in your mouth or takes time to consume (i.e., sugar-free gum, hot tea, brushing teeth).
- Create Initiation Barriers to snacking so the snacks are out of sight and hard to reach.
- Limit variety to prevent the restimulation of your appetite.
- Swap quick-digesting carbs for protein. When truly hungry, avoid refined carbs and eat a protein snack (i.e., beef stick, cheese, nuts).
Breaking the Habit of Snacking: 5 Things to Do Today [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Whether or not you should allow snacks in your diet.
- The benefit of changing your habits in small increments.
- Five low-effort things to do this week to improve your diet and health.
Snacking: Good or Bad?
We live in strange times with convenient foods that stimulate hunger rather than stop it. Despite the best marketing campaign, there is rarely a good time to snack on a candy bar.
But, depending on what goal you’re working toward, if you are experiencing true hunger, a snack with protein, fat, and high-fiber carbs makes sense. Snacking, in general, is not good or bad. It’s when we do it habitually due to external factors like the time of day, the activity we are engaged in, or the friends surrounding us that it becomes problematic.
Let’s shine some light on – and make some changes to – those habits that are short-circuiting your weight loss or health.
Break a Habit 5% at a Time
The biggest threat we face when trying to change a habit is going for a complete change and making it stick by using willpower. Some people possess this super-human strength. If you are like me and not one of them, shoot for five percent improvements. Why?
Most of us feel that we can make small changes, and when they are meaningful, we comfortably build a new way of living. This is much easier than tearing down everything we know and hanging on for dear life!
Here are five low-effort things to do this week to improve your diet and health. Not all of them will apply to you; for those that don’t, consider how the concept could improve one of your unwanted habits.
Swap Sugary Drinks for Sugar-Substitute Drinks
If you are in the habit of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, switch to a version sweetened with a sugar substitute. For instance, swap regular soda for diet soda.
Just to be clear, I am not telling you that drinking diet soda is healthy. It’s not. I am saying it is a five percent improvement. It minimizes the need for willpower and builds the motivating thought: “I can do this.” That is what you want when you are looking to break a habit. When you get comfortable with diet drinks, you can take another step by switching to unsweetened beverages.
Skip the Snack with a Stopper
A Stopper is an effective snack disruptor. I define it as an item, drink, or activity that disrupts your desire to snack. So, when the snack fairy taps on your shoulder, reminding you that now would be a great time for a cookie, pull out your secret weapon – a Stopper.
Instead of eating the snack, chew a piece of minty, sugar-free gum, slowly sip a cup of hot tea, or brush your teeth. Anything that changes the taste in your mouth or takes a long time to consume qualifies as a Stopper and helps you to comfortably get to your next meal.
Create Initiation Barriers to Snacking
A shift that takes five percent of your effort but results in a much greater improvement in your diet is setting up initiation barriers to snacking. Initiation barriers are seemingly small things that prevent us from taking action.
For example, I am old enough to remember the days before remote controls were used. Back in the day, if you were watching TV and you wanted to change the channel, you had to get yourself up off the couch and walk over to the TV. If you were sleepy, that was too big of an initiation barrier to overcome, so you just stayed put and hoped for something good to come on.
You can use initiation barriers to your advantage to break the habit of snacking. All you have to do is make the snack hard to get into your hand. Examples of five percent improvements are moving the snack off the counter and into a drawer, putting an open bag into a sealed container, or better yet, leaving the hard-to-resist snack at the grocery store.
If you live with someone who wants the snacks in the house, see if you can strike a deal by limiting the variety of the snacks that come home.
When you eat, you not only feed your body, you feed your senses. A phenomenon known as sensory specific satiety allows you to override the feeling of fullness by introducing a new food that perks up your senses with a different taste, texture, or temperature.
If you go to the store and bring home salty, crunchy potato chips, a cartoon of creamy ice cream, and a bag of sweet, melt-in-your-mouth chocolates, you are inviting overeating because while your belly might be full, your senses will keep asking for more. Lessen the variety of snacks in your house, and you’ll find it much easier to prevent binge eating.
Swap Quick Carbs for Protein
If you are truly hungry and need a snack, you can still utilize this five percent rule by swapping quick-digesting snacks for slow-digesting ones that contain protein or a mix of protein, fat, and fiber.
In other words, skip the cookies, cakes, and candies and instead have a beef stick, cheese, or a handful of nuts. You’ll need willpower to make the initial choice, but you will feel much more energetic and calm because you save yourself from the blood sugar crash that drives cravings.
If you find that the desire to snack is sabotaging your health and weight loss goals, these five things are doable, and they can be built upon, improving the likelihood that you’ll complete the change.
Thank you for reading and have a great week!