Posts Tagged ‘snacking’

Even when we have the best of intentions to eat well and only eat at meal times there are days when we’re going to feel hungry outside of normal meal times. For me this usually happens in the afternoon when I’m sitting at my desk or after dinner a couple of hours before bed. I’ve written about some of the issues of craving things that I’ve been dealing with lately but those have mostly settled down again. If we are wanting to be mindful about what we eat and why, snacking can be a big challenge to that.

Once you begin snacking, it is very easy to just keep going. Mindfulness gets shown to the door and unceremoniously kicked to the curb. Then, once we’re done snacking, we feel a sense of loss or regret or anger or shame. We can beat ourselves up over why we gave in to a craving or why we didn’t resist more. It’s a vicious cycle and can easily lead us to feel like a failure. I used to loath myself every time I’d finish off an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in one sitting. That didn’t stop me from doing it though: it just made it worse. So, how do you snack mindfully without destroying your healthy lifestyle goals? What do you do when most snacks revolve around the holy trinity of salt, sugar and fat? Here are some things that I’ve learned and have worked for me.

  1. Find something healthy that you actually enjoy snacking on. For me this was baby carrots. I love the little things. They’re crunchy and healthy and satisfying. I also love to snack on fresh fruits or berries. You need to find whatever works for yourself as a snack food. Planning ahead for the times of craving or unexpected hunger really helps you get ahead of things before desire to eat even rears its ugly head.
  2. If you do snack, leave the bag alone! Don’t grab a container of anything and bring it with you. Measure out a few or a specific amount and put it in a small bowl or other container and limit your snacking to that amount. This way, if you do eat mindlessly, you’re still able to stop yourself from eating too much. This is a trick I used a few days ago when I absolutely couldn’t go without something sweet. I had grabbed a bag of Vanilla Wafer cookies and my wife gave me “the look” and reminded me of my rule. I grabbed 5 cookies, put them in a small bowl and put the bag back in the pantry. I got a little something sweet without destroying myself for the day.
  3. Don’t snack while doing something else. Keep snacking a separate activity so that it is easier for you to monitor what you’re doing. I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen. It’s very easy to grab a snack and just eat while I work. I no longer allow myself to do this. If I have to snack, I do it in the employee kitchen/dining area that’s downstairs from my office. If I’m at home, I snack in a room that doesn’t have a computer or a TV in it. When you combine snacking with some other activity you lose your ability to eat mindfully.
  4. Don’t keep junk food in your home. This is a rule that I would like to follow more closely but the fact is that I’m not the only one in my house. My kids and my wife don’t have the same problems as I do and my will power is usually strong enough to resist grabbing the pretzels or cookies or chips or whatever is in the pantry. That’s why I have rule 2 above and it has served me well in the times when my willpower isn’t enough to keep me away from the junk food. If you do keep it out of your home, it is much harder to grab impulsively in the evenings.
  5. Don’t keep junk food at your desk/place of work. This is a rule that I do follow. I have a few packets of instant oatmeal here at my desk and I will also keep fresh fruit at my desk. This is what I eat if I’m at work and need to snack. Since I have food with me, I don’t feel tempted to pop coins into the vending machine in the employee dining area.

If you do find that you have failed in your desires to be healthy and have downed a massive amount of junk food remember that it’s not the end of the world. You are not a failure and you have not failed yourself. Instead of judging yourself too harshly accept what has happened and ask yourself why you felt such an urge to snack the way that you did. There could be many reasons: stress, anxiety, worry, sleepiness, anger, feelings of worthlessness or any other of hundreds of triggers. Remember that “I don’t know” is a valid answer to this question. Don’t be upset if you ate mindlessly for no good reason at all. It’s OK. If you do know why you snacked the way you did, spend some time planning for how to handle the situation differently in the future. Each one of the reasons I listed above plus more that I didn’t have all been triggers for me to want to snack mindlessly. Sometimes I’ve resisted, other times I haven’t. Once something is done, it’s done. We can’t go back in time and change the past. We have to accept what has happened and move on with compassion for ourselves.

Failure is a part of this journey. We will not be successful all day, every day. We will eat mindlessly, we will eat junk foods, we will lose our focus. Knowing how you will react to those times before they happen is a critical component of making the long-term changes that will create a healthy lifestyle.If you haven’t already done so, make a failure plan. Know what to do when things go wrong. It makes navigating the emotions and reactions to those failures much easier. It’s the difference between being lost with a map and a compass or just being lost in the woods. Use your failures to learn. Use them as opportunities to learn self-forgiveness and compassion. Use them as you would any positive experience or lesson. This is what I have done and this is why I am still losing weight even after seeing my weight creeped up a few pounds because I was struggling. Don’t lose hope and you will lose weight.

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