Everybody loves a good snack, but sometimes our snacking habits get out of control.
We are not snacking because we are hungry, but because we are bored, stressed, procrastinating or feeling empty. Even if we have recently eaten, thoughts of snack foods can suffuse our brains. We imagine the salty, sweet, crunchy, melty or quenching possibilities we have waiting in our cupboards and head to the kitchen.
What we know about snack foods is that they stimulate the reward centres of our brain providing significant, if not momentary, pleasure. The more positive associations created with these foods, the more powerful your cravings will become. The good news is that behaviours that you do not reinforce will lose strength. This means that if you do not give in to your cravings regularly, eventually they will lessen or go away.
So what are some tips to ward off mindless snacking?
• Become aware of your cues and triggers – figure out the situations that lead you to eat when you are not hungry. Is it an emotional state or the sight of an appealing food?
• Have a planned, alternate response – when your brain receives an unwanted invitation, what are you going to do? Think of ways of distracting or distancing yourself from the source to “ride out” the craving.
• Positive self-talk: A conversation with yourself might go like this, “I know I really feel like chips right now but if I eat one, I will eat the whole bag. I can control this, I will just take the dog for a walk and eventually the craving will go away.”
• Leave it at the store – the harder you make access to unhelpful snack foods, the less likely you are to eat them. Compare leaving your house, getting in the car and driving to a store rather than simply opening your cupboard.
Food cravings can be very powerful and distracting. However,with practice you can retrain your brain and gain control over what you eat. Eating junk food should be something you enjoy on special occasions, not something you need to do every night.