Although I hate to admit it, even as a fitness competitor, there are days when I just can’t seem to stop snacking. It’s as if my stomach is a bottomless pit and I am ruled by an insatiable hunger that just won’t seem to let up. For the most part my overindulgences consist of nuts, dry-roasted edamame and of course my absolute weakness – peanut butter. While it’s better to snack on these types of foods over candy and cake, let’s face it – too much of a good thing is still too much. The simple scientific rule of weight loss states that in order to lose weight you must create a calorie deficit. Therefore if you consume more calories than you expend, whether those calories come from clean foods or processed foods, your body will store additional fat. And unless you are a bear about to hibernate for the winter I highly doubt you want to store extra fat on your body. So how do we manage these instances of overeating?
For starters, it’s important to recognize that overeating, on occasion, is something that everyone has done during the course of their lives; it doesn’t matter who you are. We are humans that are hard-wired to eat for survival and when we are not eating purely for survival we are eating for a number of other completely normal, human reasons. Understanding why we overeat can help us to overcome the dreaded snack attack and take charge of our health and fitness goals.
Emotional Eating – Oftentimes when we are feeling sad or anxious we turn to food as a way of comforting ourselves. Yet, once the binge has commenced we end up feeling even worse about ourselves for our out of control eating. In addition to feeling blue or stressed we may now feel self-pity and our bodies become sluggish and bloated…not a good time.
“Bored Hungry” – This is a type of emotional eating but rather than negative feelings causing “hunger” its inactivity. The best way to quickly overcome instances of being “bored hungry” – GET BUSY! During your downtime go for a walk, read a book, call a friend or schedule a session with your personal trainer. Whatever you do please stay out of the kitchen.
One must identify whether or not they are eating out of hunger or whether another factor is coming into play. If you are following a stringent fitness and nutrition program, it is likely that you need to refuel. Don’t deprive yourself to the point you need to consume half your cupboard to feel satisfied again. When something triggers a sudden, ravenous hunger, it is likely that you are not hungry at all, you are simply using food for other reasons. Here are some helpful tips and tricks for kicking the snack attack habit:
1. Eat Consciously – sit down while you are eating and make sure it is the only thing you are doing at that moment. Doing so will help you feel more fulfilled.
2. Keep a Food Journal – this is a terrific way to determine when your next meal will be and what your portion should look like.
3. Eat Clean – nutritious foods like vegetables and lean meats contain fiber and protein which make you feel full. On the other hand, processed foods, especially those that are sugar-laden, fuel your appetite and actually make you more hungry.
4. Remove External Cues – watching Food Network is fun but staring at delicious food all day embeds food into your brain, often causing you to crave that delicious pasta dish that Giada just whipped up. Also, stocking your house with endless amounts of food and spending lots of time in the kitchen can definitely lead to overeating. Take the focus off of food and your snack attacks will diminish.
Finally, even if you follow all the pointers I’ve provided, there is a good chance that you will overindulge in the future, as will I. And guess what – IT’S OK. You are human and sometimes you just want to eat and you should. Enjoy your food and following your splurge don’t beat yourself up, get right back on track and continue living the healthy, fit lifestyle you desire.