How to tackle snacking…you’ve probably worked out that this takes more than just willpower alone!
Read on if you’d like to find out my approach on how to tackle snacking, fridge-raiding and comfort-eating.
Have you ever wondered why you find yourself drifting towards the fridge mid-morning? Or reaching into the cupboard for a biscuit to dunk in your mid-afternoon tea?
You won’t be alone, especially now, when more of us are Working From Home where the temptation is greatest, plus nobody’s watching! It can be fiendishly hard to resist the urge to snack, even when we know it’s not doing our health or our waistlines any favours. So what can we do?
The Notice – Pause – Question method
In theory, if we are fuelling well (ie. eating breakfast and following the Optimum Fuel Formula for every meal), then we shouldn’t need to snack or raid the fridge! (Feel free to email me for a free copy of my Optimum Fuel Formula pdf).
But of course it’s not that simple…Why? Because we don’t just eat to satisfy hunger. We eat for all sorts of reasons, to feed our souls as much as our bellies. To fill a need. You’ll know about comfort eating, emotional eating, boredom eating. But how do we know if we are doing it? And how do we break this unhelpful and unhealthy habit? How do we tackle snacking, once and for all?
Well, we need to pay attention. We need to build self-awareness around why we snack if we’re to stand a chance of cracking it. We need to gain an understanding of what’s driving this behaviour in us.
Ok, sounds sensible, but how do we do this? Try following this simple sequence next time you find yourself heading for a snack.
Notice – Pause – Question
First up, notice. Becoming aware of what we are doing is incredibly powerful. Noticing that we are reaching for food when our mind is distracted by an email that needs responding to, or worrying about the kids, or even dreaming about a holiday, is a huge step forward. Being mindful of our actions can enable us to stop doing unhelpful things when we’re distracted, and to act with purpose.
Once you’ve noticed, the next step is simply to pause. Just stop. Literally freeze mid-way across the kitchen. Take a moment. Often this is enough to realise: “Wait! I don’t need to eat this! What I really need is a drink of water / to call my friend / to go for a walk etc”
Once we have noticed and paused, next we need gently to question our actions. The point of this part is to learn and discover what might be driving our behaviour. Be curious, but always with a kind eye, and try your best to banish any judgment.
Your internal voice should be friendly and supportive, and sound something like this: “Ah look! I’ve noticed that I’m heading to the cupboard for food when I’ve only just finished my breakfast. Isn’t that interesting? I wonder why that is?”.
And that inner voice should definitely not sound like this: “What am I doing snacking again? I should have more willpower. Why do I always do this to myself? I wish I was better. I’m such a loser.”
Being kind and gentle with ourselves may need some practice, as our inner critic can often be nasty and difficult to quiet. This is definitely worth persisting with however, as being curious is an essential tool in how to tackle snacking.
As well as deploying the gentle curiosity mentioned, try asking yourself these helpful questions next time you find yourself reaching for the biscuit tin.
Question 1: Am I actually hungry?
If the answer is yes, by all means eat a healthy snack. Being ‘hangry’ is not a good look for you or anyone around you! Next, be aware that the problem has arisen earlier in the day. In other words, you haven’t fuelled up adequately. Look at what you ate for breakfast/lunch/dinner. Does your meal match the Optimum Fuel Formula? If not, tweak it so it does. (Feel free to email me for a free copy of my Healthy Snack Ideas & Optimum Fuel Formula pdf).
If the answer to “Am I actually hungry?” is no, move on to the next question.
Question 2: Am I thirsty?
Yes, then go ahead and slake that thirst! Drink a glass of water, and get back to what you were doing.
If the answer is no, move on to the next question.
Question 3: Am I bored?
Time for a break then. Do something to change your focus and move away from the source of temptation. Rather than head to the kettle for a brew and a biscuit, get up and stretch, go for a five minute walk outside, or call a friend.
If you can’t move away physically, change your mental focus with a tricky brain puzzle: count backwards in threes, or make a list in your head all of the countries you have ever visited or would like to visit.
If you’re not bored, ask yourself the next question.
Question 4: Is something bothering me?
Notice if you are feeling an emotion. This may be driving you to comfort eat. Ask yourself: am I sad / angry / lonely / frustrated / stressed?
It can feel quite uncomfortable, but allow yourself to acknowledge this emotion, even if you’re not quite sure what it is, or what is causing it. Just sit with it. This is a great step forward in unpicking the driver behind your eating behaviour.
If you feel able to, explore gently what might be causing this emotion. If you can pinpoint this, then you are in a stronger position again – much closer to being able to tackle the root of your emotional eating.
At this point, it could be good to share (if you haven’t already) what you’ve discovered with a partner or close friend. They can support you, and help you decide next steps. Plus, they may well be going through something similar, so you can help each other.
So remember, next time you feel the urge to snack, or overeat: Notice – Pause – Question. Eventually this will become second nature, and you’ll find you are more in control of what you are eating. Maybe even one day how to tackle snacking will be something you no longer need to worry about.
Keep practicing this and you will build valuable self-awareness, and not just around your eating habits. The Notice – Pause – Question practice is a life-skill that is invaluable across many areas of life.