Dear Brain: You are not hungry, you are ___________ (insert feeling here).
Everyone has a food trigger. Is it stress? Maybe boredom? Habit? Or even happiness? Mindless snacking could be a small square of chocolate after a stressful day. It could be getting popcorn at a movie because you always have popcorn at the movies even if you just ate dinner. It can be small and something you feel is under control. But it can also feel overwhelming.
The truth is mindless snacking effects all of us. But knowing when it is happening and what your common triggers are can mean the difference between maintaining a healthy lifestyle and spiraling into old unhealthy habits.
How do you identify food triggers? Keep a journal. Write down what you ate and why you ate it. Are you stressed (did Susie at work drop the ball on a deadline, again?!), happy (our friends are having a baby!!), or sad (could also be, our friends are having a baby…jk). Look back over your journal after a few weeks. You can notice a pattern of your eating and why you are eating.
Now that you know what the triggers are, how do you avoid falling into the pit of snacking? Well that is what this post is all about!
How to avoid mindless snacking:
1. Do something physical/active: Getting up and moving is one of the best ways to get your mind off food. Plus you get the side benefit of endorphins, which can decrease appetite and improve mood. Things like walking, tennis, or dancing do not require much equipment to get started. Other activities like yoga, biking, and gardening help with relieving stress.
2. Tease your brain: Redirecting your thoughts away from food and onto another activity will help replace food as your “go to” coping mechanism. Keep a crossword puzzle, sketch pad, or book on hand to keep your thoughts occupied. Also learning a new musical instrument or a new language will give you a new outlet, especially for those boredom triggers!
3. Be social: Activities don’t have to be solo. Grab a group of friends for a board game night or a trip to the flea market. One of my new favorite activities is GeoCaching (who doesn’t love a world wide scavenger hunt?!) Learn more about geocaching here….https://www.geocaching.com/.
4. Keep your hands busy: Busy hands have less time to grab snacks. Pick up a hobby like knitting, wood carving, or making jewelry to keep you away from those finger foods or TV time snacks. Other great hobbies are photography (photo editing) or making a scrapbook.
Mindless eating will never go completely away, but you can control it with some effort and forethought. Good Luck!