It’s a dilemma for lots of people, even those who aren’t already struggling with a weight problem: how to stop snacking after dinner. Read on to discover some tips on how to avoid what’s known as mindless snacking.

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.

Eating snacks and snack foods can lead to binge eating and weight gain. Be sure to learn about and pay attention to your snacking habits and your hunger cues, especially when doing things like watching TV.

The truth is mindless snacking affects 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.

Identifying Triggers

How do you identify food triggers? Keep a journal to help identify eating patterns. Write down what you ate and why you ate it. Do you eat a lot of junk food? Stay hydrated? Do you practice healthy snacking and mindful eating?

In order to stop mindlessly snacking, one should ask questions about eating habits and moods.

Are you stressed? Did Susie at work drop the ball on a deadline, again?

Are you happy? Our friends are having a baby!

Are you feeling sad? (This could also be about your friends having a baby. Just kidding!)

Look back over your journal after a few weeks. You can notice a pattern of your eating and why you are eating. Is it peanut butter and herbal tea? Potato chips? Cookies?

Your journal can also show you that you need to think more about how to eat bariatric-friendly foods and still feel full. Consider whether or not you are eating enough high protein foods or if perhaps you are eating too many processed foods throughout the day.

All of these things can hinder your weight loss goals.

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 and to lose weight. 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 worldwide scavenger hunt?)
  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 and your dominant hand 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. If you can’t help yourself from eating junk foods — even if you keep them in the cupboard (out of sight, out of mind), you may want to seek out additional resources and advice from doctors and dietitians.

Quick note: You can tell a person’s specialties and expertise by looking at their credentials. For example, a person who has MS RDN after their name is someone with a master’s degree and also a registered dietitian nutritionist.

Best of luck to you in your weight-loss journey. Keep in mind that this information is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. That should come directly from your primary care provider.

Of course, WeightWise is here to help, too. Let us know if you have any questions.

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