Like I’ve said before, snacking is an art form. Plain and simple. And, while I don’t believe everyone should be snacking on rice cakes – honestly, I’m not entirely certain I believe anyone should be snacking on rice cakes – I do believe there’s way to do it that is both conducive to healthy living, and it takes some getting used to.
That being said…
1. You’re snacking because you’re starving. No. If you’re starving between meals, you need to consider planning your meals better. Ensuring that you have adequate amounts of protein for you and your needs will help you avoid the hunger pangs altogether, and will help you safely coast into your next meal without feeling an overwhelming compulsion to overeat. If there’s only 5 hours between your breakfast and lunch hour and you’re starving by hour 3? You need to do something about your breakfast. It is, currently, the enemy.
It can be as advanced as a fresh open-faced mexican omelet with black beans, peppers and cheddar, or it can be as simple as a bowl of oatmeal (I’m a huge advocate of oatmeal) with almond slivers, flax seed and some maple syrup. It could be a chicken leg quarter, for all I care. Just… get the protein in your breakfast. Jeez.
2. You’re snacking because you had a “craving” for it.. My thinking has evolved on this, and I’m at a point where, when I have a craving, chances are high that if I eat to assuage that craving, I’m probably not going to contain myself. So, this one has a caveat. It’s one thing to have a craving for a good quality chocolate, take a square of it, enjoy it, and move on. It’s another thing to have that square, then find yourself continuously coming back for more… resulting in you eating the entire thing in under 10 minutes, mumbling “One square, my ass!” to yourself.
Snacking, and cravings, really should require some brief reflection. For some people, it’s really not that deep. Some can have a little, or will even have the chocolate budgeted into your daily caloric intake. That’s, at least, forward-thinking. But, if you find yourself not being able to control yourself because you snacked to fulfill your craving, then you’re doing it wrong.
3. You’re not keeping track of when you’re snacking. Yes, the candy you snuck out from your desk counts as a snack. Yes, it counts as a “separate” snack every time you reach for one, which might be 10 minutes apart, or 2 hours apart. It counts, every time, and you need to keep track of all of that. If you’re changing the way you live, you can’t do that if you’re not fully aware of how often you’re snacking and sticking things in your mouth. And, to be real, there are tons of people who “black out” snacks, to the point where they can’t remember whether or not they’ve eaten anything in the past few hours. If you’re one of those types, grab a stack of post-it notes and make sure you keep tabs on every time you sneak something to eat.
4. You’re not keeping track of how much snacking you do when you do snack. Did your snack come out of a bag? I mean, aside from the fact that there are very few pre-bagged snacks that I’d trust, if your snack came out of a bag then at least you’d know how much of it you ate. If not, are you sure of how many calories you’re adding in? Are you measuring appropriately? Are you accounting for as much of it as you sensibly can?
5. You’ve never snacked on a raw vegetable. Listen. If you’ve never known the joys of celery and peanut butter, or even carrots and hummus… I’m gonna have to get you together.
Snacking is a nice opportunity to enjoy something good, a quick pick-me-up, or a well-planned moment of pleasure in an otherwise chaotic environment. It’s not an excuse to binge, an opportunity to eat emotionally, or a way to supplement what might be an abysmal eating routing. Take some time to truly see how your eating is affecting your goals, and don’t be afraid to plan or modify accordingly.
Also, if this means you might have to chuck the cheetos… then you can thank me later. You shouldn’t be eating that mess anyway!