If you snack when you’re not hungry, this article will show you how to stop compulsive snacking.
Snacking on the right foods can help control hunger and make it easier for you to lose weight. However, snacking mindlessly between meals can increase your daily caloric intake and trigger weight gain.
Compulsive snacking is unconsciously eating snacks (mainly junk food) even when you’re full.
According to the USDA, on average, snacks account for ¼ of the total daily caloric intake. Therefore, it’s important to learn how to control your snacking habits, especially if you want to lose weight.
Most times, we snack out of habit. However, negative emotions, boredom, and uncontrollable cravings can also make you snack compulsively.
The good news is you can stop compulsive snacking, no matter what’s triggering it. Here’s how to do it.
How to Stop Compulsive Snacking for Good
1. Avoid buying junk food
Most people snack on junk food because it’s available. So don’t keep the foods you crave in the house.
You should also avoid walking down aisles with junk food when you go shopping. You’ll be surprised to find out that most people don’t intend to buy junk food until they see it. Always carry a shopping list and stick to it.
If you’re too hungry between meals, eat healthy snacks like apples, bone broth, kale chips, air-popped popcorns and so on.
2. Avoid multitasking
According to the description I gave earlier, compulsive snacking is eating mindlessly. Chances are you’ll overeat or eat junk food, if you eat while doing other things.
Avoid eating in the car, while walking, when watching TV, or using the phone.
Pay full attention to what you’re eating when it’s time to snack. If you do this, it’ll be easier to control cravings and avoid eating junk food.
3. Keep a food journal
This may seem tiresome but it works! One study found that women who kept food journals lost an average of 6 pounds more compared to those who didn’t keep a journal.
May be you eat when you’re anxious, bored, or stressed. Once you identify the feelings that trigger compulsive snacking, find other ways (that don’t involve food) to deal with these feelings.
Instead of tracking all meals, only update your journal when you snack. Write down how you felt before snacking, what you were doing, the time you snacked, and what you snack on. If you do this consistently, you’ll identify what triggers your compulsive snacking.
4. Don’t beat yourself up
If you start craving junk food or even eat it, don’t feel bad about yourself. Feeling guilty increases stress, which may make you snack again.
Realize that it takes time to stop compulsive snacking so be easy on yourself.
5. Eat nutrient-dense meals
What you eat in the main meals can affect your snacking habits. For instance, eating high-carb meals can increase your chances of snacking since high-carb foods increase cravings.
On the other hand, nutrient-dense meals can reduce cravings. Sometimes we crave foods due to nutritional deficiencies. For example, magnesium deficiency increases chocolate cravings.
It’s also worth noting that nutrient-dense foods are high in fiber, which means they’ll keep you full for long.
6. Break your patterns
Compulsive snacking is usually associated to other habits like watching TV. If you notice that you always snack in the evening while watching TV, find another activity you can do in the evening other than watching TV.
You could read a book, do the dishes, or take out clothes for the next day. Breaking the patterns associated to your snacking habit will reduce the urge to snack.
7. Drink water
Did you know that most people confuse thirst for hunger? So instead of taking eating a snack every time you think you’re hungry, drink one or two glasses of water.
Drinking water can send signals to your brain that you’re full, and as a result you won’t have to snack.
8. Distract yourself
Most people can eat healthy throughout the day only to snack at night. This happens because we are usually idle or bored at night.
Keeping yourself busy will take your mind off food and prevent snacking.
You may want to write down an after-dinner-routine – a list of activities to keep you busy until you sleep. You could practice playing the piano or learn a new language.
9. Treat snacks as main meals
There seems to be an assumption that you can snack on whatever you want. And that’s why most people don’t stick to healthy eating habits when snacking. Unfortunately, this only leads to weight gain.
Instead of thinking of snacking as an opportunity to eat junk food, think of snacking as a way to control hunger and boost your energy.
It’ll be easier for you to eat healthy snacks once you adopt this mindset.
10. Ask yourself if you’re hungry
Before you reach for that cookie or doughnut, ask yourself if you’re hungry. Chances are you’re snacking out of habit and not hunger.
If you’re not physically hungry, restrain yourself from eating. This may not be easy at first but you have to learn to do it.
You don’t always have to eat even when you’re hungry. I’ve found that hunger disappears if you ignore it and stay busy.
11. Believe you can stop compulsive snacking
If you’re reading this with the mindset that ‘I can’t stop snacking’, you won’t! You have to believe that you can stop compulsive snacking for good.
Research shows that people, who believe they can change their lives through their own actions, smoke less, don’t drink a lot, and eat healthier.
Thinking of your past successes can help strengthen your belief that you can stop compulsive snacking.
12. Avoid skipping meals
Don’t skip meals unless you’re doing intermittent fasting. Skipping meals will increase your appetite, which may make you snack on junk food.
Create a meal routine and stick to it every day.
13. Talk to a professional
Sadness, anger, and loneliness are some of the emotions that trigger compulsive snacking. According to this study, women who are stressed are more likely to eat high calorie foods like chocolate.
The truth is food can’t fix emotional issues, it only makes them worse. The best thing you can do is to talk to a therapist.
The truth is it’s hard for compulsive-snackers to lose weight. Snacks contain more calories than you may realize. Some people cut their calorie intake by half once they stop snacking.
Instead of quitting snacking all at once, reduce your snacking frequency and replace junk food with healthy snacks. As times goes by, you can try to quit snacking altogether or stick to healthy snacks only.
What’s your take on compulsive snacking? Do you know other ways to stop compulsive snacking?