Do you have Snac Amnesia?
If you’ve caught yourself with doughnut in hand (again), but can’t remember how it got there, here’s how to deal WE DO IT ON THE WAYTOWORK in front ofthe TV and while were on the phone. Whether it’s crunching on chips or nibbling on a muffin, for many of us, mindless munching is a daily habit that’s getting in the way of our healthy intentions. In fact, UK figures showthat a whopping 79 per cent of women are prone to ‘snack amnesia’, a phenomenon that sees us grazing without really knowing what we re eating or even why.
“Many of us snack without any idea of how much or why were eating,” says dietitian Lucy Jones. “While snacking can be a planned, healthy habit, helping to control hunger and providing essential nutrients, many of us fall into the trap of making poor snack choices that are high in kilojoules, fat and sugar, with little in the way of helpful nutrients.”
Not only does mindless snacking mean you’ll end up eating more than you need (hello, unexpected weight gain!) you could also be consuming a whole load of nasties, such as refined sugar and trans fats, that mess with your health and mood.
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Eat fit Mind the gap
So, how exactly are we forgetting what we re eating? There are a few traps that snack amnesiacs tend to fall into, and top ofthe list is boredom. If your day feels like you’re treading the same old paths, or has no structure, it’s tempting to fill the blanks with endless snacks. Problem is, you’re eating for all the wrong reasons – instead of nourishing your bod, you’re entertaining your mind.
The fix? Self-awareness. Tune in to your tummy and learn to recognise your hunger cues so you’re fuelling up only when you need to. One simple way to do this is to take a deep breath before you begin eating. It s an easy way to switch your focus back to the present moment and check in with your feelings. Ask yourself ifyou’re eating because you’re bored, hungry or even thirsty – many of us confuse dehydration for hunger, so a glass of water could quench your appetite.
It’s also a good idea to take note of your meals, advises Jones. “Avoid snack amnesia by keeping a food diary where you write down whatever you eat,” she recommends. “This will help you to be more conscious of when and what you are consuming.”
As well as jotting down what you’re munching on, take note of how you’re feeling, too – whether it’s boredom, stress or pure hunger – to figure out when you’re most susceptible to mindless munchies.
This doesn’t mean you have to eliminate all the fun from your menu. Instead, make your treat a ritual you can look forward to. Planning it will mean you’ll enjoy it way more than if you scoff it without noticing, says success strategist Simon Alexander Ong. “At the end of the week, treat yourself to your favourite naughty snack (just one!) so that you don’t feel deprived,” he suggests. “You’re likely to enjoy it alot more than if you were eating it all the time.”
The invisible first course
If you’re famished by the time you get home from work, you’ll be tempted to inhale whatever’ front and centre in your fridge or pantry instead ofwaiting it out for dinner. And even more likely, you’ll nibble as you cook, so by the time you sit down at the table you’ve already eaten a small meal.
If this situation sounds a little too familiar, counter it with a planned snacking strategy. “Stick to one or two snacks a day at mid-points between meals,” says Jones. “Plan them out so you know what you will have and when you will have it.”
Your healthy snacks (go for a mix of protein and carbs, such as an apple and a handful of nuts or ricotta cheese on wholegrain crackers) will help to keep your blood-sugar levels balanced, so you’ll be less likely to overeat. And try treating them as meals, tips Alexander Ong.
“When you sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner, you eat from a plate or bowl.
Do the same for snacks,” he says. “Measure the exact amount you want to eat and put it into a bowl rather than consuming directly from a packet.”
That box of warm cinnamon-dusted doughnuts can look like a mighty fine emotional band-aid when you’re feeling low, but it won t satisfy your hunger for comfort, no matter how fast you inhale it. Instead, it’ll probably just leave you feeling worse as you deal with a sorry combo of food guilt and a sugar-crash.
If you catch yourself reaching for comfort food, pause and give yourself a moment to deal with the issue at hand. Try taking a walk around the block to relieve stress and stir up endorphins, or call a friend to talk it out. It’ll be a far better solution than drowning your sorrows in a large triple-choc brownie.
And in the long run, equipping yourself with smart snack knowledge can help you get off the emotional food roller-coaster for good. “A healthy snack can help to keep blood-sugar levels stable. The bonus of this, on top ofhelping with our hunger, is that it can help to improve mood,” says Jones. “Many micronutrients such as magnesium and B vitamins assist in brain function, so a snack incorporating plenty ofvitamins and minerals can help to support your psychological health, too.”