"Jared, I am trying to lose weight and do great during the day, but find myself falling off my diet at night.
Do you have any suggestions on how to stay consistent at night when I would normally snack?"
We do surprisingly little with intent throughout the day. From brushing our teeth to driving our cars we are mostly on auto-pilot. We’re creatures of habit, routine by nature. So it makes sense that we do things automatically without thinking about them because that’s what we’re used to doing.
This is your life while snacking. In that moment, you’re unaware of what you’re doing at a conscious level. Sure, you know you’re eating. At times I’m sure you also realize it is not the best choice, but the volume and frequency of snacking is on auto-pilot.
Standing up to walk over to your fridge from the couch during your favorite show is nearly automatic, something you do without even thinking because it is what you do every single evening. The next time you look down, that bag of chips is empty and you realize you’re one of ‘those’ people you would normally judge harshly for eating that much food in one sitting.
Over time this pavlovian response will only get worse.. That is, unless you start doing something about it right now.
How do you stop snacking to lose weight?
Everyone understands that you need to stop snacking to lose weight. Snacks are tempting, usually delicious and particularly inviting when you’re dieting. However, there are ways to stop snacking that work and that ease the inner burden on yourself. Some might say that it’s just sheer willpower that allows us to stop snacking, but willpower is a finite resource at its lowest in the evening when snacking occurs.
This is why we are ‘good on our diet’ throughout the day and then binge-the-night-away after work. It’s easy to forget about that snack right before bed when you’re half-asleep already, but depending on what you eat, that snack could all but destroy the progress you worked on today with your diet in one fell swoop.
Regardless, some willpower or self control is going to be required but I’m sure you already knew that. The goal is not to rely on our self control because we can easily justify any situation to ourselves..
“I deserve this, I stuck to my diet all day.”
“I had a bad day, I don’t even care anymore.”
“I’m never going to look how I want to, I might as well eat the food I enjoy.”
“Just one bite isn’t going to ruin anything.”
… You know it’s true.
Our goal is to use as little willpower as possible and to develop a new routine or a new habit - one where we are not snacking and don’t think we ‘need’ to snack to feel normal. Everyone is a bit different, but for some the best idea is to have a “go-to” activity when you feel that temptation.Examples of this include having a calorie-free drink of some sort, going for a short walk or listening to an inspiring message that keeps you rolling.
The bottom line is that you need an overall strategy if you want to stop snacking to lose weight, and not just “decide” that you’re going to stop and leave it at that. Eventually, you’re going to talk yourself into a bite or two, and before you know it, you’ll be back to snacking on the wrong things at the wrong times.
Here’s how you get started breaking your snacking addiction:
First, you have to interrupt the pattern (your routine). You need a way to be more mindful about what you’re doing and make sure you know the consequences.
This can be done quite a few different ways, but leaving yourself a warning note would be sufficient. This brings the decision making to your conscious mind so you can really decide if it’s a good choice.
My note would look something like this:
“Jared, do you like the way the cold leather of your belt feels on your love handles?”
At that point, I would encourage you to switch your snack for something else. Either choose a full meal that you’ve planned ahead of time, or move away from the ‘snacking’ to something else altogether.
Personally, I would choose flavored water or something like Coke Zero (which is delicious, by the way) instead of food. You might even consider something like Amino Factor, simply because it tastes like heaven.
Congrats - you’ve made the first step on your way to giving up snacking. The trick from this point forward is to make sure you do everything in your power to make sure you don’t go back to your old habit.
Truly, old habits die hard.
While this is incredibly simple, it is not easy. Some of our greatest difficulties in life are exactly this way.
Every choice from this point forward either reinforces the old habit of snacking, or develops the new one.
In my humble opinion, I would avoid ‘eating’ to replace the habit. Some will think they should eat carrots or ‘healthier snacks’ but that choice is going to reinforce the wrong thing.
When we swap from one snack to another, we are reinforcing that it’s time to eat.
Whatever the trigger is - the routine or habit is to eat food. When good food is available and our willpower is strong, we’ll choose that.
When our willpower is depleted and the only thing that remains is the bucket of ice cream?…
You know what happens.
I know, forcing yourself to avoid snacks sounds like a lot of work and something you’re not likely to be able to stick to forever.
The beautiful part is that the longer you are successful at switching your habit to something else, the less you are going to crave the snacks during that activity…
Sure, you’re a creature of habit but you’re more specifically a creature of conditioning. As you condition yourself to avoid the snacks, you’ll no longer crave them.
Soon enough you won’t even miss them - and you’ll be proud of yourself for the discipline you showed in breaking that habit and moving closer to your fitness goals.
Be mindful, the first 7 days are the hardest. You will feel like a part of you is missing and you don’t know what to do with yourself. During that time you’ll tempt yourself and tell yourself anything you need to hear to get yourself to ‘give in’ to the snacks.
They are all lies.
Don’t listen to that voice and you’ll unlock the true power of your mind.
In addition to having an activity in mind or even a replacement taste to enjoy, you should recognize when you tend to think about snacking. Some people think about it during their afternoons at work. Others will start thinking about food at the end of the day when they’re unwinding. Normally, you think about food when you're bored.
So, how do you stop snacking when bored? It may seem like a simple answer – stop being bored! It’s not that easy, though. We need downtime during the day and at the end of it to recharge. However, recharging shouldn’t necessarily mean vegging out in front of the TV or casually browsing social media on your phone. If you’re wondering how to stop snacking when bored, eliminate the activities that are not stimulating enough to keep your mind busy.
We’ve all become so good at watching TV and reading Web sites that we visit every day that at this point, we’re able to think about other things. Companies know this, which is why advertising exists in the first place. Have you ever stopped to notice how many advertisements online or on television involve the intake of calories, particularly at night? That’s not an accident.
Instead of allowing yourself to sit there and look over Facebook at work, go for a 10 or 15-minute walk – you’ll feel just as refreshed and you won’t have time to think about food. Instead of watching TV at the end of the day, read a book for an hour – it’ll stimulate your mind in a different way, keep you away from advertisements and help your brain shift downward towards sleep mode.
This all can be done, but it’s a matter of having a plan and sticking to it.