Sometimes we grab some munchies just when passing the kitchen, or when socializing. Sometimes we do it when stressed. Sometimes we can’t even stop ourselves! This article is for those of us whose snacking is either excessive or problematic. The key is to gradually regain control of your snacking behavior by using mindfulness strategies: planning, preparing, and intentionally snacking. Here’s how to be mindful when snacking.
Before The Snack
Most important to help us snack with mindfulness and intention, is to anticipate that we WILL snack, and prepare for it.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” - Benjamin Franklin
This quote is not only true about eating, but also holds true for many other aspects of our lives. Here are some key steps to prepare before you start snacking.
- Ask yourself - am I hungry?
Control snacking by using a hunger-fullness scale. Avoid snacking until you reach a hunger level of around 3 to 4 (on a scale of 1 to 10).
- Think about what you are craving. Pay attention to taste, temperature, and texture. If you want something cold, creamy and sweet, get a yogurt with fruit mixed in. If you want something salty and crunchy, grab some healthy wheat crackers with cheese. Consider what your brain is asking you for before you just grab anything. If you snack on things that you weren’t craving, you won't feel satisfied and instead you’ll snack more.
- Reduce distractions. Usually we snack while on-the-move, or while watching tv or playing games. This increases our risk of choosing less healthful snacks, and can also cause us to not pay attention to how much we eat. Even if you can’t eliminate the distractions, you could try to reduce them.
- Don’t forget to pause. Take three slow, deep breaths. Just stop. For only a couple seconds. This will help to recenter you, regulate your nervous system, and prepare your brain and body for the incoming nutrients.
During The Snack
While it can be overwhelming to practice awareness and mindfulness all the time, at least do it for just the first few bites of the snack.
- Take on (a few) mindful bites at the beginning, middle, and end. Consider how the food tastes and feels in your mouth. What does it smell like? How hungry do you feel now?
- If you can, write about it. Writing things down can help you notice patterns in what you eat. Bring this to your Dietitian so they can help you discover if there’s any real connection.
Keep a journal of what you eat, how you feel, and your thoughts to improve your snacking habits.
- Stop when you reach a 7 to 8 on the fullness scale. Meaning you are satisfied after consuming your snack, but not overstuffed.
After The Snack
Think to yourself about how that snack went. Why did you pick that snack? Were you satisfied with your choice of snack and the amount you ate? Is there room to improve later?
Here’s an example of my own mindful eating journey: Yesterday I was munching on some leftover Halloween candy in the office break room.
- Was I hungry before grabbing them? No, not at all. Id just finished a long and intense meeting, and received some critical feedback.
- Did it taste good? Well, the first bite did. Then I was just eating because they were all in front of me. They were too sweet, but I couldn’t stop there.
- Was it good for me? No, generally not- my blood sugars were tough to control all night because of it.
- Did I eat too many? Definitely, yes. There were so many kinds! Though I, of course, know what they all taste like, I still wanted to try each one.
- Am I trying to nourish myself with good food throughout the day, in general? Yes, but I just had that little slip of mindlessness.
So what can I do tomorrow?
- Remember and learn from the critical feedback. because we all need feedback sometimes to grow. Though the feedback delivery method could definitely improve.
- When I go into the break room, think about my hunger level and what I’m craving. If I really am hungry, grab a more nourishing sweet food, like a yogurt or a fruit. Or both. If I’m not really hungry, try to exit there. And don’t take snacks back to my desk. Out of sight, out of mind.
While sometimes we eat mindlessly, it can be an opportunity for learning and growth. And sometimes it might just taste really good! Mindless eating is not a problem and should not make us feel bad. But we should always try to think, reflect, and improve on our choices with food, and elsewhere. When you are trying to begin mindful eating practices, the best, and easiest place to start is with your snacking routine. And always. lean on your Health Coach and Dietitian.