11/08/2012 12:14 EST | Updated 01/08/2013 05:12 EST

How To Control Your Snack Habits


Here's the thing about meal plans: they are absolutely genius -- and practically fool proof -- when adherence is strict. When one fails to plan to follow their plan, however, by say, not doing their weekly food prep or pulling into a drive-thru when hunger strikes, the results they are searching for get further and further away.

The trickiest part about adhering to a plan though, is often the damage we do when we don't even know it. Those times when we head into the kitchen to make some tea, for example. While we're waiting on the kettle, we notice something sweet left over from last night's dinner party and before we know it, that dessert is history and we barely even registered its taste. Unplanned eating is one of the most common culprits for slowing weight loss progress and, because it's mostly unconscious, it's also one of the most difficult bad habits to break.

Here Is Why Unplanned Eating Is A Problem:

1. When you find yourself eating off plan, it very rarely has anything to do with hunger. How hungry can you possibly be when you are cleaning up from dinner and find yourself eating the extra potatoes instead of putting them away? You end up taking in extra calories for reasons that have nothing to do with fuelling your body.

2. In these moments of unplanned eating, it's very unlikely that you are consuming an item because it's filling a nutritional need, or even because you are particularly fond of it. It's simply a case of the food being there and you mindlessly putting it into your mouth. This is entirely different than overindulging in one of your favourites and, in a few ways, could be considered worse, since you aren't deriving any pleasure or satisfaction from it. In that moment, you are just eating for the sake of eating and if your conscious mind kicked in, you would know that it so isn't worth it.

3. It's unlikely that you will adjust the rest of your daily food intake to reflect what you accidentally ate off plan. In fact, in a lot of instances, people don't even remember all the little extras they ate. These unplanned calories barely register on your taste buds, so it's no surprise that they would slip your mind when you are looking back at your consumption and plan adherence for the day. Those calories do register on your body though, whether you make note of them or not.


Get a handle on snacking

And Here Is How We Get A Handle On It:

Snap Out Of It

The first order of business is to start paying attention and catch yourself in the act of mindless eating. When we catch ourselves in the act, we often realize how often we're eating not out of hunger or pleasure, but out of boredom, frustration, loneliness or habit. This realization alone can empower us to deal more constructively with those emotions. When we eat more mindfully, we often discover that we choose foods that are better for us and get much more enjoyment out of the eating experience.

Gauge Your Hunger

Food is much more than a biological need. For some people, a lot more. And for a host of complicated social and emotional reasons, we are susceptible to eating for the wrong ones. Next time you find yourself reaching for food outside of your meal plan, take pause and ask yourself why you are doing it. If you are legitimately hungry in between meal times, your plan may need tweaking. If you aren't, step away from the food. It's your hunger, not your mood, that needs to determine when and how much you eat.

Know Your Triggers

There's no shame in it. We all have certain foods that we just can't adhere to proper portion control with. The safest and most effective way of dealing with this is to simply keep those items out of your grocery cart and out of your house. Frankly, most triggers are pretty high in calories (think nut butters, chocolate and trail mix), so if they aren't around, mindless or mindful consumption won't be an issue. Over time, you will naturally be reprogrammed to treat these items as treats and really savour them when you do indulge.

Mind Your Media

Most mindless eating is done when we are distracted by something else, be it TV, the computer or the phone. If we take away these diversions and really focus on the taste of the foods we consume, we are more likely to leave the table feeling satisfied and less likely to even have room for (or the mindless desire to) eat the extra potatoes or pie as we are cleaning up. Being in the moment isn't just relevant for life's big ones, it's also important that we pay attention and enjoy chow times.