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Break the habit: I snack all the time

BY READERS DIGEST

1st Jan 2015 Health Conditions

Break the habit: I snack all the time
Losing touch with your body's natural hunger and satisfaction signals can result in chronic overeating and unhealthy extra kilos that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and other serious conditions. Here's how to kick your snacking habit. 

What damage am I doing?

donuts
When Swedish researchers compared the eating habits and weights of 4359 people, they found a consistent pattern: overweight people ate more snacks than people with normal weight.
And if you snack on junk foods, you're also flooding your body with trans fats and saturated fats, excess sodium and sugars and refined carbohydrates.

Can I undo the damage?

snacking
With determination, anyone can fix bad eating habits and get to a healthier, more natural weight.
By acknowledging the psychological issues behind your snacking, you'll find that there are other choices besides eating that provide what you need. And by paying attention to your hunger signals and switching to healthy snacks, you can boost nutrition, control cravings, lose weight and avoid energy slumps.

Your repair plan

snacking
  • Reacquaint yourself with hunger. If you've lost touch with feelings of hunger and satisfaction, try postponing eating until your stomach is truly hungry and your body is craving fuel.
  • Before you eat, rate your hunger on a 1-to-10 scale. On the hunger scale, 1 is ‘starving, feeling light-headed’; 5 is ‘comfortable’; and 10 is ‘so full I feel sick’. Your goal: eat only when you reach a 3.
  • Stop eating well before you're stuffed. Finish when you reach a 6 on the hunger scale—just a little bit full. You'll eat less and be truly hungry again in time for your next meal or snack.
  • Satisfy emotional hunger the right way. Much of snacking is related to stress, boredom, even sadness or depression. If you need a psychological boost, don't turn to chocolate. Treat yourself to relaxation or fun: take a walk, call a friend or make plans to socialise. Express anger, sadness and other emotions to a confidant, a diary or the one who's triggering your feelings.
  • Put a stop to mindless eating. If snacking is simply a long-held bad habit that helps you to get through the day, it's time to ban crisps, biscuits and all other snacks from every room except the kitchen or dining room. If you can't take a break, and chewing and drinking are a comfort, turn to sugarless chewing gum and tea or ice-cold water.
  • Replace junk food with real food. Throw away crisps, crackers, biscuits and sweets. Instead, stock fruit, veggies, whole-grain crackers, nuts and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Make your snacks beneficial to your health.
  • Plan snacks like real meals. Try healthy, high-fibre fruit and fresh vegetables such as baby carrots or cherry tomatoes, and for a more substantial snack, perhaps some whole-grain crackers with a dab of peanut butter. Put your snack on a plate, pour a glass of water or a cup of tea, and sit at the table to enjoy it.
 

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