Why do we snack? How do we stop?

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If the thought of getting healthier fills you with dread, then you are certainly not alone. Modern life can make this difficult, with busy work and family lives, as well as convenience foods, cost of gyms, and other distractions. This can be the reason that many people just drift along and put their health on hold.

Mindful not mindless portion sizes

Portion sizes in restaurant and at home have increased dramatically since the early 1970s, and are thought to have contributed to rising obesity levels. Simply choosing a smaller plate or a smaller bowl might make a big difference to the calories that you consume, which is going to be a good thing for your waistline and your overall health.

“Studies have consistently shown that increases in portion sizes for a wide range of foods and beverages result in increased energy intake. And the impact is not affected by factors such as hunger or the taste of the food,” said Dr Lenny Vartanian, a senior lecturer in the UNSW School of Psychology.

Make healthy choices more convenient

Obesity has previously been linked to differences in “delay discounting” — the tendency to treat something as less significant based on how far in the future it will occur. Delay discounting is a facet of impulsivity, encouraging decisions in the moment that disregard future rewards or consequences.

“Meal timings and future planning are an important area of research in obesity. These findings are exciting because they are the first to demonstrate that discounting operates in planning from one meal to the next and that people with obesity might not be factoring that in to their choices,” said lead author Annie Zimmerman, a doctoral student at the University of Bristol.

If you struggle to find the time to get prescriptions or healthy products that you need, then you could register with an online chemist, for example. If you struggle to find time to get to the gym or to exercise, then how about biking or walking to work instead of driving? Then you have achieved two things at once, getting to work and exercising. You could take supplements if there are things in your diet that you are missing that could benefit you, such as vitamin B12, calcium supplements, or iron tablets.

Stay hydrated

We’re made up of water, so having the right amount will help us to be in peak condition, not to mention help our skin and eye bags to improve as toxins will be eliminated when drinking a lot of water.

Why are you snacking?

You will eat unhealthy snacks if you buy unhealthy snacks, so it makes sense to only have healthy options in the house. Healthy substitutions is one way to break bad habits – baked rather than fried potato chips, wholefoods rather than processed.

Are you sleeping properly? University of Arizona has found a link between the propensity for unhealthy eating to irregular sleep patterns.

“The calories of a full meal may now be packed into a small volume, such as a brownie or a super-size soda. It is very easy for people to over-consume calories and gain excessive weight, often resulting in obesity and a lifetime of related health problems.” says Ali Güler, a professor of biology at the University of Virginia, in his study of snacking and the stimulation of our dopamine brain centres.

Perhaps the answer can be found in Heather Leidy’s study, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology who monitored eating patterns when manipulating nutritional compositions of test subjects:

“Eating a protein-rich breakfast impacts the drive to eat later in the day, when people are more likely to consume high-fat or high-sugar snacks,” Leidy said. “These data suggest that eating a protein-rich breakfast is one potential strategy to prevent overeating and improve diet quality by replacing unhealthy snacks with high quality breakfast foods.”

Being healthy doesn’t mean that life has to be difficult. Sometimes it just takes a little time in understanding the biological mechanisms at play and understand the patterns of behaviour that might be popping up as unhealthy habits that might be hurting you in the long tun. Hope this helps.

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