How to Fight the Urge to Snack

A mouthful of chocolate candy, a sliver of cake, a chunk of cheese...give into those insistent urges, and before you know it, you've eaten everything but the kitchen sink. Even worse, those little urges can also add up to a large weight gain. For example, if you take in just 100 extra calories per day -- that's one ounce of rich cheese or a fistful of potato chips -- you can put on ten pounds in one year.

So, when the urge to eat strikes, stop and ask yourself if you're really hungry. If not, then you're merely eating out of habit, and the urge will usually pass if you can wait it out.

Overcoming the eating urge can be compared to riding a bucking bronco. You can fight the horse and be thrown or maintain your balance and "ride" the horse until it settles down. Being a good "urge rider" involves identifying your urges early and using skills to ride them through.

One skill to "ride out" your urges is to distract yourself for at least ten minutes with an activity that is incompatible with eating. The goal is to "buy time" and choose an activity that meets several criteria: It must involve you, be readily available, and give you pleasure or fill you with a sense of accomplishment. Here are some activity suggestions to get you started, but it's important to create your own list of personalized options:

  • Call a friend (don't use the phone in the kitchen)

  • Chew a wad of sugarless gum

  • Brush your teeth

  • Take a shower

  • Paint your nails

  • Water your plants

  • Ride your exercise bike

  • Organize your closet

  • Meditate, pray, or think pleasant thoughts (but not about food)

  • File papers or balance your checkbook

  • Grab your mate, not your plate

  • Work on a crossword puzzle or a jigsaw puzzle

Do not use television as your alternate activity. Studies show that obesity is almost twice as common in people who watch three to four hours of television daily as in those who watch less than one hour. This fatty connection may be due to the decrease in activity and the mindless snacking that tends to go hand in hand with watching television. If you watch four hours of television every day, that adds up to 1,460 hours each year. Just think of all the useful or enjoyable things you could do with those hours-or all the calories you could burn through more physical activities -- instead.

Another way to ride out your urges is to change your environment. If you're alone, visit a friend (who won't offer you food.) If you're working overtime, take "seventh-inning stretches" in hallways. If you're in the kitchen, go to the bedroom or living room with a good book. Once you leave the environment, especially if it contained food, your desire to eat will eventually weaken.

When you just can't resist an urge to eat, simply satisfy it with a low-calorie food or beverage. This is easy to do if you have an emergency stash of low-calorie items on hand, such as fresh vegetables, fruit, diet soda, and air-popped popcorn.

Finally, ask yourself if your urges are simply a sign of fatigue. Many people feel like eating when they are tired, run-down, or sick. Once you recognize when you're tired, you can take a time-out and give your body what it really wants -- a little break. And don't feel guilty taking the extra time. If you ride out urges productively, you'll be surprised at the free time you have that once was filled with mindless eating.

As your losing weight, or even before you begin, you should set up realistic goals for yourself to stay motivated. We will show you how in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.