I used to love eating just for the sake of eating. Even if I wasn’t hungry, eating was a way to alleviate boredom, or to get some quick satisfaction. If something was bothering me, eating would make it better. Stress? Solution: eat! If I had some time to kill, a good way to do it was to eat. Now that I only eat three times a day, this has been a weird thing to get used to.
Some people subscribe to the “Eat many meals throughout the day” idea of nutrition. While there were studies that suggested it might be better for people to eat to ensure their metabolism was high as the person ate all day, all subsequent studies have shown that this is not the case. Your metabolism is what it is regardless of whether you eat once or seven times a way. What matters is the total amount of food you eat be equal or less than the amount of energy your body needs through the course of a day.
The reason I mention the “Eat many meals throughout the day” idea is because it would seem that this would be a solution for people like me who used to love eating for the sake of eating. I disagree. I think it would be more akin to putting a bandage on an amputated arm. Changing the behavior is what will allow us to get past using food as entertainment, and changing that behavior means eating at normal, set times.
I do not snack anymore. Ever. I will replace a meal with another meal if necessary, but I do not snack between meals. I refuse to do so because I recognize in myself that it’s a slippery slope. It really is an addiction for me; I love eating. Even when I eat my regular meals, I have to eat slowly to allow the signals from my stomach to make it to my brain so that I can feel full. If I eat too quickly, I find myself still hungry. After I complete a meal, I drink some water to help my stomach feel full. I then set my mind to not eating until the next mealtime.
So far, it’s worked for me. I also attribute my successful weight loss to the fact that I don’t snack and I don’t “cheat,” or as I call it, sabotage my progress. I know people who do have snacks in the afternoon, and if that works for them, then cool. It doesn’t work for me. It’s not an indictment on anyone else who is a snacker; I just can’t do it. It literally derails my mindset and opens the door for more consumption, and I can’t allow that to happen.
A strategy I’ve used to move past the craving to eat because it’s fun (and not because I’m hungry) is to keep busy. Whenever my mind wanders to eating between meals, I find something to occupy my brain. While at work, it’s tackling another project. If I’m at home, I find something to do, whether it’s home maintenance, cleaning something up, or engaging in an activity I enjoy. Either way, as long as I’m actively engaging SOMETHING, it gets my mind off the desire to eat as entertainment, and before I know it, I’m not craving to eat anymore.
I want to point out that this is different from the sugar cravings. When I get one of these eating cravings, it’s based on boredom and not on hunger. My stomach isn’t wanting food; my brain wants the entertainment value from eating. It took a while for me to learn the difference, and by the end of my first Whole30, I was able to recognize when the sugar cravings ended and where the boredom cravings began.
I still enjoy eating. It’s still one of the most pleasurable things for me, but I limit it to mealtimes. I am very strict about it, but it’s what works for me. It’s up to everyone to find what works best for them, but don’t be surprised or complain when your weight loss is slower or stalls if you’re snacking. Another reason I don’t snack at all is because I noticed a correlation between afternoon snacks and my progress slowing during my Whole30. I found I was able to do without a snack after three days. It felt weird the first few days, but after the third day, I was able to get past it and not die.
None of this is easy. That’s why so many people struggle with it. But it is within your grasp, and well within your power to eat to live instead of living to eat. Try to stick to the three meals a day, and power through the afternoon snack craving. After a few days, it gets better. It did for me and many others I know. You can do this.