Snacking between meals is a learned behavior that more and more individuals turn to. As a matter of fact more people snack between meals than people who don’t. Not all snacking between meals is bad of course. For example, if you are someone who eats 3 very small meals every day with the intent to snack, then snacking is built into your diet and is a nutritional need.
For the rest of us though, that eat 3 sufficient size meals, snacking results in unwanted weight gain. Despite the unwanted weight gain and knowing the fact that we are not hungry, we still choose to snack between meals. It sounds crazy and self-destructive, but it’s not crazy at all, our neuroscience (our internal signaling) explains why we cannot stop snacking.
The Neuroscience of Why We Cannot Stop Snacking
Consuming nutrition is a basic need for human survival. Our brains release chemicals that encourage us to repeat behavior that is needed for survival. So, when we eat food that our taste buds and olfactory system perceive as yummy, it sends signals to our limbic system (our brain’s system that triggers an emotional response) to release a chemical or neurotransmitter called dopamine.
An increase in the neurotransmitter, dopamine, in our limbic system translates into an emotional response of pleasure or happiness. The release of dopamine in our limbic system is also known as part of our reward system in our brain. That’s right, just like kids and pets, we as adults have a reward system. So, think of it as when you are training a dog, if the dog does a trick correctly you give the dog a treat. Then the dog will continue to do the trick correctly, knowing it gets a treat afterwards.
When humans do something (like snack) that results in a release of dopamine in the limbic system, the increase in dopamine is perceived as a treat. The brain will then subconsciously send signals that tell you to snack again, to release more dopamine. When we snack week after week on a regular basis, the increase in dopamine becomes a regular pattern in our brain.
Repeated chemical release patterns in our brain, triggered by the same stimuli will result in long-term potentiation (LTP). LTP is when you teach your brain to execute a chemical signaling pattern. The end result for LTP is that you need less and less of the stimuli to activate the chemical signal.
In the case of snacking LTP does not translate into wanting less food because you get a faster increase in dopamine. Rather LTP correlated with snacking makes the reward system in our brain correlated to snacking, stronger. A stronger neural reward circuit translates to humans wanting more and more of the stimuli, in this case snacks, that elicit a reward response.
There you have it, the vicious neural circuit that makes humans addicted to snacking, and making our attempts to stop snacking nearly impossible.
If we are hardwired to snack, how do we stop snacking?
As you can see, snacking is no trivial challenge, but a hurdle that as humans we all need to actively work towards overcoming on a regular basis. Now that we have an understanding that snacking is something you and everyone else needs to actively avoid, let’s talk about how to stop snacking. There are lots of options you can choose from, here we share ideas of what to do instead of getting a snack. If you will, these ideas are meant to be distractions that get us through snack time, and hopefully right through to the time of our next meal.
10 Things To Do Instead Of Snacking
Feel Like Snacking Do These 10 Things Instead
Beat the mindless snacking that pack on the pounds with these 10 things to do instead of getting a snack. If you were to do each one on the list every time you went to grab a snack, by the time you make it through number 10 it will be time for your next meal.
Stop Snacking with the Stop Snacking Tips Below.
1) To Stop Snacking Drink a large cup of water
Oftentimes when we think we are hungry it’s our body’s way of telling us we are thirsty. That’s right, it is hard for our bodies to differentiate between a hunger and mild thirst sensation. So, if you want a snack because you think you are hungry try drinking a large cup of water before snacking. This will confirm if that sensation you thought was hunger is actually hunger or was just your body’s way of telling you that you are thirsty.
2) To Stop Snacking Drink a calorie free flavored drink (fruity flavors or tea)
Low Calorie and sugar free drink mixes, very affordable and yummy!
Some of my favorites include Harney & Sons Cinnamon Tea, Yogi Green Teas, and Bigelow Green Tea with Mango
3) To Stop Snacking Go for a walk
4) To Stop Snacking Call a family member or friend to catch up with them
5) To Stop Snacking Catch up on your text messages or emails
6) To Stop Snacking Do a 5 minute core workout and then drink some water
7) To Stop Snacking Stand up and stretch, you could even try some yoga
8) To Stop Snacking Listen to 1-3 of your favorite songs
9) To Stop Snacking Tidy up Wherever You Are
If you are at your desk or in your bedroom or in your dining room, try tidying up that space before you are allowed to get any food. You may want to steer clear of the kitchen unless you have enough self control to stop yourself from getting a snack until the kitchen is all tidied up.
10) To Stop Snacking Clean Your Windows
This is a chore that is always on the bottom of my to do list, but I never get around to it. You do not need to clean your windows, but rather identify that chore that is always on your list but never completed, and do it.
Now that we have easy go to options to stop snacking, let’s set goals and stick to them. I believe in you, and know you can do this. Please comment below if you have more ideas to help others stop snacking, also love to hear about your success!