Over the past few weeks I have not seen the results I wanted. It has now been a month since I returned from holiday and I still have not lost the excess weight that I gained while I was away.
Obvious Indulgences v Small Snacks
Some things that kill a diet seem to shout very loudly. That yummy pizza from Dominos with extra cheese and meatballs screams “Hey look at me! Look at all this saturated fat, it’s going straight to those hips!” I’ve had more than one pizza since I got back from holiday and various other very obvious indulgences which have obviously hurt my progress but the really dangerous culprit is the one that doesn’t shout, the one that sits there innocently… “but I’m just a little biscuit, only 35 calories, I won’t hurt you. EEEEEAAAATTT MEEEEE!”I know I snack, the questions I need to ask myself are why do I snack and how much damage does it do to my fat loss goals?
Snacking Out of Habit
This one has been getting worse for but at least I can recognize it. I have started to see patterns in my behavior where I snack at certain times on certain things. Here are a few examples:When I get back to work after a hard session at the gym I often get my favorite “Expresso Choc” from the coffee machine. ~60 calories.
As I walk past reception I sometimes grab a sweet from the bowl that the receptionist leaves out. Toffees are a particular weakness. I nearly always do this late in the afternoon. ~40 calories per sweet.When I get home from work I’m getting into the habit of grabbing a biscuit, or 2 or 3. ~50 calories each.What’s disturbing about habitual snacking is that every time I do it I am reinforcing the habit. I’ve read about habit forming and breaking in the past and what is usually suggested is not to try and simply break a habit, but instead to replace a bad habit with a good one. This is why “quitting” habits are so difficult because very often the thing you want to quit, such as a cigarette, does not have a simple replacement.
And so it is with snacking. However let’s not be negative here. The coffee is an easy one. When I get back from the gym I am still thirsty so the obvious replacement to make is a glass of water instead. The others are tricker but they could be due to another cause of snacking…
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The Emotional Snack
I’m not sure emotional is the right word to use here but I am thinking in terms of emotional eating that Tom Venuto talked about recently on his blog. Actually in that post he classifies eating out of habit as emotional eating too. What I mean by it, is those times when you eat to make yourself feel better in some way. For me this is usually when:
- I’m tired, I grab for a sugary pick-me-up
- I’m ill, I want comfort food
- I’m bored, eating is just something to do
I was going to write a separate post about the effects of tiredness on our eating habits but I’m now starting to think that it is not tiredness specifically but simply not feeling at our best.
When I’m feeling really good physically I can have great workouts, I seem to possess strong will power and I have no problem sticking to my planned food. But as my mood is worsened for whatever reason I just start snacking. I’m sure I am not the only one that does this.
How Much Damage is Done by Snacking?
I actually tracked this a few weeks ago. In a little notebook I wrote down everything that I ate or drank that was not planned and measured or estimated the calories used up. I was shocked to find that I was eating 300-400 calories a day on small things that I didn’t even think about. Considering that my calorie deficit is only setup to be 500 calories a day you can see how this snacking alone sabotaged almost all of my efforts. Add in the odd missed exercise session and there is no progress at all. Add a pizza or some other large indulgence into the mix and not only do I not have a fat loss but I have a gain instead! Wow, something has to be done…
Taking Responsibility For Our Eating
In Tom’s post he talks about a new programme that will soon be available to help end emotional eating. That doesn’t help me right now though. One thing he touches on is that relying on willpower alone will not work; that you have to engage your mind as well. This ties in with something I listened to in my car a few days ago – taking responsibility. Ultimately I am responsible for what I eat. Nobody forces me, and I cook all my own food so it is easier for me to control my eating than some other people who have food prepared for them by somebody else.
Sometimes, quite often in fact, I do not feel physically at my best. The everyday challenges of life such as the day job, traffic jams, 2 year old’s just wear you down sometimes. But that stuff happens daily and then on top of all that stuff are the bigger things like birthdays and anniversaries. If everything has to be just perfect in order for us to be able to follow our fat loss plans we’ll be waiting a long time. Stuff just happens, there’s always a thing. There’s always a crappy dat at work, or a crappy drive home etc etc.
But if we let these things get in the way and refuse to take responsibility for our own behaviors then who will? Nobody! We are adults now. I can control what my son eats because he is only 2. I can ensure he has a balanced diet and that he doesn’t eat too much sugar but nobody is going to do that for me. I’m on my own now and so are you!
There are obviously some tools and tricks that we can use us reach our goals but if we don’t take responsibility first then none of that will matter. So, with that out of the way, what can I do on a practical level to sort out my snacking problem?
Banning Snacks Altogether
For some people, the only way to deal with harmful foods is to cut them out altogether. I have tried this and it didn’t work for me, it simply led to bingeing. Tom has a list of foods that we should never eat, and when I look at this the idea of going without that food for the rest of my life is just too horrible!
Incorporating Snacks Into the Calorie Allowance
This is what I am going to try next. I have tinkered with this idea in the past. One of the problems has been that on those days that I do feel really great I don’t want to snack but that tends to lead to the bingeing a few days later. Another problem is that there are lots of different kinds of snacks and some are worse than other calorie wise. How many calories should I allow, and how do I deal with these differences? Another thing I did in the past is tried to plan my snacks in with my other food. For example on one day I only had a few calories so I allowed a small cake that was 40 calories and on another day I allowed for something else. But this doesn’t really work either because due to the very nature of snacking, I want to eat the thing that takes my fancy at the time, and not necessarily what I planned!
Seems I want it all don’t I? Well yes I guess I do but I’m trying to find a compromise. The approach I’ll take next week is to try to leave around 100 calories a day for snacks and then each day I’ll just have something that is around that much such as a couple of sweets, or a mini chocolate bar etc. I could also bring some chocolate into work with me so if I get the urge at work I have something there. That might help with the biscuit snacking I do as soon as I get home.
It’s a real nuisance to mess with my calories because it means that I have to go fiddling with my recipes again but I must do something because this snacking has certainly become out of control!