When snacks are the culprit...
December 5, 2012 11:27 AM   Subscribe

How to not eat everything when I am just sitting around?

Hey guys, I am doing pretty well with intuitive eating and exercising during the day when I am out and about, or during mealtimes... But at home when I am revising or even just watching TV I just reach for a packet of crisps, or a packet of biscuits and I CAN'T STOP!! HOLY COW I am eating as I am typing this question.. How did you stop? How can I stop?

Thanks mefites! :)
posted by dinosaurprincess to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I stopped by not having easily availalbe food in the house that wasn't healthy. That way, if I grab something, its almost certainly fruit. Otherwise, it has to be cooked.

Also: I brush my teeth instead, or chew gum, and drink more water. But mostly, I keep the supply down.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:30 AM on December 5, 2012 [9 favorites]

The only thing that worked for me was not having anything I didn't approve of as a snack in the house. I now eat a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit instead of processed foods.
posted by zug at 11:30 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

One option is don't have that option. I intentionally avoid having anything remotely snack-ish in my house for specifically this reason - there are no packets of anything. You can't reach for something that isn't there.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:31 AM on December 5, 2012

Chewing gum
posted by msbubbaclees at 11:31 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

We basically got rid of nearly anything in the house that can be eaten like that and bad for you. No chips, no cookies, nothing of the sort. Any sort of snacking is generally healthy, or at least healthier than junk food: pickles, olives, lunchmeat or cheese (of which there is never more than 1/4 lb in the house at a time,) fruits and veggies.
posted by griphus at 11:32 AM on December 5, 2012

What about just replacing what you snack on? Lately I've been eating baby carrots, cucumber slices, and other raw vegetables as I sit at my computer doing computery things.

I also like to replace my snacking instinct for a beverage instinct, so I will often drink herbal tea or some kind of fizzy water + [tasty liquid] combo (the juice of a lime, a sprig of mint, a quarter cup of fruit juice, etc).
posted by Sara C. at 11:32 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I am knitting, then I am not eating. Maybe some kind of activity to keep your hands busy?
posted by fancyoats at 11:32 AM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

fancyoats: Maybe some kind of activity to keep your hands busy?

For me it is video games.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:34 AM on December 5, 2012

Also, when we do want some junk food, we make sure to only ever get a single-serving size of whatever it is. So no big bags of Oreos or 2-liter sodas or pound bags of pretzels.
posted by griphus at 11:35 AM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with all of the recommendations to simply not have foods that are a problem for you in the house.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:35 AM on December 5, 2012

Certainly agree not to have things in the house. I have also found that when I'm doing the low-carb thing properly, the impulse to snack on starches also goes away.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:35 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly, it really comes down to developing the will to tell yourself "No."
All my childhood and into my 20's, I was the fat kid at school. At my peak, I weighed-in at 240lbs plus. Once I finally got serious about losing the weight, I discovered that, not only did it take me learning how to eat properly, it also required me to be able to tell myself "No" when necessary. That last bit is startlingly difficult in our instant-gratification society, but self-control really is necessary to be successful.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:41 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't keep it in the house.

We have food for meals, and we usually have some vegetables that are technically snackable if you're desperate, and we have almonds. They're the really bland almonds; nobody's going crazy with them. I also usually have boiled eggs. The only real starch I keep in the house is dry rice, which is possible to impulse-eat if you're really determined, but certainly not instant gratification.

If we have a treat, we buy it special and in small packages. Like restless_nomad says, carbs tend to beget carbs. We're not really all that hungry between meals because our diet is mostly protein and greens.

The way you describe it, it sounds more like a habit than an actual need for sustenance. Get yourself some nice water glasses and put them where the biscuits used to be kept, so every time you find yourself looking to see if goodies have magically appeared there you'll be reminded to drink some water instead. Eventually, you'll habitually get a glass of water when you're sitting down to watch TV.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:43 AM on December 5, 2012

1. Buy a very, very large plastic water jug (I have a one-gallon Rubbermaid one). 2. Fill with ice cubes and filtered water early in the day. 3. CONSTANTLY have a cup of ice water (with or without tasty flavor add-ins) going throughout the day.

I disagree COMPLETELY with the whole "rah rah, drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day, you're chronically dehydrated!" crowd. They are wrong (albeit well-hydrated). HOWEVER, when you're trying to prevent yourself from being hungry and/or mindlessly eating, having a belly that's constantly full of water works VERY nicely!
posted by julthumbscrew at 11:45 AM on December 5, 2012

Best answer: For me I crochet and hand quilt. TV is majorly toxic for me in terms of eating, so I keep my hands busy. That is all that works for me.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:47 AM on December 5, 2012

Best answer: Make yourself a nice cup of tea. It gives you something to sip and entertain yourself with.
posted by vacapinta at 11:48 AM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree: don't keep stuff in the house. Are you that hungry between meals? If so and you want crisps put them somewhere awkward or hard to reach. If you have to move something out of the way or stand on foot stool or chair to reach them, it'll slow you down enough that you can decide to not snack. If you can get in the habit of not snacking, it could be easier.

On the topic of flavoring your water, I found that you can add a small amount of juice to your water and it'll be more interesting, and it's tastier than most powdered additives. Plus, you have juice around if you want the full concentration.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:49 AM on December 5, 2012

Buy a small set of weights (Nothing too heavy - 5-10 lbs each.) Lift weights while you are watching TV. The fact that your hands are occupied and your body is doing something will use the same part of your subconscious that normally reaches for the chips.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:55 AM on December 5, 2012

I brush my teeth right after eating, so if I go for a snack I feel like I'm undoing that work.
posted by number9dream at 12:05 PM on December 5, 2012

Yep, just don't have it in the house. And maybe go to the gym (again?) instead of watching TV?
posted by Dansaman at 12:06 PM on December 5, 2012

Don't have snacks in house. The only thing I have like that are rice crackers- and I live in a fifth floor walk up! So...I have to really want something to go and get it! Also...I like to eat chocolate after meals but only buy enough for one or two days..because otherwise it will get eaten up!! Just don't have it on hand. Easy.
posted by bquarters at 12:06 PM on December 5, 2012

I've lost 44 lbs on Weight Watchers, and one of the main pillars of the program is "control your environment." I don't keep food in the house that I can't control myself around. I do have some lower-cal icecream bars and cookies and such and I can usually be good with just one of those - I have been known to binge on them but it's not at detrimental as regular treats.
posted by radioamy at 12:09 PM on December 5, 2012

I am shit at controlling what I put in my mouth so I got really good at controlling what I put in my shopping cart. It actually turned out to be pretty much that simple. Plan your snacks, shop for them with your food, and just eat that.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:16 PM on December 5, 2012

If you don't find yourself successful in ceasing the snacking you might try switching to popcorn to slow down the rate at which you intake calories. By weight, it has as much carbohydrates as the bad snacks do but it's very low-density so that a handful or less of popcorn kernels make an entire bucket full when popped.

To slow yourself down even more, eat it one piece at a time with chopsticks. (Works especially well if you don't know how to use chopsticks.)

Also, it contains a substantial amount of fiber, so that's one plus. You do have to eat it plain or use low-calorie toppings for this to work, though. Epic popcorn toppings thread.
posted by XMLicious at 12:16 PM on December 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nthing no crap in the house, smaller serving sizes, etc.

Also, my parents used to do this thing when I was a kid: announcing "The Kitchen is Closed!" This would happen after the dishes were done and everything was put away. Though we might sometimes have some popcorn or cheese and crackers, the meaning to us kids was clear: there is no way you are making any sort of food-mess that I have to clean up. It had the side-benefit of reducing after meals snacking.

To this day, I rarely have much, if anything, to eat after dinner. And even though I work at home and have access to food whenever I want it, the thought that "it is not breakfast/lunch/dinner time, the kitchen is closed" is pretty powerful to keep me out of there, unless I am pit-of-the-stomach hungry or having a *really* bad/boring work day.
posted by chiefthe at 12:16 PM on December 5, 2012

Every time you have the urge, brush your teeth first. There is something about a freshly-brushed mouth that makes you not want to eat something!

Other than that, what helps me is giving myself permission to eat as much of X as I want, but making it expensive or a major hassle in some way, as if I restrict something, I feel deprived and then eventually snap and pig out. Examples of what helps: I can stuff chocolate down my gullet until I puke if I want but it's got to be the ridiculously expensive stuff that is sold in the specialty store 20 minutes away. I can have as much ice cream as I want, but I've got to eat it by driving 10 minutes to the closest ice-cream shop, getting their smallest single-serving container, and driving back home to eat it. I can have more if I want, but that means I have to repeat the whole shebang.

So maybe you could tell yourself you could have that bag of chips, but you have to get in the car and drive to the convenience store, buy the smallest bag, and drive back home to eat it, then go out again if you want more.
posted by telophase at 12:19 PM on December 5, 2012

The only time there are ever snack foods in my house is on the rare occasion when I have purchased a single-serving portion of one in a fit of crazy rage/PMS. Everything else edible in my house is either part of an already prepared meal or something that is on its way to becoming part of a prepared meal. The only things in my fridge currently that could be considered "snack foods" are celery, carrots, and black olives.

Also, if you are in the habit of rewarding yourself with snack foods, don't do that.
posted by elizardbits at 12:21 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

So much tea. Hot tea, that is. For me, that also means having an obligatory pastry or whatever, but what could have been three pastries and, say, juice, becomes one pastry and three cups of tea.

And this sounds lame, but if you don't want certain foods in the house, don't buy them! I've also found that when I only shop for my staples and I'm not trying to buy new and interesting foods all the time, I'm less likely to eat so much, because the "hm I wonder how if that food I bought is actually any good" factor isn't there. Make food boring.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 12:31 PM on December 5, 2012

Only bring foods into the house that you are ok with eating. It is a lot easier to make those decisions in the grocery store than when you are tired on a Tuesday night.
posted by Forktine at 12:41 PM on December 5, 2012

Also, and this should be obvious but it nevertheless didn't really occur to me until later in life, NEVER GO GROCERY SHOPPING WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY. NEVER EVER OH MY GOD.
posted by elizardbits at 12:52 PM on December 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

(also don't go when you are pharmaceutically impaired)
posted by elizardbits at 1:04 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I just generally don't buy crap. I look at chips/chocolate in the grocery store and think "If I buy it, I'll just eat it." And for some reason, that works and I put it down.

I do keep a few snacky things around, but these are somewhat less processed, and very strongly flavoured. Like, very good salami, olives, strong cheese, roasted seaweed, kimchi, pickled hot peppers, etc. This way I can have tiny bites and it's still satisfying.

Also, if you're into that kind of thing -- paint your nails. Really hard to snack with wet nails, and you learn to give yourself great manicures on the cheap.
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 1:55 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

From another angle than the "don't keep it in the house thing." Do you have a lot of money? disposable income?

My solution became 2 things; stove top popcorn and expensive fancy "veggie chips"

Why? I didn't (don't) have a lot of extra money, so popcorn fit the price range, and frankly it's got few enough calories that I didn't really even care if I ate a huge bowl of it. The fancy veggie chips I love and fulfill that "chip" cravy but they're pretty expensive. I can handle that cost every once in a while, but not all the time. When I was eating I would actually think to myself "This bag cost me four dollars. That means I've eaten two dollars today. That took me 10 minutes to earn. Was that worth it?"

You have different motivations, but that worked for me. I felt satisfied because I could still have snacks, but they weren't killing my food diet either.
posted by raccoon409 at 2:34 PM on December 5, 2012

Ah, if only "don't keep unhealthy stuff in the house" worked for me. I have memorized the ratios for making exactly three cookies worth of dough, I've deep fried potato chips from scratch while watching television, and I've even been known to eat butter plain off the stick. I'm by no means a master of eating well at all times, but identifying which of the foods I crave are the least unhealthy and keeping those around helps me to at least avoid eating (or cooking and then eating) the worst stuff.

Regarding popcorn, mentioned above: An air popper is $10-$20, and making air-popped popcorn is faster, cleaner and lower calorie than even the oil-popped stovetop stuff. Also faster than most microwave popcorn, and healthier and much cheaper.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:29 PM on December 5, 2012

Oh! And I have at least a dozen tiny bowls that only hold a quarter of a cup of whatever I put in them. If I'm going to eat something bad, I only let myself eat a tiny bowl's worth at a time. That at least slows me down and helps me stay conscious of quantity consumed.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 4:31 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Another person here who is just not able to have things like that around.

I do let myself binge a little on grocery day, more than one serving (enough to feel like a real treat) but not a crazy, crazy amount. And I cut back on my normal/healthy food on grocery day, too, so it's not adding calories so much as replacing them. But it's totally clear in my mind that if it comes into the house I Will Eat It All At Once.
posted by anaelith at 5:53 PM on December 5, 2012

I cannot have candy in the house. I will eat it, and then I will feel bad about having eaten it. I bought some chocolate covered walnuts because I'm having a bad week at work and made the mistake of grocery shopping while stressed and hungry, and I can't leave the damn things alone.

I drink a lot of tea. Hot water fills me up, keep me hydrated, and gives me that warm, cozy feeling that is especially nice this time of year. I also always have a bag of baby carrots in the fridge. Really and truly, I only buy the food I'm planning to eat that week, with maybe a few extra cans of soup and some rice cakes for emergencies. If you live alone this is super easy, but it's harder if you have a family and there is necessarily more food hanging around.

I also wear lipstick at work when I'm trying to keep the snack demons at bay, but I often just end up with smeared lipstick. Ah well.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 6:22 PM on December 5, 2012

Our fridge recently broke and we had to rig it shut until the fix-it man could come. There's a bungee holding it shut and I've realized that I look in the fridge less than half as much as I normally do because of the bungee!
posted by dottiechang at 8:18 PM on December 5, 2012

I have this same problem. I just make sure I never have snackfood around. If I do, I eat it until it is gone. Maybe once every two or three months I will let myself go and eat a whole pack of chocolate biscuits.

I drink a lot of green tea, which is a mild appetite suppressant.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:05 PM on December 5, 2012

I'm a world-class snacker. Sometimes when I've eaten everything in the house worth eating, I just decide, "That was lunch" or "That was dinner." So my 10am chips & dip & cheese stick & Diet Coke becomes lunch, and then I feel like crap from eating so much garbage but don't let myself eat anything again until dinner.

I also gave up eating between meals for Lent for a couple of years in a row. I did it as a teenager when I probably ate 6 times a day, and it was super tough. It really helped me to be aware of when I was eating, and to focus on eating enough at mealtimes. Maybe set yourself a goal of not snacking until the new year or whatever.
posted by jabes at 9:58 PM on December 5, 2012

Another tip, if you do need (want) to keep snack foods at the house, when you buy a bag separate them into ziplock baggies. Then tell yourself one bag only. Same principle behind those expensive "100 calorie packs."
posted by manicure12 at 11:04 PM on December 5, 2012

You just aren't setting yourself any limits. Be a good parent to yourself.

Schedule some easy exercise (a walk or bike ride?) right in the middle of your usual pigging out time. Walk away from the snacks. You aren't going to snack and walk at the same time. Make a voice recording of certain things (maybe things that are hard to to remember) you are studying at school and then listen to the recording while you walk.

I just reach for a packet of crisps, or a packet of biscuits

Stop buying that stuff.

Stock up on healthy snacks that will keep your hands and mouth busy. Peel and cut some carrot sticks and celery sticks (no dip) and keep them in the fridge. Make a salad with a light dressing of vinegar and olive oil. If you can eat that instead of crisps and biscuits, go ahead and snack.

Put a time limit on making and eating meals. For instance, tell yourself you will not cook or reheat anything at all after 7:00. Eat your dinner, even eat another dinner, but do it all before 7:00. After that, the kitchen's closed (except for those healthy snacks) and you have to stay out of it until the morning.
posted by pracowity at 3:31 AM on December 6, 2012

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