We’ve all found ourselves mindlessly indulging in comfort foods from the force of habit or to try to feel better after a bad day. Unconscious snacking may feel good at the moment, but it can promote long-term consequences such as fatigue, weight gain, and an increase in cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure.
Let’s take a look at the best ways to stop mindless eating and how to move closer to achieving your health and fitness goals.
Create Goals and Set Boundaries
The first step to stopping mindless snacking is to remind yourself of your health and fitness goals. It’s important to create a S.M.A.R.T. goal and then set boundaries around that goal.
S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym that stands for:
- Specific: Write down a detailed goal such as “I want to lose 15 pounds of fat and fit into my favorite outfit.”
- Measurable: Ways to measure fitness success such as a scale, measuring tape, and workout tracker.
- Attainable: Refers to what you’ll need to do and buy to attain your goals such as a gym membership or classes and healthy foods.
- Realistic: Trying to lose 50 pounds of fat in a month isn’t realistic. Normal weight loss is between a quarter pound to two pounds per month so keep this in mind when you set your goals.
- Time-Bound: Give yourself a realistic deadline to accomplish your goal.
With your goals set, be sure to outline the boundaries that will help you accomplish those goals, here are some great examples:
Stop Buying Unhealthy Foods
One of the boundaries you can set for yourself is to not purchase any unhealthy foods. You can’t snack on unhealthy foods if they aren’t in your home.
Focus your shopping on the outside of the store aisles where all of the natural and whole food selections can be found. Processed and unhealthy foods are found inside the grocery aisles.
Redirect Emotional Eating
You had a tough day at work, you got some bad news, the lack of sunshine from a cloudy week is getting you down, or maybe you’re sick and all you want is your favorite comfort food. It’ll take some practice, but another boundary you can set for yourself involves redirecting your emotional eating habits towards something more positive and beneficial.
For example, instead of reaching for an unhealthy snack to comfort yourself, you can try the following:
- Going for a walk surrounded by nature
- Doing your favorite hobby (e.g., dance class, board game, etc.)
- Meeting a friend for coffee or tea (and don’t order a sugar-loaded drink)
If you must eat to feel better, choose healthier, low-calorie, or low-sugar snacks.
Select Rewards That Aren’t Food
Many people mistakenly set themselves up for failure when they select unhealthy food as a reward. For example, if you managed to eat clean for a week and then you treat yourself by indulging at your favorite fast-food restaurant. While an occasional cheat meal is okay, the idea that your mindset is relating food to rewards is the issue.
Setting up a new reward system for yourself can increase motivation and keep you from overindulging on unhealthy foods. I suggest rewarding yourself with experiences such as classes and vacations, not things.
Practice Mindful Eating
When is the last time you sat down to enjoy a meal and didn’t have the television on or the phone in your hand?
As a form of meditation, mindful eating involves focusing solely on the eating experience. From the smell of your food to its texture, give your complete attention to what you’re eating and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by anything else. Not only will you probably enjoy the food more, but you may not eat as much, which can reduce your caloric intake.
Stop Mindless Snacking with Practice
Keep in mind that stopping yourself from overindulging in unhealthy snacks will take some practice. Aside from creating a goal, select one of the boundaries from above and give it your complete focus until it becomes second nature, then select another one and do the same.
David Sautter is a NASM certified personal trainer and a NASM certified fitness nutrition specialist who has worked in the fitness industry for over 12 years.
During his time in the fitness industry, David Sautter has conducted many fitness workshops, trained hundreds of clients, and has written extensively for a variety of companies. He has been a featured fitness writer on many high-profile health and fitness websites. Aside from producing weekly articles, David has been the writer of several e-books and training guides.