Do you ever find yourself snacking for no reason? Eating to fill the time is a sure fire way to unknowingly sabotage your healthy goals and pack on extra pounds. So how can you distinguish between a real case of the munchies and boredom?
The munchies are those unavoidable cravings we all get from time to time for a between meal snack. Sometimes these cravings have a solid nutritional purpose. Maybe your body needs more energy, or you are overheated and crave a refreshing treat.
When you are bored, your mind starts to wander to pleasurable ways to pass the time. For most of us, eating fits that bill. All of a sudden, thoughts of the bag of potato chips in the cupboard and the ice cream in the freezer are inescapable. Whether or not you are actually hungry doesn’t seem to matter.
The key to telling the difference between boredom and real hunger is mindful eating. Mindful eating involves listening to the signals your body sends, and thinking before you stuff yourself with whatever food happens to be within reach.
So many of us go through life without giving a second thought to what we eat. We are too busy, we are too stressed out, and we are too confused by all the conflicting news that comes out every day. We eat because it’s time to eat, and the drive through window is on the way to wherever we’re headed next.
Instead, start to listen to your body and prioritize your health. If you get the munchies, stop for a second and think about your day. Were your meals unusually light? Did you do more physical activity than normal? How long has it been since you last ate? It’s important not to dismiss the munchies as a lack of willpower. Instead, consider how you have eaten today and what your body may be lacking.
If you ate within the last couple of hours, start with a glass of water. Thirst often registers as hunger to folks who aren’t used to giving their cravings this much thought. If you aren’t thirsty, try a piece of sugarless gum to keep your mouth and your mind busy without actually eating. Then find something constructive to do!
If you haven’t eaten for two or more hours, you are probably hungry. Don’t ignore what you are craving, but don’t pig out on the first box of junk food you find. If you have a meal coming up soon, a quick snack is fine. For a salt craving, have a handful of lightly salted nuts or seeds or a string cheese. Need something sweet? Try a piece of fruit or a glass of chocolate milk. It’s smart to always have healthy snacks on hand for just these occasions.
If you don’t plan on having a meal in the near future, eat something more substantial. Many people fall into the mistake of having a quick snack instead of a real meal. Then they just get hungry again and end up eating more calories in “snacks” than they would have in a sit down meal. Skipping meals isn’t healthy – it slows down your metabolism and leads to binges.
The key to distinguishing between the munchies and boredom is mastering the art of mindful eating. Listen to your body and think about what and when you will eat to stay healthy and enjoy every bite.