You’ve tried to change your snacking habit and you may have made improvements at times, but they don’t seem to have lasted for very long. You end up dissatisfied and maybe even angry with yourself.

After all, you’re on a quest to improve your health because you’re dealing with your own or a loved one’s health issue. Or you just want to be and feel healthier. Also, if your snacking habit is a sugary one, that can have an impact on symptoms you or a loved one may be living with.

This is a common issue people have. I’ve been working with carers over the past year and more than one person has this issue on every course I do. So here I share what you can do to change your snacking habit for the better.

Have been working with #carers and an issue many of them have which they would like to change is their snacking habit. You can get a snapshot of how I work with them via this blog #change #health #wellness Click To Tweet

Note that this blog is less about the surface level things you can do to change your snacking habit

The internet is awash with it. It’s the hints and tips like don’t go down the snack aisle in the supermarket, limit what snacks you do buy, or substitute the chocolate and crisps with grapes, cucumbers and unsalted nuts. You know this stuff already.

What I offer here is an opportunity for you to dig a little a deeper. To get closer to the root cause of why it may have been hard to change your snacking habit.

You can’t look at snacking in isolation

To change your snacking habit for the better and for the long-term, it really helps to examine your relationship with

  • Food
  • Your emotions
  • Your body
  • Life events both positive and negative, small and large, past and present

A woman is looking at a circle which has been divided into four areas: Food, Your Emotions, Your Body, Life Events (past and present). She is saying, "I'll have to reflect on how my relationship with each of these areas influences my snacking habit." Considering how these four areas do that can help you change your snacking habit for the better.

You do that because snacking could be serving a purpose

That purpose could be connected to your relationship with food, how you view your body, your emotions, or it could be connected to something which happened to you in your life or even your present-day circumstances. These four areas can influence one another.

Sometimes people snack because they are bored. Snacking is something to do.

Or they snack alongside another activity – working on the computer, watching tv, driving. In this case, cares I’ve worked with described the snacking as ‘mindless’, i.e. they weren’t thinking about it. When you don’t think about it, you can very quickly go through a packet of biscuits or a bag of sweets.

Or snacking can provide comfort when you’re feeling down or upset.

Snacking could also be a distraction from difficult emotions and feelings which may be related to how you feel about yourself generally, an earlier life event or present-day circumstances.

Or maybe you grew up having a snack after school and have continued that tradition into adulthood even if you’re not hungry at that time.

Or you don’t like your body, you ignore it, and snacking is one way of dealing with that.

How to become aware of the purpose of snacking for you

When you next go for a snack, notice how you’re feeling

Bored, restless for some reason, wanting to ignore a difficult task/project/activity you’re meant to do, you just had an argument, you did something well and want an award, something else?

This is about noticing your triggers.

Next time you go to get a snack, pause.

Give yourself a couple of minutes to notice what is triggering you. Notice what you’re telling yourself. And how you feel. You can even write this down including the time of day. If you do this over a period of time, you may start to notice patterns.

When you are eating the snack, what is that like for you?

How do you feel then? Satisfied? Disappointed? You’re not noticing anything?

What are you telling yourself?

What are the downsides of eating the snack? And the benefits?

As you’re snacking, you can write the responses to these questions. At this stage it is all about noticing without the intention of changing anything. You just want to raise your awareness and identify any patterns in your snacking.

Raising your level of awareness can be enough to help you move forward with changing your snacking habit.

Raising your level of awareness about your snacking habit – when you snack, why, how it helps you (or not) – can be enough to help you to change your snacking habit for the better. Read more here #change #health #wellness Click To Tweet

But the following is good if you are finding it hard to change your snacking habit.

What can be particularly helpful to change your snacking habit

Go back to the trigger for wanting a snack in the first place. Notice if you experience any sensations in your body as well. Do you feel anything in your legs, feet, stomach, solar plexus, chest, hands, arms, shoulders, back, neck, head, somewhere else?

Notice the sensation you feel. Is it a buzzy feeling, or more like shocks, a wave, or like knots, rocks, ache, hot, cold, something else? It can be anything. Or you may feel nothing.

Notice how big or small the sensation feels. Even if you feel nothing. What shape does it take? How much space does it occupy in that part of your body?

What colour is it? Does it have a texture, and if so, what is it like?

If this sensation could speak, what would it say?

Sometimes emotions accompany this. And that’s ok. It’s actually very valuable information so if emotions do appear, give them space to be there without judging them.

A woman is sitting at a table eating from a bowl of crisps. There are also bowls of biscuits, sweets, chocolate and cake on the table. The woman is saying, "I really need to cut down on all the snacks I eat. But I feel better when I have them!" She is starting to realise the purpose of snacking for her, i.e. makes her feel better. Knowing your reason for snacking can help you change your snacking habit for the better.

That sounds a little bit woo woo, what are you having me do?

If a habit like snacking is difficult to shift, the underlying reason could be resting in your body somewhere. By working with the bodily sensation, we are by-passing the rational mind which can be quick to discount and question everything. When the rational mind gets out of control like that, it can get in the way of us making change for ourselves.

Also, working with our bodies in addition to our minds is a holistic approach to change

In our society, we are sometimes very quick to discount our body and all the information it contains. People often think they are in full control of their bodies.

But given you have dealt with or are dealing with a challenging health issue, or know someone who is, you know that is not the case. There is a wealth of information in our bodies so it’s important to tap into that so we can best help ourselves.

Discover how working with your bodily sensations in relation to the snacking habit you wish to change can help. There’s a wealth of information in our bodies so it’s important to tap into that so we can best help ourselves. #change… Click To Tweet

So back to working with your body…

When you work with your body in this way, you can discover what the various parts of you need. If you are not used to identifying the bodily sensations you feel and working with them, this may take some practice. And that is ok. It is a skill that can be learned. And you don’t have to get this ‘perfect’ or ‘right’. Fumbling along is normal and acceptable!

If you feel nothing, sit a while longer. If you still feel nothing, it could be that this is a skill to develop. Or it could be a sensation of numbness.

When reading that it might be numbness, if you feel a reaction to that, it could be numbness you are feeling. And you may feel numb for any number of reasons.

A question to ask yourself is, ‘What could I be numbing?’ An answer may not appear readily. That’s ok. Just let that question percolate for a while and something may come to you.

If an answer does spear, it may be in the form of images, thoughts, events you remember and/or other sensations.

Identifying what you really need

You’ve identified the bodily sensation, its colour, texture, shape, how much space it occupies and even what it could say if it had a voice.

What does this part of you want?

What is driving this want? Is anything missing?

If you could have what you want, or what is missing, what would it be? What would having that give you?

Change your snacking habit by bringing more of what you want or what is missing into your life

How can you bring more of what you want or what is missing into your life?

When people share what that part of them wants, what is missing, I hear things like:

  • ‘A hug.’
  • ‘Love me.’
  • ‘You were a little girl. It wasn’t your fault.’
  • ‘Please slow down.’
  • ‘Don’t take on anything else right now.’
  • ‘I’m tired.’
  • ‘Pay attention to me.’

That’s really important information. Many times it’s a plea for self-nurturing, acknowledgement or recognition. There’s this part of us that hasn’t been seen, heard or understood for some time. What you can do now is look at ways of bringing more of what that part of you needs and wants.

Sometimes when we examine and feel into everyday habits we do without thinking, like snacking, we discover a doorway to something much more meaningful and fulfilling.

An original quote by Return to Wellness: "An unhelpful habit can actually be a plea for self-nurturing, acknowledgement and recognition." This is sometimes the real purpose behind snacking. If you become aware of what plea snacking is covering up, then you are in a better position to change your snacking habit for the better.

What’s it like for you?

What purpose does snacking play in your life? What strategies have you used to help you change that habit? What’s worked? What hasn’t? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below or alternatively email them to me (contact form in sidebar).  

If you are living with a challenging health issue or are caring for someone who is, and would like support on any of the issues discussed here, have a look at how we can work together and get in touch for a free no obligation consultation.

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© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2019

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