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Nutrition Tip #6: Some Creative Ways To Keep The Munchies At Bay

Posted Oct 18 2008 2:35pm

Now we all know some of the typical suggestions for keeping the munchies at bay.

For the purposes of this discussion, we'll assume that most of us have gained a sufficient amount of experience (if not expertise) in these areas, that, if ever translated into a concrete measurement, would probably fill a library building 50-stories high.

Whether we amassed our history the hard way ( i.e., through trial & an error), or were able to get it right, more or less, on the first try -- is of no consequence. You can compare notes with others or read a book on the subject, but if a technique doesn't work for you, it's as good as trying to achieve satiety by eating sawdust. No, please don't try that. I was making a joke. ;-)

In the long catalog of trials to achieve satiety nirvana, we have all, at the very least, become experts on the capricious whims of our own stomachs! ;-)

We've all tried various techniques for staving off the munchies with varying rates of success.

For the sake of this discussion, we will forgo any potentially embarrassing discussions of those isolated incidents in which, out of desperation, we temporarily suspended all logic & reason & succumbed to the possibility that following silly suggestions -- like standing on your head while reciting "I will have self-control" ten times in a row -- would actually work for us.

Thankfully, most of us are experienced enough by now in this area to know what works for us & what doesn't. But that doesn't mean we can't learn anything new on the subject, or add a few new tricks to our toolbox.

While I'm sure many of us have already tried the suggestion of drinking lots of water or other types of liquid beverages to give us that full feeling, most of us have usually found that this only serves to temporarily stave off the hunger, as it gives a person a false sense of satiety for only an hour or two, but then the hunger soon returns. And unless you want to be making fifty consecutive trips to the bathroom, this technique is probably not advisable to use as your only go-to technique. And it's particularly not recommended if you're sitting in the middle aisle of a crowded movie theater or are staying with guests who only have one bathroom. ;-)

So, what other reliable options are there?

Well, of course a much more sensible suggestion would be eating several small meals & snacks throughout the day to stabilize your blood sugar. Of course, this technique not only prevents the build-up of raging hunger & thus a potential out-of-control over-eating incident, but also has the added benefit of often helping to regulate one's moods. ;-)

While most of us can relate to being cranky from lack of food, or spacing out into a "food coma," I can assure you that almost no one wants to be on the receiving end of either scenario:

The person who's extraordinarily hungry could be as scary as Ghoul Man in Plan 9 from Outer Space. (Just in case, please keep all limbs well out of reach! ;-) ) And the person who's overeaten is probably in the midst of a catatonic stupor, due to the fact that the majority of their bodily resources have gone to their stomach to aid in the digestion process, and so they probably aren't going to be the most scintillating conversationalist at that particular moment! Of course, the restricted flow of blood to the head during the digestion process could potentially explain the general lack of conversational abilities &/or energy. ;-)

So, while the necessity of maintaining balanced energy levels & moods is a less-commonly cited or discussed reason of why it's so important to get our portion-sizes right, it's nonetheless, an important factor to consider. And, while these issues (of controlling portion sizes & balancing food intake at measured intervals) tend to affect diabetics and hypoglycemics in a much more magnified fashion, they can also affect people who do not have these conditions as well, albeit to a much lesser degree. Of course, everyone's affected differently & some people are affected more than others. Moreover, these factors illustrate that the concept of controlling portion sizes is not just for the general sake of maintaining a healthy weight or decreasing our girth. ;-)

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But what if eating 5-6 meals a day isn't practical for you? What if you work in a job where it's difficult to eat all day long, or for some reason, you don't have access to a refrigerator in your workplace?

Well, other than getting a new job ;-), I'd suggest packing foods that have a longer shelf-life. Try eating things that don't need to be refrigerated, like dry-roasted (or raw) almonds for instance, which if eaten in reasonable quantities, will not only sate hunger due to their fiber & (healthy) fat content, but also have excellent health benefits (i.e., they're a good source of protein & Omega-complex fatty acids). Unless you're on a low-carb kick, pretzels & low-fat whole-grain crackers are other possible alternatives.

Celery & carrot sticks (as well as other cruciferous vegetables like raw sweet peppers, cauliflower, & radishes, etc.) also have a relatively long shelf-life, as long as they're consumed within the day.

Also, some foods will keep for a few hours but not for the entire day, so eat these foods as your first snack of the day. For example, low-fat mozzarella cheese sticks tend keep for a few hours, so maybe that'd be something you could eat for your mid-morning snack. Etc., etc. You get the idea.

If it's not possible to snack on the job, then maybe you can take small breaks & step away for just a quick minute or so to quietly munch on something. I guess the issue is more how you choose to deal with the scenario, & also how understanding or accommodating your boss & coworkers are going to be in a situation like this. If you think you can step away for a minute, or are able to munch quietly in your cubicle while you work, then of course there's no need to even bother enlisting others in your cause.

Even if you've got one of those jobs where you're front & center the whole day, &/or it's perceived as unprofessional to eat at your desk because you're in the public eye all day long, you probably will still be allowed breaks, which will make snacking fairly feasible.

In any event, most people in a workplace tend to be fairly reasonable, so if you find it necessary to enlist reinforcements so you can carve out time for yourself to eat, just explain the situation in a nonchalant & relaxed manner. In most situations, you can usually work out something with the powers that be.

Of course, if you work for yourself, or work from home, you just have to remember to eat your snacks & meals on a regular basis. Especially if you tend to get absorbed in your work & often forget to eat on a regular basis, setting a timer or an electronic reminder (i.e., in MS Outlook or whatever calendar software or reminder service you use) is also a good suggestion, not only to use as meal reminders but also to make sure you take regular breaks to keep your mind fresh, & to keep you on track with your work schedule. Setting up defined end points like this also helps you set a reasonable end point for the day's work & reinforces the separation of work & home life.

Most times the real source of the challenge is that we, as individuals, don't really & truly have any excuse for why we don't set aside time for ourselves to eat regularly. We simply just don't make the time for ourselves to do this. We need to carve out time for something this basic, as nourishing ourselves is one of the most fundamental building blocks in the larger hierarchy of needs.

You know those mandatory verbal instructions that airline stewardesses automatically rattle off before the plane takes off? Yes, I'm talking about the spiel that they could say in their sleep about how, in the event of an emergency, it's important to put your oxygen mask on first so you can tend to the needs of others around you? Well, it's the same deal with taking care of your own basic needs. So consider yourself worthy enough to pay attention to your own needs. Even if it's just for the sake of others, or being able to better accomplish a task in the workplace because now you've got a sharper mental focus as a result of taking care of yourself. Just take care of these needs for the brief/negligible amount of time it actually requires. And then you can go back to scurrying around like a crazed (& potentially rabid) sewer rat, back to whatever the heck it was that you were doing.

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I'd like to suggest a few additional techniques, which can be used in combination with other strategies:

1. Keep your hands busy. This is especially useful if you are watching TV late at night & all of a sudden get an attack of the munchies. I like to knit or go through coupons while watching my favorite TV shows. That way, I accomplish more than just sitting on my duff. Admittedly, there are days when I just want to collapse on the couch, but if I start getting hungry after dinner, chances are I'll have my knitting needles out. ;-) OK, I know that not everyone knows how to knit or is interested in something like this, but it's just an example of something you can do, instead of immediately grabbing for the after-work or late-night snacks.

2. If you do find yourself watching late night TV, get TiVO or other DVR (digital video recorder). Now before you sound the alarm, I promise I'm not getting any kickbacks from DVR companies, & am certainly not a DVR saleswoman. Nor do I currently having any controlling interests in these or any such related companies.

Having said that, I know it might sound like a ridiculous suggestion to some, but if you are one of those people who get hungry just by simply looking at tantalizing images of food on late night TV, then having a (digital) video recorder easily eliminates this vulnerability, as it allows you to fast-forward over those images & verbal descriptions of food. Likewise, if you know this is going to be a problem area for you, whatever the hour, then don't watch the Food Network TV channel when you don't want to be eating! The larger point is this: Know your weakness, & plan accordingly.

3. If you are going to succumb to late-night snacking, minimize the damage by putting your snacks in a small bowl, so they look more plentiful to the eye. Yes, it's a bit of trickery, but in this case, whatever fools the eye might help circumvent the passage of more food to the stomach. Also, be sure to eat slowly & enjoy every mouthful. If you take the time to enjoy your food & are conscious of this enjoyment, chances are you'll be less likely to reach for more.

4. Check your head & make sure it's screwed on straight. Yes, you heard me correctly.

Now, wait-a-minute, that doesn't sound like an eating technique!?! That sounds more like a snide & condescending insult! What the @#&$*#!!!! Well, before you get your knickers in a bunch, let me explain.....

Taking a mental inventory, & listening to your inner "self-talk" about your hunger & food is often the first defense to preventing trouble in this area. Sometimes we can talk ourselves down from that scary little ledge of potato chips & general mayhem. And then other times we just need to go ahead & eat the potato chips in a reasonable quantity to avoid a total & complete meltdown. Again, you know yourself best, so use your own best judgment in this area. We're all adults here, & no one's looking over your shoulder to see if you "cheat." That mentality is for immature adolescents who haven't learned how to manage their own boundary-lines.

Then again, you might need to police yourself or eliminate temptations if your will isn't strong enough. Out of mind, out of sight. And nary a statement has ever been more true, than when applied to one's own cupboards!

Frankly, I find that if my will to lose weight & get into shape is strong enough, I don't set myself up for failure & I can stand strong in the face of challenges & adversity, because I want to get my act together more than I want to eat that piece of cake or whatever. I also feel like after I run for an hour, that I just worked so hard. And frankly, to undo all of that hard work is simply just way too upsetting of a thought to contemplate doing it.

I'm not saying I'm a saint when it comes to food, but I am saying that in general,"where there's a will, there's a way."

Of course, building in treats & the occasional "cheat meal" into your meal plan will also obviously help to keep your sanity as well. As I've already discussed that ad naseum in previous posts, let's move on to other topics.

5. Also, realize that snacking isn't a dirty word. By all means eat healthy snacks & meals, but be honest with yourself about your portion sizes. If you're going to eat several small meals a day, then your portion sizes should be divied up accordingly, so you are eating smaller portions for each meal. In all likelihood, you'll probably find that you fill up much faster this way, much faster than you might've initially expected.

6. Also, know the facts about how your body metabolizes food, so when you do decide to eat those special treats, you can minimize the damage.

For example, are you aware that if you eat meals &/or snacks within 40 minutes of exercise, the food will be metabolized at a much higher rate than if you ate that food without any exercise at all?!

Did you know that it's important to leave atleast 4 hours between your last food intake of the day & your bedtime?! The body's temperature will initially rise after food consumption, to help burn off the food & turn it into energy, but then will drop considerably about four hours after the food has been consumed. This rise in body temperature to help the body metabolize food is what's commonly referred to as the body's thermic effect of food. And, in this particular example, the thermic effect of food just so happens to occur during the four hours preceding sleep, but is of course, not the only time when this effect can take place. (Please note that this particular scenario & its corresponding advisory are not simply a regurgitation of the ever-popular general advisory to avoiding eating after 8 pm; however if you typically go to bed at midnight, you might want to reconsider this advice. ;-) Anyone who goes to bed earlier, should think about revising this timeline accordingly. If you are going to have a post-dinner snack, it's advisable to allow yourself enough time -- atleast 4 hours -- between the time of your evening snack and your bedtime. )

Well, that's all the tips I have for now. If you can think of any other useful tips for staving off the munchies that work for you, please feel free to leave your comments here.

OK, that's all for tonight, folks!

Bon nuit,
-C
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