Do you find yourself snacking too much?
Where you’re eating unconsciously throughout the day?
Turns out, we do this for very specific reasons.
It’s not because you’re addicted to certain foods.
Or because you have zero self control.
In this podcast episode, I teach you exactly what snacking is, what it means for you and your eating habits, and whether or not snacking is something you want to be doing long-term.
Hello. Welcome back to the podcast this week. I’m just going to get right into this week’s topic. Because it’s a very, very requested one. And it is the topic of snacking. Most often the questions I get from women are “Should I be snacking? When is snacking a bad thing? Or is it a good thing?”. There’s a lot of confusion around the topic of snacking and I’m going to clear it all up here. I’m going to explain exactly what snacking is, what it means for you and your eating habits, and whether or not snacking is something you want to be doing. To start, I will mention that in my past I was definitely an avid snacker. I was constantly eating food while doing other things. Most often, I would snack when I was working or watching TV. Pretty much anytime I was doing any activity. Where I was at home. I would just snack alongside that activity. And what’s interesting is for a long time I had the food belief that I was just a grazer. That I was someone who just needed to constantly be eating food to feel satisfied. And that was just who I was. When people talked about how often they ate in a day, I literally would say, “Oh, that’s not me. I just like to graze on food all of the time.” And this was just a story I was telling myself. Because the reality was that I was just constantly snacking. And the truth is, nothing about my snacking was an intentional eating decision. So, in other words, I wasn’t intentionally choosing to eat each bite of the foods I was eating throughout the day. I felt totally unaware of how much of these foods I was eating. I felt a complete lack of control with how often I was snacking. And it felt like my snacking was happening to me. I can remember times when I would start eating a bag of chips, whether that was at the beginning of a work session or at the beginning of a movie, and then before I knew it, I’d had eaten the entire bag of chips. Without even realizing it. That was an example of snacking for me. Another example is me grabbing a handful of candy or trail mix everytime I walked past the kitchen. And to me, this was just snacking. It didn’t seem like a big deal. But by the end of the day, I had no recollection of how much of that candy or trail mix I had actually eaten. And that’s really why snacking didn’t serve me. Because none of those eating decisions were ever intentional. They weren’t really on purpose. And that should always be the goal. You always want everything you’re eating to feel like it was your decision. From a very certain and empowered place. Anytime your eating decisions don’t quite feel like your own, or you feel that lack of awareness with them, it’s always a good time to check in. And see what’s really going on there. Snacking is a great example of this. And to be clear, when I’m referring to snacking, I’m not talking about pre-planned meals or foods that you scheduled ahead of time, right? I’m not referring to that piece of fruit or meal bar or smoothie or whatever it is that you scheduled for the middle of your day, so you’re satisfying your hunger. I’m not referring to these types of snacks. That’s what many of us are really just calling small mid-day meals, right? What I’m referring to here, is the on-going act of eating unconsciously throughout the day. The act of snacking. Where you’re having no recollection of the snacks you’re eating. And that’s actually what snacking really is. There’s scheduling small meals to eat during the day. Which can be called snacks. But, then there’s the act of snacking. And this is a slippery slope. Because at the end of the day, all snacking is, is unconscious eating. Which is eating without awareness. And without awareness of what you’re eating, you’re not going to have awareness of how you’re eating, which will also make you unaware of how you’re getting the results with your body. So, your eating habits, weight, and health will feel totally out of your control. You’ll feel helpless to all of it. And, I want to offer that if you feel helpless with your eating habits or body right now, and you notice that you’re snacking throughout the day, this may be why. You’re just making a lot of unintentional, unconscious eating decisions throughout the day. Pretty simple. And we don’t need to take it personally if we do this. We don’t need to beat ourselves up or make it mean anything negative ourselves. It just simply means that you’re not paying enough attention to your eating habits. This is something that most of us, as humans, have struggled with at one point in time. And this may just be your work. It’s a really simple switch. You just want to start getting curious and observing what foods you’re eating throughout the day.
Now, I want to get to the reason why snacking can really become a problem. And it is because at the end of the day, as I mentioned, snacking is unconscious eating. And when we’re eating unconsciously, we allow ourselves to eat based on our emotions. And this is the deeper reason why snacking becomes problematic. It’s because the act of unconscious snacking is always an emotional event. And we know this because these eating decisions are being made without your awareness, right? You’re not using the intentional part of your brain to make these decisions. You’re letting your brain run on autopilot. Which means it’s going to make eating decisions based on that primitive brain. And what does your primitive brain always, always want? To seek comfort. It’s going to compel you to eat so you’re comforting yourself from the emotions that you’re experiencing. So when you are snacking you’re likely not aware of how much of that food you’re eating. How quickly you’re eating the food. All of those things. You’re just not aware. Which means, these eating decisions are being made based on how you’re feeling emotionally. From that unconscious, primitive brain that’s always seeking comfort. Snacking is about finding comfort in food. Which means snacking, when it comes down to it, is actually lower-grade, more continuous emotional eating. And I want to give you some examples of what snacking is and what it isn’t. Just so we’re being super, super clear. Snacking isn’t that handful of almonds you decide to eat in the middle of the day. Snacking is the act of eating those almonds in front of the computer. Without any previous intention of eating those almonds. And without deciding how much of those almonds you’re going to eat. Another example. Snacking isn’t intentionally planning to eat that handful of potato chips during the day. Snacking is the act of eating those potato chips without making any decisions on how much you’re going to eat, when you’re going to eat those chips, etc. Right? So you get the idea. It’s not about what foods you’re deciding to eat. It’s just the act of eating those foods unconsciously from that emotional place that is seeking comfort. And I want to clarify what I mean when I say that snacking is just low-grade emotional eating. Since this may sound a little extreme to some people. Chances are there’s people who are thinking, “I don’t know. Snacking to me doesn’t feel that emotional. It kind of just happens when I’m bored. Or when I’m doing other things.” And I hear you. This is something that comes up with my clients from time to time. They’ll say that they end up snacking a lot throughout the day because they’re bored. Or because they’re working or watching TV. And this isn’t really why snacking occurs. And I just want you to open your mind to this. The reason why you’re snacking isn’t because you’re bored. It’s because you’re unwilling to feel the emotion that’s present for you, when you’re bored. So, when you find yourself snacking because you have nothing else to do, it’s because you’re eating to distract yourself from whatever emotion you’re experiencing. And it’s really interesting when we bring up the concept of boredom. Because we’ll think that we need to escape boredom as quickly as possible. But think about it. What’s so bad about being bored? I always ask people to think back when they were children, right? We were much more comfortable being bored. It wasn’t this crazy thing that we were trying to escape. So why as adults do we feel like we need to immediately escape boredom? Because when we’re bored, and we’re not doing anything else, we’re left with whatever emotions are there. And we’re forced to experience them when we’re not doing anything else. So, when you’re snacking, it’s not because you’re bored. It’s because you want to distract yourself from boredom. Which is really just you sitting with whatever emotion you’re experiencing. It’s to feel more comfortable through food. And the same thing goes for when we snack during work time, right? If you feel the need to do this, it’s likely you’re experiencing some type of negative emotion that you’re seeking comfort from. When you’re working. So maybe that’s overwhelm, frustration, stress – whatever it is. That’s why you snack during these moments. Because you’re seeking that comfort. There’s quite a few snacking scenarios we could think of here. But the important thing to know is that unconscious eating or snacking occurs because our brain’s are seeking comfort from our uncomfortable emotions. Alright? I hope this makes sense.
This is why for many of us it feels so hard to stop snacking. You’ll convince yourself that you’re addicted to certain foods and that you have no control. When really it’s just your brain seeking comfort from your emotions. And snacking is an immediate foolproof way for your brain and find that comfort. If you find yourself snacking throughout the day, very often, it’s because your brain is constantly trying to fill up with food because it wants to suppress whatever negative emotion is happening there. And it can be any negative emotion. Any emotion that feels uncomfortable for you. It can be uncertainty, doubt, shame, overwhelm, fear – absolutely anything. And there is a way to solve this problem of snacking all of the time. It’s just likely not in the way you originally thought. For most people, they think to stop themselves from eating too much, or snacking throughout the day, that they need to change what they’re eating. Or they need to keep certain foods out of the house, right? So, in this way they’re trying to control their food actions without doing the deeper work. They’re trying to quick-fix the problem. And that’s not how they see it. I used to do this as well. I genuinely thought that the way to solve the problem was to just leave the ice cream out of the house. I thought I just needed more self-control and willpower. But that’s skipping over the real reasons why you’re snacking. And you will continue to do it in the future without solving the cause. And the cause is your brain not wanting to experience those uncomfortable emotions. So the solution is learning to feel our feelings. That’s really it. This is what to focus on. Because what that means, is you’re going to begin taking notice of the times throughout your day that you like to snack. And you’re going to start getting really curious and observing what emotion is coming up for you during those times. What emotion is present when you’re bored, or when you’re about to sit down at your desk, or when you feel like you want to curl up and watch Netflix? What emotion are you unwanting to feel? We all have them. Identify these emotions. And then allow yourself to feel these emotions rather than reacting to them. Do this throughout the day. Have little check-ins with yourself. Because without this awareness, you will continue to unconsciously eat and snack throughout the day. In a way where your eating decisions don’t feel like your own. Something you can also start doing is planning for your hunger ahead of time. So intentionally planning snacks in your day when you know you’re going to be naturally hungry. And the point of this isn’t to just honor your hunger. Super important. But it’s also to kind of make it clear to your brain that it doesn’t feel the need to engage in snacking because it’s hungry. When you’re certain that you’re honoring your hunger, it becomes really obvious when your body wants to snack because it’s seeking comfort from an emotion. And checking in with fullness can do this for you as well. So, maybe you didn’t plan your meals for the day and you feel genuinely hungry. Check in with your fullness throughout the meal to determine when you’re satisfied. So you know when to stop eating. This way, you’re also knowing that if you want to keep snacking, then you know it’s an emotional event. So, this is definitely an in-depth way of looking at your snacking tendencies. But it is the truth. This is why snacking feels so out of control to you. And it’s totally manageable. We just want to focus less on what we’re eating. And on trying to control our food decisions. We want to focus more on processing the emotions that are compelling us to snack unconsciously. Alright, my friend. I hope you learned a lot from this episode. Thank you for being here with me today. And I’ll talk with you next week.
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified health coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.