Not too long ago, TV personality Dr. Oz did a segment on how to know whether or not you’re a snack addict. He and his guest experts pointed out that refined sugars and empty carbohydrates create a similar response in the brain as hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. The body, over time, begins to crave these substances and the emotional/chemical response they create. Granted, the effects aren’t as exaggerated as those in illicit substances, but the negative side effects of excessive weight gain can be just as harmful to your body. It seems like the whole world can be against you.
Whether you’re a binge snacker or a hard-core junk-food junkie, there are some simple steps you can take to get those empty calories under control.
1. Admit you have a problem. If you have to have snacks, candy or sweets at least once a day, you need to change your eating habits.
2. Ask why you snack. Are you bored? Unhappy? Find a more positive hobby than food. Exercise, reading a book or talking to friends is a far better way to spend your time.
3. Do you “graze?” Walking around your kitchen picking up a little of this and a little of that? You may think you’re curbing your intake, but you’re actually more likely to overeat this way.
4. Do you eat in front of the TV? Same problem. Distracted eating = extra calories.
5. As Dr. Oz asked – do you gravitate towards beige-colored foods like pasta, breads, potatoes, etc. – a diverse diet with healthy vitamins and minerals is also a colorful diet.
6. Dr. Oz also asked, “do you have a lot of red, yellow and orange-packaged foods in your home?” Sadly, these items are often marketed with strong colors in order to draw attention away from their low nutritional value. You don’t have to avoid all brightly colored packages, but you should make a rule of always looking at the nutrition panel before buying.
7. Do you have an oral fixation? Your mouth gets restless without potato chips, a KitKat or a Lifesaver… Substitute sugarless gum, carrot sticks, apples or grapes to feed this fix.
8. Do you skip meals? Again, people think they’re doing themselves a favor by saving the calories. But they’re also setting up a situation where it will be hard to deny snack cravings later.
9. Do you enjoy alcoholic beverages? Make sure you’ve got healthy snacks handy or make a concerted effort not to snack. Lowered inhibitions from alcohol intake often lead to poor food choices.
10. Are you a fad dieter? These incomplete nutritional approaches often involve denying certain foods, which make them hard to resist later.
11. Do you lean towards strong flavors? You may be creating opposing cravings. Typically after a sugar binge, the body craves salty or sour flavors, leading to a second (or third) binge.
12. How do you shop? If you go through the market aisle by aisle, you’re setting yourself up for failure as processed foods dwell in the middle of the store. Start by cruising the perimeter for fresh meats, fish, fruits and vegetables before turning towards processed foods.