Why you can’t stop snacking right now, according to a nutritionist

You can blame that biscuit tin raid on biology

If you’re anything like us, you’ll probably have noticed that snacking has become a favourite isolation past-time in the last two weeks. If we’re not rummaging through the cupboards for a biscuit or a packet of chips, we’re thinking about the contents of our fridge or mentally planning the next meal. Which has left us wondering how we became so snack obsessed?

The good news is that Clarissa Lenherr, a registered nutritionist, says seeking out satisfying sugary or salty snacks is completely normal as we navigate a very stressful time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

‘When we are stressed, one of the hormones we secrete is cortisol,’ she told Red. ‘This stress hormone can increase our cravings and tendency to reach for snacks.’

Lenherr says the reason for this is ‘two-fold’: ‘Firstly, highly palatable foods (aka chocolate, chips, cakes etc) can temporarily reduce cortisol. When this snack-habit is repeated a few times, it becomes a learned coping mechanism for stress reduction in the body. Before we know it, we are reaching for snacks every single time we feel a touch stressed!’

The other reason we can’t stop raiding the biscuit tin is also biological: ‘Our body tells us we require more energy to support our “fight or flight” needs. This increased demand is often met through grazing or snacking.’

You might have noticed that your sleep patterns are a bit all over the place right now, too. This can also impact on how much we eat, as Lenherr explains:

‘When we are low in sleep, both quality and quantity, we can find our snacking tendency rises. The reason being is that from sub-optimal sleep, we can be left with lowered energy which is going to increase our body’s demand for energy through food. Additionally, when we sleep deeply, our hunger and satiety hormones recalibrate. If we aren’t entering that deep sleep mode, we can be left with imbalanced hunger hormones and lowered levels of satiety – all things that can get us reaching for those snacks!’

To stop snacking so much, it can help to be more aware of what is triggering your eating patterns. If you’re struggling to sleep, try to exercise earlier in the day so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep patterns and then create a bedtime routine by running a bath before bed and then swapping tech for a good book. Stressed? Sign up for a virtual exercise class and sweat it out, or just take some time out and listen to some soothing music.

Also, ask yourself if you’re really hungry when you find yourself in the kitchen looking for snacks. Then drink a glass of water to bring your brain back to the moment before you allow yourself to open the cupboard or fridge.

Paul McKenna also shared a helpful tip to stop mindless snacking. He says thinking of something that repulses you can instantly suppress your appetite and make you feel less hungry.

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Having some healthy snacks to hand is also a smart idea.

Most importantly, try not to be hard on yourself. Life is far from normal right now and adapting isn’t easy.

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