How to avoid snacking during quarantine
Experts at VIVAMAYR explain why people snack, and why there has been a rise in snacking during quarantine. They also provide tips on how to avoid snacking during this period.
WHY DO WE SNACK?
The impulse to head straight for the biscuit tin or grab a bar of chocolate, some cake, or even a savoury snack when we are not hungry occurs for several reasons, with stress and emotional eating being the most important ones. Snacking can be the body’s first choice of a coping mechanism to fill a perceived gap and supply us with more external energy when our internal energy supply seems to be insufficient to keep us going.
WHAT DOES STRESS DO TO OUR BODY?
We do need a certain amount of positive stress, also called eustress, in our life, without which we would have a hard time trying to achieve what we need in life. Think about the last time you went for a job interview, sat an exam or gave a public talk. Without a certain amount of stress, you would have likely not revised and prepared to succeed. However the longer stress continues, the more the body’s adaptation ability will suffer and eventually fail, leading to exhaustion and burnout.
The long-term effects of stress on the rest of the body are far-reaching, from an increase in the hormone cortisol which causes weight gain especially in the belly to increased systemic inflammation, a decrease of nutrient absorption and increasing rate of nutrient excretion (such as magnesium, calcium, potassium, selenium, zinc etc), development of osteoporosis, and increased oxidative stress causing premature ageing. A reduction of growth hormone is linked with impaired tissue repair and healing, and the development of insulin resistance can lead to metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Chronic stress also causes havoc on our immune system and the imbalanced gut microbiome. As 70-80% of the body’s immune system is located in the gut, restoration and maintaining of healthy gut flora are paramount for overall health and wellbeing.
HOW DOES THE STRESS OF QUARANTINE AFFECT OUR SNACKING?
When we look at our current situation where most of the world is or has been in quarantine for several weeks or even months, this current challenge is unlike any we have faced before. As a result, stress and anxiety levels have soared and triggered comfort and emotional eating and snacking. In turn, more snacking leads to increased stress and guilt. A stressed-out brain does not stick to good eating habits and rhythms and many of these perceived survival patterns are prominently hardwired into our brain. From an early age, we often learn that when we get hurt or upset, we receive a “treat” to comfort us. Usually in the form of chocolate, biscuits or sweets. It soothes our nerves and our emotions rather than quenching a real physical hunger. Willpower alone isn’t enough to control this cycle, it is understanding what triggers our automatic behaviour and learning how to override these so that our brain feels safe to turn off the stress response and builds new circuits that bring you joy.
| But it is not just stress which causes us to snack more.
WHAT ELSE CAN TRIGGER SNACKING?
People may be bored, addicted to food or experiencing other emotions such as tiredness, exhaustion or anger. Looking at our environment, most of us are confined to their homes and are working or simply spending extended time in proximity to the kitchen with easy access to food. A fully stocked fridge can be a very appealing distraction when one is looking for a situational escape! While many people have reported cooking more now that they are at home, many are also making extra trips to their fridge and pantry cupboards, struggle to establish new routines, be motivated or to switch off and find the right work-life balance while working from home.
Physical reasons for snacking can be a lack of macro and micronutrients; our body will maintain an urge to keep eating when people are overfed yet undernourished. Repeated cravings and snacking can also occur when the body is host to uninvited inhabitants such as parasites or candida, a fungal overgrowth which is often also triggered by stress. At VIVAMAYR they pay particular attention to find the underlying causes of stress for the digestive system.
HOW CAN YOU AVOID/PREVENT STOP SNACKING
1. Track your eating habits and start a food journal
The first step to change a habit is becoming aware of what we do on a regular basis. Keeping a food journal for a couple of days, a week or even a month can be a powerful insight about our eating habits and associated emotions and if, when, how much and what we snack on.
2. Start your day with a nutritious breakfast between 7 and 9 am & follow a healthy circadian rhythm throughout the day
You will have heard the old saying – eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. This is also one of the main reasons why a VIVAMAYR physician will advise patients not to eat any raw food including fruits after 4 pm. Raw food is more difficult to break down and digest later in the day and leads more commonly to indigestion, fermentation and putrefaction. Your evening meal should be the lightest and most easily digestible meal of the day, be eaten as early as possible in the evening and at least 3 hours before bedtime, ideally before 7 pm.
3. Eat slowly and chew your food well
The most important VIVAMAYR mantra is “Chew, chew, chew” or as one of their doctors likes to explain to their patients: become a chewing monster! Remember, your stomach has no teeth and any food which has not been sufficiently pre-digested by the enzymes in the mouth ends up stressing your digestive system unnecessarily. When VIVAMAYR say “chew your food well” they recommend to chew every single bite at least 30 times before swallowing to initiate the release of enzymes which break down carbohydrates in the mouth – so eat your liquids and drink your solids.
4. Establish regular meal times instead of snacking
Our body needs sufficient time to digest its food to work efficiently and extract all required nutrients. The minimum time required between meals for your digestive system to do its work well is at least 4 hours between meals. If we start snacking between meals it can cause ongoing stress to our digestive organs and even insulin resistance. The digestive system and hormones simply become overwhelmed by the lack of rest and recovery.
5. Try out intermittent fasting
When we fast in the evening we give our digestive organs a much-needed rest to recover their optimum energy for the next day. Positive “side effects” of intermittent fasting are cellular rejuvenation, improved gene repair and immune system regulation, enhanced hormonal regulation and insulin sensitivity, reduced risk of systemic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s disease etc.
6. Stay well hydrated
Most of us do not stay sufficiently hydrated throughout the day. We often don’t realise that what we perceive as hunger is actually a signal that we are dehydrated rather than deprived of fuel. Try it out for yourself the next time you feel a snack attack coming on: drink a glass of water, either plain or flavoured with a slice of fresh organic lemon or lime. If you prefer, add a slice of organic lemon or lime to your water or a pinch of Himalayan or rock salt. Alternatively, take lightly brewed herbal tea. Ideally, the water you drink should be no colder than body temperature.
7. Be prepared
Set yourself up for success, know your “triggers” and be prepared! The best way to resist the temptation to snack is to focus on good eating habits, planning your meals ahead, even if you are working from your home office – pretend you are going to work, prepare your lunch and all food for the day ahead, resist the urge to check on the fridge especially if it is close to the makeshift desk or kitchen table where many nowadays work from. Regulate what you eat throughout the day as if you are working away from home. Detox your pantry and kitchen cupboards and stack up on healthy and nutritious food. It is much easier to forgo good intentions and just grab that bar of chocolate that keeps tempting us when we open the cupboard. Easy access to snacks equals an easy slip down that snack route.
8. Move your body regularly
Stagnation is the enemy of a healthy immune system. Our body was designed to move, to be active and certainly never designed to sit in front of a computer for hours or most the day. With the quarantine, we have seen an increase in online activity. What is happening is as we spend more and more time slumped in front of an electronic gadget, our lymphatic system which is one of the most neglected detoxification pathways of the body becomes even more stagnant and waste cannot be cleared from our body. If we do not move we create more stress in our body. And with increasing stress comes an increasing desire to snack. Set yourself a timer for a 5-10 minute movement break for every hour you work.
If this blog has got you interested in starting your wellness journey call our wellness advisors at 020 7843 3597 or enquire here.
(1) The interim findings from the IES Working at Home Wellbeing Survey
(2) U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Food Surveys Research Group. 2011. Snacking Patterns of U.S. Adults: What We Eat In America, NHANES 2007-2008. Food Surveys Research Group Dietary Data Brief No. 4. Available at: http://ars.usda.gov/Services/docs.htm?docid=19476.