Stop Snacking to Lose Weight

As a crusader in the fight against snacking, here’s what you need to know:

When you stop snacking, you will lose weight!

People feel threatened when I recommend cutting snacks out of their diet. When I started talking about it, I was not prepared for the criticism. It’s as if eating between meals is what is keeping us alive. People are afraid of feeling deprived, (or depriving their kids). But even “healthy snacks” are training our brains to need food 24/7. Our guts never get a break.

Stop snacking to lose weight
Even healthy snacks lead to weight gain.

If there was one pivotal thing that has made my weight loss experience a success, it was that I stopped snacking for the first time in my life! For mindful, undistracted eating to be effortless, avoiding snacks is the easiest thing to do.  Snacks generally are eaten on the go, in a hurry, out of a box, and with very little intention.

Eat 3 balanced meals to avoid hunger between meals.

By choosing three times during the day when you can sit with your food in a meaningful, fully attentive way, you can taste, enjoy, and be satisfied by your meals.  

Eating three meals a day, just like your grandma did, is the first step to eliminate snacking. It’s impossible to not be hungry between meals if you aren’t first, eating full, balanced, portion controlled meals.

Decide on three times during the day that you can eat, uninterrupted, or at least have the least amount of distractions. Your three meals should include sitting at a table, with a real dinner plate or portion plate. This will be a challenge for most people, because you are busy!  However, this was a big turning point for me in finally being successful in sticking with my food plan.

Taking time to eat is a gift to yourself, and your health should be a priority. When I saw this time as an opportunity to finally reach my weight loss goals, I made the time. You will be surprised at how much of your day you will get back as you refrain from grazing and taking repeated trips to the fridge or break room. If this means you will eat at 9am, 12pm and 4pm, keep that commitment to yourself.  Mark them on your planner or calendar, and take a break from your busy life. If appointments come up, schedule them appropriately and don’t let your commitment to yourself get put on the back burner. These times can change, as long as you are committed to sitting down three times per day.

Snacking leads to mindless eating

Grazing and snacking is the ultimate habit of mindless eating!  Moving to three meals per day–NO SNACKS–makes eating less food and eating with purpose, effortless.  It’s such a simple practice, yet so many of us aren’t doing it. It might feel natural to have a distinct starting and ending point to a large family dinner, but breakfast and lunch can often get fuzzy.  We eat one or two things, only to return to the fridge one hour later to eat more “lunch.” This ongoing grazing causes most people, who struggle with their weight, to overeat. I’m sure you’ve told yourself, like I did, eating six mini meals per day is a good idea. The problem was, my mini-meals were not mini at all.  It was just another way to eat more food than I needed.

Without snacks, you have more time!

Surprisingly, when you stop thinking about food between meals,  you can participate more fully in life. Some days, my thoughts were centered around food. As soon as I cleared my plate at breakfast, I’d be planning what I’d eat next. Sound familiar?  A woman following this plan recently proclaimed: “I now enjoy the hours between meals, because I know I’ll get food when It’s time and I can be nourished properly!”

Without snacks, you don’t need willpower.

Willpower is no longer necessary to resist the handfuls of food you shouldn’t be eating when you have non-negotiable time boundaries around your meals. You will have space and energy to explore your interests and cultivate your relationships.  You don’t need to check the fridge every 20 minutes. You don’t need to create a mess in the kitchen, just trying to get a snack. You don’t need to worry about eating a snack and not being able to stop. Putting your food on a plate for a balanced meal means that there will be a distinct ending point to your feast.  You can trust your body to send you the signals of satiety when you have sat down to the meal in a non-hurried, thoughtful, and purposeful way.

Without snacks, you eat fewer calories.

Eating three meals a day can also support your body while fueling it with fewer calories.   Snacking or grazing allows for an almost unlimited amount of calories because you are never full or satisfied. Small meals make it harder to feel full.  Personally, I like the idea of feeling full, and would rather eat 500-600 calories in one sitting instead of 100 calories at six separate times. Trying to limit myself to 100 calories in a meal or snack always resulted in overeating.

In the last few decades, someone decided that snacking was the key to health.  We were told that without snacks, we will starve and slow our metabolism! It’s almost unheard of today to eliminate snacks; but when you do, you’ll feel more in control and present in your life!

Grazing never satisfies hunger.

It may seem contradictory, but eating food makes you more hungry.  Have you ever noticed that when you start to snack on something, more often than not, you can’t stop?  This is especially true when you eat food you think you love.  When there are no boundaries around snack time, and you aren’t eating mindfully, you’ll continue to munch on your favorite foods without awareness.  

The beautiful thing about designating three times a day for satisfying meals, is that you have the freedom to eat your favorite, healthy foods. No guilt! The natural restrictions around keeping a meal to a designated time can naturally curb your appetite.

Snack foods are rarely the healthiest choice!  Many snack foods are high in fat, salt, or sugar; at least the tastiest ones are! It’s less likely that you’re going to put a handful of Goldfish on your dinner plate instead of chicken and rice.

The Science

Eating frequent meals, as opposed to three big meals, leads to fatty liver disease

Study leader Dr Mireille Serlie, with the Academic Medical Centre Amsterdam in The Netherlands, said: “Our study provides the first evidence that eating more often, rather than consuming large meals, contributes to fatty liver independent of body weight gain.

Eating more frequent meals significantly increased fat in the liver, while larger sized meals did not. These findings suggest that by cutting down on snacking and encouraging three balanced meals each day over the long term may reduce the prevalence of NAFLD” (source).

Eating more frequent meals, as opposed to three big meals, leads to higher blood sugar and insulin levels.

Allowing our bodies to manage the influx of glucose and return to normal levels takes time!  The constant elevation of blood sugar, caused by grazing throughout the day, never allows the body to “use up glucose in the blood” and then dip into fat stores. We want to dip into those fat stores!

Eating more frequent meals, as opposed to three big meals, leads to higher daily calorie intake.

The snack industry has ballooned to more than $374 Billion in 2014.  There is significant money spent trying to persuade you to eat snacks!  It’s simple: the more you snack, the more calories you will be eating.

Eating fewer meals does not lower metabolism!

The number of times I’ve heard this argument is astonishing!  Our hunter gatherer ancestors did not have the luxury of eating six times per day.  For them, it was feast or famine.  The idea that, as humans, we can’t tolerate two or more hours between meals is crazy. Our bodies have evolved to be able to have periods of non-eating for many hours, with very little impact to our metabolism.   

Following Excerpt from: https://lifespa.com/dangers-of-frequent-eating/

There are many studies disputing this notion. In 1997, the British Journal of Medicine did a thorough review of all such related studies, and found no evidence that eating 6 meals a day increases metabolism, thermogenesis, or weight loss. (1)

When being fed every 2-3 hours, the body is not encouraged to burn any of its stored fat for energy. Why should it bother digging out the fat stores for energy when it is being spoon-fed all day long? When you eat 3 meals a day and have ample time between meals, the body is forced to burn that stored fat. Once the fat is restored as an active fuel supply, you will see better energy, more stable moods, greater mental clarity, better sleep, less cravings and natural and permanent weight management. We had the group eat 3 meals a day with no snacks and measured weight loss and a host of psychological factors. Within two weeks, their moods, cravings, sleep, exhaustion after work and fatigue were all significantly improved. They lost an average of 1.2 pounds per week during the 2 month study.

If you have a healthy snack, like a carrot, in between breakfast and lunch you will burn the carrot, but you will not burn any stored fat between those two meals. If you don’t snack between lunch and supper, your body will be forced to burn stored fat to get you to supper without a blood sugar crash. From supper to breakfast is a critical time to burn fat, lose weight, detox and reboot a stable nervous system to handle the stress of the next day.

Eating only breakfast and lunch reduced body weight, fatty deposits in the liver, fasting glucose, and increased insulin sensitivity. These results suggest that, for blood sugar health concerns, eating larger breakfasts and lunches may be more beneficial than 6 smaller meals throughout the day. (4)(source)

Final thoughts:

Losing weight is natural when you eliminate snacking. Your metabolism isn’t going to suffer, you’ll enjoy your balanced meals more during meal time, and your meals will be more satisfying and enriching.

This has been a chapter excerpt from my ebook, The Purposeful Diet. Check out the full book here.