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How to stop snacking

What are the reasons behind our goal-shattering snacking habits and cravings for treats, and how can we stop? Or more importantly - should we stop? Could it be that treats could actually help us achieve our health and fitness goals? Read on...

Treat culture

Do you ever catch yourself sneaking in a treat after dinner or in that 3pm slump at work? We might think that a few biscuits here or there won't hurt, but small daily treats like this might not only hold us back from achieving our goals, they could also destroy that focused mindset and make us feel guilty, ashamed and like a failure.

I've got into an awful daily habit at work of reaching for the biscuit tin at 3pm. Here's a quick rundown of my day in health and fitness terms: Wake up 6.15am - go to the gym - 15 minutes sprints - 25 minutes HIIT with weights - healthy breakfast - healthy snack - healthy lunch - **3PM BISCUIT BINGE** - healthy dinner - cup of herbal tea - bed.

That 3pm binge, however small, can have the power to slam the breaks on your health goals, and on the healthy mindset that keeps you on track. I'm sitting here now after one such treat-binge feeling bloated, guilty and sadly not even particularly satisfied and therefore craving more of the sweet stuff. So why do we crave treats, particularly after a meal?

What's to blame?

You'll have probably read all about sugar addiction - if not go and check it out. Sugar, say the experts, is like a drug - the more we eat, the more addicted we become and so the more we crave. And it's that craving that makes us reach for the biscuit tin. The way to crack the habit is by going cold turkey and giving up sugar. I did this two years ago and it's changed the way I cook and a lot of the foods I choose to eat (I've said au revoir to fizzy drinks forever - hurrah!). But the fact that I'm craving it again shows that sugar has slowly clawed back it's hold over me again.

However, although sugar is an interesting subject - the point is, I gave it up, cracked the addiction, yet two years later I'm here, addicted again. My point? It's not just a sugar addiction that makes us treat ourselves. There are a whole world of reasons why we might reach for that chocolate bar after dinner, or that tub of icecream on a Saturday night:


  • Lifestyle - parties/weddings/birthdays where cake can feel like a prerequisite

  • Emotions - feeling like you deserve it because you've had a bad day, which is different to...

  • Temptation - wanting a treat just because we want it

Do you deserve it?

Lifestyle and emotionally treating ourselves are interesting topics which are very much related to habits, excuses and stress which is covered in the WillPower training programme, but today, with regards to my 3pm biscuit binge, I want to talk about treating ourselves just because we want a treat.

Studies have shown that Willpower is a limited resource. So when we feel like we are denying ourselves yummy foods, at one point or another, depending on how long we feel we have denied ourselves for, how many other new healthy habits we are trying to keep up, and how many big decisions we are making in our day to day lives, we are going to crack, and we are going to give in to the temptation of the treat.

Gretchin Rubin explains in her blogpost advocating treats, that studies show when we treat ourselves, we gain self-control - when we let ourselves have small treats, our willpower reserves are boosted and we actually gain self-discipline around temptation.

So, what can we do? With this research to hand, and evidence of past behaviour, it's unrealistic to think that we are never going to treat ourselves ever again. Plus, no treats - ever? That's not a fun way to live. The key? Boost your willpower and keep the reserves high, plus keep that mindset happy and let yourself have treats! YAYS!

But don't reach for the milk chocolate slab just yet (sorry!)...

Life hacks for treating yourself the healthy way:

  • Plan ahead - If I want to treat myself daily, it can't be with sugar loaded biscuits. I know I always crave a sweet treat after lunch when I'm at work - so instead of reaching for the nearest biscuit tin, I know I need to make healthy treats to bring to work - even if that's a simple piece of fruit. The Hemsley's have some great clean sweet treats to make at home, from sweet potato brownies to homemade bounty bars that will feel like a true treat but won't break your diet, plus you'll keep that healthy mindset on point.

  • Make it a reward. Research shows that we are more willing to put off short term gratification if we know we will get a big pay out later on. So, for example, I could decide that I'll treat myself to have a fancy pastry on Saturday morning if I resist the biscuits at work all week - suddenly the biscuits aren't as tempting...

  • Think of other things to treat yourself with that aren't food based. Perhaps a luxurious handcream hit and a self administered massage? Or a spray of perfume? Perhaps a short walk, a funny cat video, or a lunchtime yoga class? If you truly believe it is a treat for you, it will help to replace the old, unhealthy one.

  • Choose to eat yummy, nourishing and clean foods that don't make you feel like you are depriving yourself and keep your willpower reserves high. Full fat options always hit the spot - and reduced fat foods are pumped full of sugar anyway - not helpful!

  • And if you are still craving something naughty, studies show that people who are good at delaying gratification use the part of their brain that imagines the future. So when you want that packet of crisps next, think about exactly what it is that you are working towards for a little perspective and motivation to keep your mindset on track and happy to delay the gratification.

Did you know sneaking in treats can also be a sign of our limiting beliefs? Take my test to find out if you have limiting beliefs that are holding you back from accomplishing your health and fitness goals...

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