Is Snacking Sabotaging Your Weight Loss?

I want to share with you something I hear frequently from clients, and something you may have struggled with as well.

“I’m eating really well, but I’m still not losing weight.”

There are several key reasons this may happen:

— You may be eating the right kinds of foods, but not the right amounts. No matter how nutritious your food choices are, if you’re in a calorie surplus (i.e. consuming more calories than you’re burning), weight loss won’t happen. Yes, for the most part, it is a Math Problem, for you to lose fat:

Energy In < Energy Out.

— You’re probably eating too fast. I’m often guilty as charged here, as well, and I have to really think about and practice the skill of slow eating. You see, when you’re having a meal, your digestive system sends signals to your brain when you’ve had enough food. But if you’re chowing down fast, by the time those signals get to your brain, you’ve already consumed at least a couple hundred calories beyond the point of fullness. We teach our clients to “eat slowly” and “stop when 80% full.” Aside from enjoying and digesting your food better, you’ll avoid blowing through the stop sign and consuming more food than you need.

— You may be snacking more than you think. This is what I find most people have issues with. Your meals may be very much on point, but if you find yourself reaching for unhealthy snacks during the day — or mindlessly munching while watching TV at night — you could be sabotaging all the great food choices you made during the rest of the day. (Sorry, this applies to alcohol, too. A bottle of red wine, while possessing many therapeutic and antioxidant qualities, has 635 calories!)

What do your snacks look like?

Are you someone who finds themselves going for a bag of chips, or a handful of nuts, or unable to walk past a candy bowl without grabbing a handful?? And do you stop with only one bag or handful? Let’s be honest, who really only has one handful of popcorn if it’s available????

Why do we snack?

Besides being genuinely hungry, most people find themselves snacking to satisfy a craving or an indulgence. That dopamine release that occurs as a result of having something sweet or salty or a connection of a happy moment drives you toward going for it. Snacking on less desirable food also reinforces that feeling that you can have it whenever you want and that it’s ok.

“I will just have one bite”

“I will just have a couple”

“I haven’t had these in forever, a few aren’t going to hurt”

“They are just there in front of me, how can I not eat some”

And listen, snacking can be an important part to everyone’s dietary approach, but if you are finding yourself stagnant on the scale despite eating well AND you have weight loss goals you are striving for, this is certainly one of the most common issue areas.

How much do snacks really affect your progress?

As I mentioned earlier, it really becomes a math problem. When a client does tell me that they can’t seem to lose any weight even when they feel they are eating clean or healthy, the first thing we must consider is identifying exactly what and how much they are consuming?

In our coaching program we ask our clients to track their food every day for this specific purpose. It is important to know exactly how much (and what) is being consumed. However, you’d be surprised that some clients don’t enter their snacks into their tracking whether it be because they don’t want to share it, or feel that “they don’t count, they’re just snacks!”

Let’s have a look at some snacks and their calorie levels:

23 almonds = 162 calories

23 calories per Hershey Kiss

12 NachoCheese Dorito Chips = 150 calories.

3 Oreo Cookies = 160 calories

Though 150 calories or so doesn’t sound like a game changer by itself, but when we are looking to decrease body fat, we look to create a healthy caloric deficit of around 300–500 calories per day and if you are snacking a couple of times per day (or you are not sticking to just 23 almonds or 12 Dorito chips) this may be the missing piece that takes you from “I am eating healthy and not losing weight” to beginning to see the movement on the scale that you are looking for.

How do you balance your snacking habits and achieve successful weight loss?

Are you accounting for all your BLT’s (Bites, Licks, Tastes)?

  1. One easy way to take inventoryof your perceived food choices vs. what (and how much) you’re actually eating is to track. We encourage clients to keep a food diary before we jump to any conclusions. It should be as complete and accurate as possible. Be as specific as possible and write it ALL down!You may be surprised by what ends up on the list.
  2. Embrace the hunger— It is perfectly normal to feel the sensation of hunger between meals, usually around 30–60 mins before normal meal times, but if you find yourself having moments of feeling hungry earlier than this between meals, take it as an opportunity to recognize you are most likely in a calorie deficit and to focus on pushing through to your next meal. Which lends itself to the next point…
  3. Focus on more satiating meals.Proteins take a lot longer to digest in the gut than both carbs and fat and thus keeps us feeling full for longer, and less likely to want to indulge in snacks between these meals. It minimizes the feeling of emptiness or want to eat again. As a backup, a more starch-filled accompaniment is helpful too.
  4. If you feel that you can’t handle it and have a strong desire to snack, then following the same line as above and looking for more protein based snacks(in moderation of course) can help to satisfy that desire yet not add an excessive level of added calories to the equation.
  5. Remember this quote, “If it’s not in the house, you won’t eat it!”

If you’d like me to take a look at your food diary, just send it to me! I’d be happy to give you some feedback and suggestions.

Dr. Dan Dodd is an Exercise Science professional and Coach for BSL Nutrition. Dan is an avid writer on nutrition, exercise, metabolism and body composition. If you’d like to receive more stories, subscribe to his weekly emails.


This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.




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