Now That I'm Healthy(ish) Again I'm Trying To Lose Weight -- How DO You Keep From Mindless Snacking?

I'm not talking a handful of nuts here or there, I'm talking 6-rounds-of toast-type snacking.
Publish date:
March 5, 2014
weight loss, procrastination, crohns disease, snacking, wack diets, computer games

Guess what, everyone? My Crohn's is definitely in remission. For real, like, this time last year I was a weak ball of nothingness who was dead behind the eyes and pale and miserable. I couldn't eat fun things, and I couldn't drink alcohol, which was RUBBISH. I spent most of the time trying to sum up the energy to actually go to work, and when I got there I couldn't concentrate. I was going to the loo about 6-10 times a day. FUN TIMES, YO.

Fast forward to now, and I'm basically normal. I can eat what I want, including fiber, which was a massive no-way-nuh-uh-are-you-mental last year. I avoided vegetables like the plague, and the idea of eating anything wholemeal was completely abhorrent. I can drink alcohol without suffering for a week! I can eat avocados! Life is SWEET.

There's the small matter of being referred to the Haematology department at the hospital because I'm still hugely anaemic, but I can deal with that. That's just being a bit dizzy and not being able to stand up for long! That's fine! I hate standing up anyway. And they'll probably just give me some nice injections every once in a while to keep me ticking over. I can deal with that. Plus it means I get to eat rib-eye steak twice a week to get my iron levels up, and snack on biltong in the afternoons. WORLD, I AM READY FOR YOU.

Of course, this is all fabulous. But a side effect of actually being able to get out of bed in the morning without feeling like a withered plant is that I'm gaining weight. Quite rapidly. I've gained a stone (14 lbs) in a couple of months, and although that may not sound too much and yeah yeah I know it's because I'm actually gaining nutrients from food etc etc, I'd been the same weight for three years. I'd got used to my frame at that weight. I knew how my clothes fitted. My whole wardrobe was catered to that size. I knew myself.

Now, I find extra bits of me every day that seemingly weren't there a day ago, new soft flesh gently escaping from my jeans. My rings don't fit on the same fingers as they always had done, they have to be moved around to find a new home where they aren't tight.

I'll catch myself in the mirror and see a more rounded tummy, and upper arms that have filled out. Now, I've been a whole variety of weights in my time, from 203lbs to 133lbs, so I don't have a problem carrying a little extra -- it's more that I don't want to have to buy a whole new wardrobe of clothes and a new fistful of rings (my rings are expensive!) to accommodate this. I quite like all my clothes, and I'd like to fit in them. I've invested a reasonable chunk of cash on my wardrobe and I don't want to throw that away.

I view my body now, after bouts of long illness, as a machine that I have to keep running by the quality of produce I choose to put into it. I choose foods that will give me energy, will boost my iron stores. I try to eat mindfully now, I wouldn't choose to eat a Pot Noodle or a microwaved burger for lunch as I have done in the past. I want to treat my body well, so that it in turn repays me by not losing its shit and forgetting how to function properly for a year.

But let's be practical here -- I'm never going to give up my weekend lunches out, or a Friday night takeaway. Mealtimes are not changing. I'm still eating as I have been, apart from one thing. I am trying not to snack.

I have a real tendency to snack between meals. And by snack, I mean, popping a pack of butter popcorn in the microwave when I get home from work, melting a cup of butter and pouring it over it and eating it as a pre-dinner appetizer. This is not providing me with any goodness other than the joy I get when I eat it. This kind of thing is the reason I am not going to be able to fit in my favourite Levi's soon. See also: biscuits. I can't buy Oreos anymore because if I do, I'll easily eat 8 or 9 as "pudding" after dinner. This again provides little-to-no nutritional benefit.

So how do I stop this mindless snacking? WELL. A study published in Appetite shows that playing that classic video game ‘Tetris’ "reduces the strength, frequency and vividness of naturally occurring cravings."

The leaders of the study, graduate student Jessica Skorka-Brown and professors Jackie Andrade and Jon May chose to test Elaborated Intrusion Theory -- a theory that says that cravings "rely heavily on visual imagery." They tested 119 participants’ natural cravings by inviting them to enter the lab when they were actually craving something -- be it chocolate, cigarettes, alcohol or junk food. They were asked a series of questions about the level of their cravings, before being placed in front of a computer to play a game of Tetris, or in front of a computer which looked as though it was going to load Tetris, but never did.

After three minutes, they were asked about their cravings again, and the research found that playing a game of Tetris for just three minutes lowered craving levels by 24 percent. That might not sound like much, but I'm willing to take my chances. Three minutes of staring at a screen might stop me from reaching for the melted butter coated popcorn? Sounds easy enough. I might just give it a go.

How do you stop yourself from snacking? I'm not talking a handful of nuts here or there, I'm talking 6-rounds-of toast-type snacking. Some people find cleaning helps, or writing an email to a friend. I've tried these, but the niggling voice in the back of my head saying "I know you're not hungry in the slightest, but you could just go and buy a cake and eat it all right now" often wins. Do you have a tried and tested method? Maybe the Tetris trick works for you? Share in the comments!

Natalie's on Twitter: @Natalie_KateM