For most of my life, I didn’t have weight issues. I was always active in sports, I watched what I ate and was a healthy individual. I never had eating disorders or anything aggressive like that, I was just constantly active, on the move and definitely health conscious.  In high school, I never was one to hang out with the kids who were experimenting in drugs or alcohol and I drank maybe once or twice, so that was never really part of my life until college. Throughout my college years, I continued to work out regularly at the campus gym, but also started an unhealthy habit of drinking that most can relate to.  That’s when the long nights of binge drinking several days a week began, which was a new habit that continued long after college.  With the binge drinking, you then have the “after drinks” pizza or Chinese food.  It continues for the next day as you are in the” hung-over” phase where you eat anything and everything greasy to try to feel better, but never do. I think we have all been there or some of you are still there, even after college.

So what does this have to do with the title of this article regarding snacking and mindless eating?  Heavy drinking is just one way I started becoming a “mindless eater.” Some people would refer to this as “emotional eaters” and have been their whole lives. It didn’t, necessarily, stem from alcohol or drugs. For me, snacking or eating when I wasn’t hungry started after the college years when drinking more created being hung-over frequently, which resulted in just gaining weight and a large feeling of unhappiness.

Like I said, some of you have struggled with this your whole life and it is truly all in your head.  So when I decided to (pardon my French) “get my shit together,” I limited my booze, got back into the gym and started really re-evaluating my life. I was trying to feel good again, inside and out.

When you eliminate a habit, whether its drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes, many people gainmore weight because they are substituting food for their other addiction that has been eliminated.  My parents each gained over 10lbs after they stopped smoking. My mother said she would pop candy anytime she wanted a cigarette and my father ate more as well.  So this is not an abnormal thing and when people are considered “emotional eaters,” they will eat when they feel sad or maybe even use food as a celebration of happiness.  Once again this is not unusual, you see this everywhere in different shapes and forms.  People eat out of boredom and not because they are hungry.  When I wrapped my head around this, I started paying attention to what I was eating and why I was eating and if I was even hungry at all.

For anyone that is reading this, I want to give you tips on how to snack healthy and to become more aware of yourself and your habits.  Focus on how you feel and why you may do things and you will come to find that your actions are typically based on your emotions and how you feel at that moment.  Let’s start snacking healthy! I use these tips daily.

Step 1:  Drink a glass of water.  Our brains can be confused by what hunger or thirst is. Typically, we think we are hungry when sometimes we are just dehydrated or need water. The second you think you want to snack, drink a glass of water.  You may feel full and not be hungry anymore and, nonetheless, it also rehydrates your body.  Drinking a glass of water before meals also will help you tend to not over eat.  Another tip I strongly recommend and I do myself.

Step 2: Snack Healthy!  We aren’t talking M&M’s and Snickers bars; we are talking carrots, apples, nuts or Greek yogurt.  These forms of snacks are great and they will provide energy and keep you busy if you tend to eat just because. Eating those sugary treats brings instant alertness, but also brings a quick immediate crash where you then crave more food soon after.   Snacking in between meals is good.  Just like a car, we need fuel to keep moving.  By depriving yourself of any food, you have no energy.  It’s just plain and simple, but what you eat is super important.

Step 3:  Portion your snacks.  I brought up that nuts are a great snack, but in moderation.  You need to read the nutritional labels and make sure you are measuring the right amounts and not eating too much.  Nuts, again, are great, are a wonderful source of energy, but they are high in fat. You need to eat small portions, such as a handful, for it to be an appropriate snack size.

Again snacking is good and it is important to keep yourself energized and alert throughout your day.  We need to be aware of the habits we have formed. As I learn more about fitness and health I realize that we are all an equation.  We need to solve ourselves and try to understand why we do what we do.  Every year I grow older, I learn more about myself and I find out what works for me.  We all need to find our way to stay healthy and happy.  Keep striving and be positive!