At what time of day do you most often catch yourself snacking?
If you're like me, it's in the evening and there's a television nearby. Often, I'm not even paying attention to what I'm eating; it's just something to do with my hands because I'm restless or bored while watching TV.
That, friends, is the epitome of boredom snacking. I've really made an effort over the past few months to control this bad habit. I make sure before I flip on the remote that there is a bottle of Vitamin Water nearby and a magazine or book.
Weight-loss counselors will tell you the need to snack is usually the result of a mental trigger rather than physical hunger. Those triggers most often are stress, emotional gratification or boredom.
I've compiled 10 tips from Hungry Girl, diet-blog.com and Fit Day on how to bust the boredom snacking syndrome.
Don't try to go cold turkey and cut out all snacks at once. As we've heard nutritionists say repeatedly, "Depriving yourself only makes you want a food more." You might try 100-calorie packs and limit yourself to one pack a night while going through cookie/chips withdrawal.
1. Keep your hands busy. Try knitting, cross-stitching, file and paint your nails, work crossword puzzles, read -- anything that uses your hands and makes it hard to eat at the same time.
2. Get out of the house. Change your scenery so a cabinet of snacks isn't tempting you from across the room. Go for a quick walk, sit outside on the porch and read, or even just change rooms and move to another part of the house.
3. Brush your teeth and rinse with mouthwash. Chips and salty snacks are a lot less appealing when your mouth is minty fresh.
4. Quench your thirst. A basic tenet of Weight Watchers is that usually when you feel like snacking, it's your body needing hydration. So sip sugar-free tea, coffee or ice water.
5. Feed the need to chomp. Keep your tastebuds happy with a piece of sugar-free hard candy, sugarless gum or sucker. Hungry Girl says that 94 percent fat-free popcorn is another good choice because it contains just 20 calories per cup.
6. Don't keep "trigger foods" in the house. We all know what our weaknesses are, the foods that trigger a mindless desire to snack. Mine is Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls.
Out of sight, out of mind. Don't buy them. If they aren't in the house, they can't tempt you.
7. Keep a food journal. Carrie Underwood has stated in numerous interviews that she lost weight more easily by writing down every edible that passed through her lips.
The premise is when you see the list of everything you're eating in one day, you realize how much you overeat. Holding yourself accountable for everything you ingest will make you think twice about whether you really want that snack.
8. Sit it out. Here's one I hadn't heard before: If you force yourself to wait 20 minutes before getting the snack, nine times out of 10 you won't want it anymore. (But I bet that 20 minutes drags by like 20 hours.)
9. Don't skip meals. It's a no-brainer: If you aren't going long intervals between meals then you won't feel those stomach growlings that urge you to snack.
10. If you are genuinely hungry, eat fruit or veggies. Remember, fruit's free on Weight Watchers now. It's so much easier to reach for celery sticks or an apple if you have them already washed, cut and ready to grab when you open the refrigerator door.
Contact Susan Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6284.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...