For many of us, our diets fail in-between meals. We might eat quite healthily when it comes to mealtime, only to be let down by unhealthy snacking in the afternoon and evening. With that in mind, logic dictates that if you can modify your snacking behavior, you can improve your diet and lose weight. In this article I have one simple suggestion that can help you do just that.
The key is to make yourself work for it. Don’t ban yourself from eating the snacks that you love, but make the process of getting your hands on them more difficult.
Will this really help? Science says yes – it’s all to do with convenience.
In an article on overeating on This Emotional Life, Suzanne Phillips, PsyD, referenced a handful of studies that hammer home the effects of convenience on eating (paraphrased):
In one study, a dish of chocolate kisses was moved over the course of weeks to different locations in secretaries’ office: the corner of the desk, the top of the left hand drawer and on a file cabinet six feet from the desk. It was discovered that the further the dish was from people, the less they ate – a difference reflected in 225 extra calories a day. In the debriefing, the secretaries revealed that the longer the distance, the more time they had to talk themselves out of eating another piece!
In another study a cooler full of free ice cream was placed in a cafeteria. It was in the same place every day, but on some days the glass lid was left open and on other days it was closed. On the closed lid days only 14% of the diners had ice cream compared with 30% on the days it was left open.
We’re talking about a simple exercise in psychology: if you’re getting a craving for a particular snack, then put yourself in a position where you have to put effort into getting hold of it. Don’t make it as simple as opening a cupboard – make it so that you have to walk or drive to your local store (for example).
That little extra effort required may offer enough discouragement to convince you not to have the snack (or choose a healthier alternative that you already have in the house). Worst case, you’ll burn a few more calories making the trip to get the snack!
If you want a more challenging version of this and your local store is a semi-considerable distance away (say a mile or so), resolve to walk to the store if you want to get a snack. Your net calories consumed will be lower.