Whether you enjoy a bag of crisps with a film or a slice of cake with your coffee, there really is no harm in having the occasional snack – even when you are trying to lose or maintain weight.
However, snacking can become an issue when you lose control over what you are putting in your mouth.
Enjoying every last mouthful of your favourite snack is one thing – eating a calorific snack to satisfy hunger, stress or boredom is something completely different. This is the most dangerous snacking when it comes to weight loss.
Luckily there are several things you can do to control urges to snack. One of the most useful that we have a lot of success with is the Discomfort Deal.
How to Use the Discomfort Deal
Don’t worry – it’s not as uncomfortable as it sounds. And it results in a lot more freedom and self-control.
It’s simple in theory, but very effective. It goes like this:
As soon as you have the urge to eat something that’s not conducive to your diet – let’s say a glazed vegan doughnut – set a timer for five minutes. As soon as that five minutes is up you can enjoy the doughnut.
That’s it. See, told you it was simple!
You aren’t reading that incorrectly. You CAN eat the doughnut. There is nothing stopping you. You are not denying yourself. You are simply sitting with the urge for five minutes.
It’s what you do during this five minutes of “discomfort” that actually makes a difference. You can begin to consider a few things.
Start by asking yourself why you actually want to eat the doughnut. Food is more than just fuel and we eat for other reasons than just hunger.
Ask yourself whether you are craving that sweet and fried taste? Are you feeling hungry? Are you a bit bored? Are you stressed? Is everyone else having one and you don’t want to be left out?
Having explored why you want the doughnut, you can look at some of the better solutions that may exist:
If you are hungry, is there a better choice that will fill your belly until the next meal? Veggies and hummus? Peanut butter and apple? Or a protein shake / bar?
If you are bored, is there a better way to pass the time? Could you read a book? Go for a walk? Do some chores? Play a video game?
If you are stressed, what’s bothering you? Can you try some breathing exercises? What about talking to a friend, doing some exercise, or laying into a punchbag?
If you are craving something sweet, could you try a healthier alternative? Perhaps some fruit or a lower-calorie snack, such as lightly-sweetened popcorn?
In the meantime, use the five minutes to consider your goal – most likely, since you’re reading this, your goal is weight loss. You are trying to lose weight for a reason but what’s your motivation? Do you want to look good on the beach? Fit into your wedding dress? Or simply feel healthier?
Reminding yourself of your goals and motivation gives you another reason to say no to the doughnut. Is the two minutes it takes you to eat the doughnut going to be worth the ~300 calories?
After all these considerations have been made, if you still want the doughnut, then EAT THE DOUGHNUT! You have fulfilled your deal and you have permission.
The Discomfort Deal is not about denying your favourite treats. As soon as we restrict foods, we immediately crave them. This isone reason why so many restrictive diets are unsuccessful.
No, you are allowed your treat, providing you give yourself some space between having the urge and making the action of eating it. That’s the deal.
It’s a powerful technique that works. If you end up making better choices even half the time, it will add up to something great.
The Discomfort Deal is simple, though not always easy. But commit to doing it every time you have an urge and you’ll start noticing how your self-control – and waistline – begin to improve!
As soon as you have the urge to snack, set a timer for five minutes (use your watch, phone or kitchen timer).
Ask yourself why you want to snack – hunger, cravings, boredom, stress, habit, or social pressure?
Consider your motivation for losing weight and how badly you want it.
When the timer goes off, if you still have your craving, eat your snack!