Why Snacking Might Be Wrecking Your Health

Snacking. It sounds so innocuous. What could be the harm in a bit of light snacking here and there?

This fairly new phenomena is now rampant. As a species we’ve gone from living through periods of feast and famine to living in one-big-long-feast-party. A survey of 1,139 people by Nielsen found that 91% of adults today snack at least once a day, including 25% who say they snack 3-5 times a day and 3% who claim to be always nibbling.

It’s not surprising that 60% of the UK population are overweight or obese. Compared to our recent ancestors every day is basically a par-teeee.

Fuelling your Body with Fat Versus Sugar – Why it Matters

If we offer our body both fat and sugar as fuels our body will use the sugar first because it’s a faster source of fuel.

The problem with relying on sugar as a source of energy is that it’s not very stable. It’s a fast source of energy that provides a quick fix. The sudden surge of energy from sugar crashes just as quickly. When we’re burning sugar as our main source of energy our blood sugar level is bounced up and down all day long. We feel this in our emotions and in our state of mind. It’s a rollercoaster that opens us up to stress and anxiety.

Fat on the other hand is a very stable source of fuel that balances our energy throughout the day.  It burns slow and steady which makes us feel grounded and emotionally and mentally stable.

Meal Spacing Allows us to Burn Fat

If we snack between meals we don’t give our body the space it needs for full digestion. Rather than digesting the food we’ve eaten fully and then shifting into deep fat-metabolism to get us steadily to the next meal it will continue to digest the constant stream of new food coming through our pie hole.

Why would your body burn fat (which it loves to hang onto just in case there’s a famine) when there’s always something new coming in every 2-3 hours?

Even if you eat healthy snacks, say you eat an apple or some nuts in between meals, your body will use those as fuel rather than turning to it’s fat stores. So no fat burning for snackers.

When we snack we lose the ability to burn fat. We become dependent, almost like addicts, on our next snack fix. We lose the ability to skip a meal and feel OK. Getting through the afternoon without a sugary snack becomes very difficult.

This is obviously bad news for our waistlines. If we never burn fat our waistlines will be heading in one direction only.

It’s also bad news for our emotional and mental stability. When we train our body to need feeding every 2-3 hours, surprise surprise, it demands feeding every 2-3 hours. We become physically and chemically needy. This keeps us functioning at quite a superficial level as we’re basically always on feeding alert.  Human adults should have the capacity to go for longer periods of time without feeding.

Fat-Burning Improves Sleep and Makes us Feel Goooood

Once you’ve weened yourself off the snacks you’ll experience better sleep. Once the body has been trained not to expect food every 2-3 hours and instead to shift into deep fat-metabolism between meals you’ll find you can experience deeper sleep at night as you’ve trained the ‘need snack’ from your system.

By Not Snacking you Build Simple Fasting into your Daily Routine

Spacing your meals by not snacking is the simplest form of intermittent fasting.

There is overwhelming evidence that supports the benefits of intermittent fasting. When we stop throwing things down our pie hole for a period of time and allow digestion to fully complete we give our body the opportunity to turn it’s attention to healing and repairing itself.

If we’re constantly digesting food our body never has a chance to turn to the essential maintenance that it needs to ensure ongoing health. Eventually problems begin to arise because we haven’t allowed time for this basic maintenance.

It’s time to mature

You know the score now and you’re ready to experience life post-snacking? Great! It may require a little bit of discipline and effort to being with but I promise that once you’re on the other side you won’t look back.

I was a serial snacker myself until earlier this year when I finally kicked the habit for good. My waistline had been gradually expanding and i knew cutting out snacking was the low-hanging fruit.

My feeding pattern at the start of this year was:

breakfast

mid-morning snack

lunch

afternoon snack (chocolate)

snack upon getting home from work to tide me over until dinner

dinner.

I did a 5 day juice fast for my spring detox and it hit me then. If I can go five days on juice alone and not die of starvation ( I actually felt fantastic and had more energy) then surely making it between meals was no biggy?

I started by having an earlier dinner, finishing eating by 6.30pm and then not eating anything else after that until breakfast (break-the-fast!). This began to imprint the pattern of daily fasting in my body.

I then made sure breakfast and lunch were substantial. I started eating more than I had previously been eating at these meals to ensure I could go between meals without snacking. At first I was overeating because I was afraid of going hungry between meals. I didn’t worry too much about this however. One thing at a time. My focus was simply to stabilise around three meals a day.

As I’ve trained my body to eat three meals a day and to feel comfortable going into fat-metabolism between meals I’ve started to gradually decrease the amount of food I’m having at each meal.

I’m still refining the process but I feel so much better for it already. My waistline has stopped expanding and i’m feeling more grounded and calm in my body and emotions.

Author: Sam Vale Noya

Yoga instructor currently living and teaching in Reading, UK.

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  • Natalya Dyer

    Ooh, interesting. I think that I’m mostly vata and do struggle with intermittent fasting. But I know that if I want my body to heal itself faster, not snacking makes a massive difference.

    • Sam Vale Noya

      Yeah it’s amazing how the body automatically goes to heal and restore balance when we just
      leave it alone!