Step away from those Zoom meetings. Leave that lockdown wardrobe of baggy clothes behind. The worst of the pandemic appears to be over, and a summer of increasing freedom lies ahead.
But what if our summer clothes no longer fit? The past 15 months of disrupted routines and near-constant stress and anxiety drove many to seek comfort in food, which means many of us have gained weight.Dietitian and author Paula Mee is worried this will make us easy targets for companies peddling diet and weight-loss products.
What should you do when the snack monster attacks? When you are overwhelmed by a craving for chocolate, crisps, or some other fatty, sugary, or salty food? Dietitian Paula Mee has some tips.
1. Aim to eat nutritionally balanced meals. Meals that contain protein-rich foods and fibre-rich carbohydrates, as well as vegetables and/or fruits, are more likely to keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer.
2. Make sure you eat a nutritious meal or snack every three to four hours depending on your metabolism. Waiting too long to eat because you are busy or distracted can lead to excessive hunger and unhealthy food choices.
3. Do not stay up for too long after dinner. If your bedtime is more than four hours after dinner, you are likely to feel hungry again, which could lead to late-night snacking.
4. Try to avoid bringing ultra-processed snacks into your home. If they are not there, you can’t eat them. Replace them with less-processed snacks such as fruit, nuts, and yoghurts.
5. Limit environmental cues to eat. This means no scrolling through social media posts about food or watching television cooking shows. It also means putting that biscuit tin in the cupboard instead of having it out on the counter.
6. Some food cravings are learned behaviours that are associated with an event or environment. For example, you may enjoy crisps while watching TV. Change your routine for a while by listening to a podcast instead of watching television or by having a warming cup of herbal tea instead of the calorific snack.
7. Ask yourself if you are truly hungry? It could be that you are simply bored. If so, try breathing exercises or a distracting activity such as a short walk or listening to music. The craving should subside within five to seven minutes.
8. A different dopamine-releasing activity might also do the trick. Instead of immediately giving in to the craving for crisps, try cuddling your dog or watching a funny video and laughing out loud.
9. If you’re still hungry, have a snack but make it nutritious. A rice cake with hummus, a handful of almonds, or an apple will fill the gap until your next meal.