Dear self-proclaimed snackaholic
Dear self-proclaimed snackaholic,
I don’t actually believe you’re any kind of “aholic.” I don’t believe you’re addicted to sugar, salt, snacking, or food in general–or that you’re incapable of self-control.
Nope. Not at all.
I believe you’ve gotten yourself into a pattern of eating that was working for you at one time. Maybe it’s still providing you with something you need.
You might be bored, hungry, lonely, or feel guilt and shame over your eating.
Notice I included “hungry” — a perfectly legit reason to eat at a time that isn’t officially Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner.
But there’s nothing illicit or pathological about eating because you’re bored or lonely either. It’s a perfectly normal response to an uncomfortable feeling. Food is comforting. It’s been a comfort since infancy and if you ate without ever feeling an ounce of contentment, I’d be worried.
The guilt and shame, though. THAT is a problem. Guilt is great when it points out wrongs we’ve committed, so we can make things right. What are you guilty of when snacking? Really, truly…what have you done that is categorically wrong or immoral?
Nothing. At. ALL.
You’ve eaten some food. FOOD. The very thing that we humans require for survival. Not only have you done that, but you’ve apparently alleviated some loneliness or boredom or maybe soothed yourself when you were feeling some other kind of upset.
Go you! Go you for finding a little light in the darkness. Go you for attempting some self-care and niceness!
If you’re not guilty of a wrong, you certainly don’t deserve to feel shame.
But I get where it comes from.
We live in a culture that puts eating on a pedestal. Especially eating as it pertains to weight control. In today’s diet-focused culture, it’s easy to believe that how you eat reflects your character. Your “self-control” and self-worth. So you may think only weak people snack. The rest, posses natural willpower to remain strong in the face of all feelings and cravings. The rest have got their appetite whipped into shape. But that’s not even close to true.
Listen, it’s okay to snack. It’s okay to snack if you’re hungry. It’s okay to snack if you just feel like eating. Or because someone brought a plate of yum to the break room.
But I wonder if perhaps your snacking is not for any of those reasons. I wonder if it is… maybe…just perhaps… because you’re not giving yourself adequate nourishment. Perhaps you’re under-eating at meal times and don’t even realize it because you’re trying SO HARD to eat exactly right (i.e. restricting yourself perhaps in hopes of weight loss). Maybe you’re even skipping meals entirely, feeling bad enough about your eating that you don’t give the act of eating a chance.
Is that you?
Another reason that you might nibble your way through the day is that you’re putting too much pressure on your meals while denigrating your snacks. If you look at a meal as something that requires meeting 15 bullet points on a Proper Balanced Meal Manifesto, who has time for that?
A meal does not have to be perfect to be nourishing.
What’s that saying? Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good enough [to eat]. As dietitian, Ellyn Satter, says “It’s a … meal if you’re taking care of yourself.”
Carving some deliberate pauses into your day to take a seat with something edible counts as a meal. I would recommend you eat enough to feel totally satisfied. Not just “not hungry” but fully satisfied — enough so that you truly can forget food for a while. Nourishment is not just about an injection of vitamins, but a happy mouth, happy belly, happy mind.
Those snacks you enjoy? They are also not illegal (well unless you stole them or you live in a state that outlaws food). If something is worthy of being eaten as a snack, it is worthy of being eaten at a meal. If you are low in energy, time, money but there are some foods you have around that you nibble on, by all means consider that GOOD ENOUGH.
Gather those snack items together, plop them on an eating surface, say a blessing or take a few deep breaths and treat the occasion with dignity. Sit, eat, get fully satisfied. Then be happy that you were lucky enough to get to eat something tasty and move on.
“BUT…but…” you might say. “I have goals. This snacking is getting in my way…. What about health?”
First rule of health is getting enough, consistently. You can not get enough of anything while simultaneously acting from the fear of overdoing it. It doesn’t work. You must first dive into the void, and fill your heart and belly with kindness.
Imagine trying to fill any other need by constantly removing the source of supply. Stopping a hug halfway because you don’t want to fill someone’s love cup to overflowing. Pick any human need, physical or emotional, and consider what it’s like to only dip your toe into fulfillment, over and over and over. Not at all productive.
You’re not a snackaholic. You just need to give yourself some permission to eat foods you enjoy, eat to satisfaction, and practice self-care in a way that actually serves you. If other types of kindness serve you better than food, by all means lean on those as needed. When food fits the bill, allow yourself to respectfully enjoy the act of eating. Meal or snack, it’s all food.