Updated: Jan 6, 2020
Whether or not you need to snack will vary from person to person. For some, they snack because they are truly hungry, or to avoid becoming ravenously hungry.. For others, they are motivated by other factors like their social environment, location, time of day, and accessibility to food.
Interestingly, in one study which looked at people who were overweight and obese, the majority reported their reason for eating unhealthy snacks was because of temptation, with only a small percentage of participants reporting wanting to avoid being hungry later. The study also found that the need to snack, regardless of healthy or unhealthy snacks, was related to high levels of emotional eating. That is snacking either when they were feeling fed up, bored, or stressed.
If you are wondering whether you need a snack, ask yourself these questions before you reach for one.
Am I hungry?
Look out for physical symptoms of hunger like hunger pangs, growling or grumbling, an empty, slightly uncomfortable feeling, irritability or crankiness. Because hunger is physical and not a thought or craving, paying attention and being mindful of your actual hunger cues will help you decide whether or not you need a snack.
Am I stressed?
During periods of stress, your nervous system pumps out the stress hormone cortisol, which then produces a high-alert “fight or flight” response. For some, this prompts them to reach out for “comfort foods” to deal with the stressful episode. In fact, numerous studies have found that physical or emotional distress can increase one’s intake of food high in fat, sugar, or both. Stress is a regular part of life and at the workplace but stress-eating does not have to be. Keep your stress-snacking at bay by taking a walk, practising meditation techniques, or listening to music. At the workplace, it may even help for you to take away the temptation by swapping unhealthy snacks for healthier ones.
Am I pressured to eat?
Not wanting to feel left out or feeling guilty for saying no to food when your friends or colleagues offer you can make many feel uneasy. However, if you are offered a snack at a time you don’t normally eat, or you have just eaten and are not hungry, it is ok to say no thank you. We will not always be on the same page with those who surround us, so make an informed choice based on where you are. Trying to please others will throw you off your natural cues of hunger and fullness.