Exercise of a Different Kind, or: How to Not-Eat

Exercise is the topic du jour, as it seems. No doubt, exercise is good for you – no matter whether you are on a weight-loss journey or not. It burns calories, it keeps the circulation going, it takes us out of our homes, and it actually releases endorphins and makes us feel good. Yet, occasionally I have also wondered whether exercise is prescribed on diets, too, because it creates a situation where you can’t actually *eat*. It’s hard to do a lap of butterfly stroke in the pool with an ice-cream in your hand; you would need two spare hands for nachos and dips if you were cycling at the same time. And you’d leave a trail of crumbs and lettuce leaves if you attempted to eat a wrap while jogging. So 30 minutes of exercise equals 30 minutes of not-eating. That’s pretty good. That’s not taking into account the fact that the exercise may have made you feel ravenous, though… Counter-productive?

But well, let’s just take on the premise that exercise *also* works because it is a period of time during which we *can not eat*. Proper, gym-based, sweat-inducing, calorie-burning exercise isn’t something I can approach at the moment. I lack the time for that, I don’t want to spend big money on gym membership and pools, and most of all I am not ready to be seen by others while exercising. Eating, on the other hand, I seem to have endless time for. It’s crept into my day and has established itself with an insidious kind of routine that I find hard to break. There is the kind wake-up tea and biscuit delivered to my bedside table by the well-meaning husband. Work at the computer is regularly interrupted by quick dashes to the biscuit tin in the kitchen. Cooking dinner for the family in the evening, bits of ingredients find their way into my mouth. A lot of it is not even conscious eating, but a habit. And worst of all: There is this lovely part of the evening when husband and I are watching our daily instalment of The Block NZ (middle-aged porn of the highest order: a reality-TV house renovation competition during which 4 couples renovate shells of houses into luxury homes. Six seasons á 40 episodes to go through.), nibbling through crisps and chocolate bars. Yes, watching TV is the worst offender, because it’s a passive occupation where my hands are free.

Let’s apply science to this: If hands free = opportunity to eat, then ergo: hands occupied = no opportunity to eat. With that in mind, I copped on to myself. True, I can spend hours at my desk, fiddling with scissors and glue to create little shrines, not once thinking of food. Or spend a whole afternoon turning Christmas sale napkins into fancy cushions. And I don’t even have to get off my bum to create the “not-eat” scenario.

No more guilty eating, Francis!

So here’s my plea from the dock for “not eating” in lieu of exercising: If you can’t find the time or money for exercise, or just can’t muster the energy and courage yet to exercise in public, consider creating new habits that will avoid the pitfalls of subconscious hand-to-mouth actions. Here’s my own personal list of dos and don’ts:

  1. I avoid watching TV – where I am sitting idle with two hands free for snacks and bits.
  2. If I still want to watch TV, I try to keep my hands occupied while doing so. I knit or crochet. Or if I’m really not into knitting, I make friendship bracelets (worked a treat for a friend of mine when she gave up smoking and needed to keep her hands busy).
  3. There are always periods of “loose ends” during my day, which I often used to fill with a quick snack as a replacement activity. I have started to fill the time creatively when I need to keep my hands busy. Blogging doesn’t count because laptop time > too easy to snack beside the screen. But lately I have dusted off the sewing machine again, and for once-offs I occasionally do some decorating stuff (a sure sign that I am middle-aged 😂): arranging some flowers nicely, changing the mantlepiece decor, replanting the window box.

    Francis occupies himself with scrapbooking – that’s another option
  4. Sure, you could fill the time with chores, too, if you are so inclined (but for me, instead of vacuuming or washing the windows, it feels a bit more motivating to occupy my hands with things that I *like* doing. At least during the transition phase where I am trying to break the snacking habit).
  5. Going out to watch a play/movie is always good, too, instead of slipping into bad habits in front of the telly. Two hours+ without eating – if I resist the pull of popcorn in the cinema.
  6. Having other people around also makes me reign in my urge to snack. I tend to eat less and more gracefully when observed by other people…

    Manners, Francis, manners!

Added bonus: Feeling less guilty for having caved in to snacking urges, having more creative output, and being more sociable. BTW, I haven’t given up snacks completely. There are a few low cal, low-carb favourite snacks that I go to when I just can’t be bothered to be good. But that’s meat for another post.

How do you beat the snacking habit?

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21 thoughts on “Exercise of a Different Kind, or: How to Not-Eat

  1. For the moment it is really a hard time for me at home. It is the time of the galette, a cacke made of puff pastry and filled with frangipane, then the time comes of Candlemas, when in each household a lot of crêpes are offered, and then the time of the beignets for carnaval.
    To avoid to eat too much of each I try to eat slowly and be conscious how many pieces I have taken. Also I have decided to put the snacks in the highest shelf in a cupboard downstairs, so I have to go the stairs. I am a lazy bone and when I sit down to watch a film or read a book or whatever I don’t want to get up to search the snacks. Unfortunately this works only when I am alone. My sons destroyed this strategy on a regular basis because they fetch the sweet titbits.

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    1. Having other people around when you are trying to diet, is really difficult. I actually had to laugh really hard yesterday when my husband called me in to have ‘elevenses’ (mid-morning snack). I had a cup of tea and a dry rice cake – and he pulled out a massive, cream-filled bun. It almost seemed malicious on his part. (But he was actually quite sheepish and sorry…) My usual strategy against that sort of scenario is to have really yummy, low-cal snacks available so that I can have my little treat and don’t envy them theirs. But I still think it would be easier if I was alone and not faced with the ‘normal’ food *they* eat…

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  2. We have a lovely lady at work who loves to make sure our meetings have snacks. Today she put out those white mini donuts. I was the first one in the room, waiting for the others who were late. Needless to say, I ate two of them. It is very hard not to snack when they’re right there in front of you!

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    1. Yes, hard to avoid snacks, sometimes. I had a situation yesterday where a friend dropped by around lunchtime just as I was sitting down to eat. I had no-points banana pancakes, but she had brought a gift of home-made salted caramel spread. It would have been impolite not to try it on my pancakes. *sigh*

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  3. Yes I think to find strategies for eating in company is important. Also is not very good to watch someone eating a very yummy snack and oneself is salivating. Imo we can enjoy our cola etc but it is the amount we have to reduce.
    It is easier said than done, sigh

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  4. oh no, peanut butter if fattening? Jeez, the stuff I don’t know. How about chewing gum? That might prevent inappropriate snacking. I like to chew gum because as a coffee drinker, I am self-conscious of bad breath. If I am going to eat anything, including the usual peanut butter sandwich I used to keep in the fridge at work, I have to consciously take the gum out of my mouth and find a place for it (for later or put in the waste bin, or share it if someone else wants it, not as gross as that sounds) before I can put anything else in my mouth. I find that when someone brings food or treats or whatever for everyone to eat, it is an effort to rid myself of gum so I either wait until later or just pass on eating anything because I have gum in my mouth. As I am getting older, I also hope it keeps my face muscles exercised but I don’t know if that is a thing or not. Side note: Anyone ever have a nun hold out her hand when she caught you chewing gum and you had to spit it out? My hubs (who was never a nun, or catholic for that matter) does that to me now when he expects me to put something else in my mouth. Get your mind out of the gutter Zee! I’m talking about a banana or like last night, we snacked on celery sticks when I got home. That reminds me, my dogs don’t like celery (unless it is cooked) but they like raw and cooked carrots. I buy them and give them as treats to the boys. It is a good way to keep their teeth clean, good for digestive tract and a healthy snack for us all. It also takes a lot of time chewing which might help you from eating other things?. 😊

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  5. I confess, I’m a snacker. I usually stitch, watch something on Netflix and snack. I love potato chips, & try to eat baked chips instead. Am also trying healthier snacking. So veggies, crackers, air popped corn & my new fav crispy chickpeas. They take a bit of time to bake, but are SO GOOD!

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    1. Oh, snacking is my downfall! It is what is responsible for my horrific increase in weight over the last 18 months. Luckily, this time ’round my resolve seems to be pretty strong and I am half-way through establishing a new habit. I’m planning to write a post on snacking, soon. I’d love to hear more about your crispy chickpeas, btw.

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      1. Oh brilliant. I have quickly calculated the WW SmartPoints and it looks as if this would fit into my plan. Hooray. Sounds as if peeling the chickpeas might be a bummer, but I am so trying this recipe!!

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      2. Grrr, I have tried kale chips but I thought they were vile. What the hell is an air fryer??? *searches internet* Ah, found it. Hm, maybe not that great when on a low-carb diet…
        And BTW – made my first batch of baked chick peas. Mixed results – some are crispy, some are soft. My seasoning needs improvement. But I really liked the experiment (although peeling the little peas was a pain in the… fingers!)

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      3. Yea, peeling chickpeas is extremely time consuming. Did you put them on a paper towl and dry them thouroughly?
        I generally use chaat masala on mine. It’s sour, salty & spicy 😀

        I love my air fryer. Today for part of lunch, I roasted broccoli and tossed it with some sesame oil & garlic. So yummy!

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      4. I only peeled a small tin of peas, but it took its time. It’s easy enough, but time-consuming. I did dry them on a paper towel, but maybe I was not thorough enough and that’s why some of them are squishy after baking.
        That air fryer did sound good. But my kitchen space is limited, and husband is going to be annoyed with another piece of equipment on the worktop, so no…

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