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.
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:
- I avoid watching TV – where I am sitting idle with two hands free for snacks and bits.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Having other people around also makes me reign in my urge to snack. I tend to eat less
and more gracefullywhen observed by other people…
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?