Hive Health Media

Know Your Loops and Get Rid of Unhealthy Snacking for Good!

  • It has been a long day at the office and you are finally coming back home.
  • You feel hungry and you want to get some food very fast.
  • You enter the kitchen and start hunting to see if there is anything to eat.

Then, all of a sudden you see it: a chocolate bar.

It’s the one that you bought a couple of days ago, but which you have forgotten to eat for some reason.

  • Moving with blazing speed, it takes only a couple of seconds to grab that chocolate bar, unwrap it and eat it. It tastes good and it seems that your hunger is gone like a snap of a finger.
  • Unfortunately, after 15 minutes, you start feeling hungry again. Besides, you start to regret and blame yourself for eating that chocolate bar, instead of the healthy snack.

In fact, the unhealthy snacking has happened many times before and it starts to show in your weight.

You know that you have to get out of this bad habit, since it’s ruining your health.

You want it easy and fast

I can totally relate to this example, because it has happened to me in the past too. When I came home from work and if there was something unhealthy around, I ate it. When I looked at the reasons behind my actions, I found the obvious one: it was quick and easy to grab that unhealthy snack, instead of choosing the healthy one.

Unfortunately, I also realized that the longer I kept doing the bad habit, the more was my body getting stuff it didn’t need.

  • Another reason for choosing the unhealthy snack was the non-existence of a “game plan,” what to do if a craving for unhealthy stuff was triggered.

However, as long as I was living unprepared, I was 100% sure that I would be choosing the unhealthy option when graving emerged – again and again.

Letting the unconscious habits to rule your life

The unhealthy snacking is mostly occurring because you are following an unconscious pattern. This happens because you have been doing it long enough, the habit has become automatic and you don’t have to think of it anymore.

However, have you ever figured out how this pattern is structured and how it works? Because if you don’t, getting rid of this unwanted habit is difficult.

Knowing the pattern would also help you to find alternative way of executing your routine, thus improve the quality of your life in the process.

The awareness of the pattern would also help you to prepare for the coming in advance. This way the craving wouldn’t get you off guard – like what it’s doing now.

Understanding habit loops

Sometime ago, I read a book called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. It’s a great book about habits and helped me learn about the pattern that I had experienced myself.

The author talks about the habit loops and that consists of three parts:

  • Cue: Something which triggers the process
  • Routine: Steps you have to take to reach the reward
  • Reward: When you have executed the routine, you’ll get the reward and feel satisfied

For example, in my case I started to feel hungry (the cue), so I went  to the grocery store and bought an unhealthy snack (the routine). After I had eaten the snack, I would get the good feeling about it (the reward).

Unfortunately, the “good feeling” reward didn’t last long…and was replaced by excess body-weight and poor health.

However, when you know the process it’s easier to change one essential part of it: the routine.

So the cue and the reward stay the same, but only the routine part is replaced with a better alternative (like making a healthy Paleo smoothie, instead of eating a chocolate bar).

Loops in action

Now that you learned a bit about the loops, let’s put this process in action.

In this example, I’m going to show you how to replace the unhealthy snacking with a delicious smoothie instead.

1. Prepare your day. Yes, you have to do some preparation first. In fact, this action helps you with replacing the unhealthy routine in your habit loop, while still providing you the same reward.

Make sure that you have some bananas (1-2), strawberries, blueberries, cacao nibs and some coconut oil ready for you. I’m also adding some  superfood powder to the mix too, but I’m guessing you can do without those if you want.

(Please note! Make sure that it’s OK for you to eat the foods I mentioned – for e.g, that you are not allergic to them. Consult your doctor or certified nutritionist before proceeding if you are not sure).

2. Know the loop. If you have a day job, you’ll most likely feel hungry (the cue) when you are getting back home. So instead of choosing the unhealthy option, create the smoothie instead (the routine) and enjoy it (reward).

When you know the process, it’s easier to see what is happening on the background when the craving hits, thus you can prepare for it better.

3. Make the replacing routine exciting. Instead of just picking any replacement to your routine, try to choose something that really excites you. In my case, when I’m making the smoothie, I’ll look forward to it and I start imagining the healthy end result.

The smoothie itself is very easy to do. I put all the ingredients to a blender, put some water (at least 1 dl) in and blend them. When I’m finished, I pour the smoothie to a glass and sprinkle some raw cocoa nibs on top of it.

4. Make the replacement easy enough. It’s important to choose an alternative routine that is easy enough to implement.

If you are making things too difficult, you’ll start to question yourself whether you want to do it or not. In that case it’s very easy to choose something less optimal – or even fall back to the unhealthy pattern.

5. Keep repeating the new routine. You want to make this new routine a habit – something which is ingrained into your brain.

To make this happen, you’ll just have to execute the new routine long enough. And, if the replacement action is compelling and easy to do, you’ll have bigger chances for forming a new successful habit.

6. Apply it elsewhere too. Once you understand the habit loop, use this knowledge in the other areas of your diet too. By doing the changes gradually, you’ll start to see the changes in your body and in your mind and that affects positively to your self-confidence.

In fact, I have changed the other parts of my diet by doing things this way too.

So instead of eating some oatmeal porridge with bread and orange juice in the morning, I’ll eat my own alternative: an apple and a pear chopped and mixed together – sometimes with a banana and some high-fat yoghurt – with blueberries (or strawberries) and some nuts.

I have also replaced the excessive amount of coffee (I used to drink 7 cups per day) with green or other organic tea, thus dropping the coffee to 2 cups per day.

Conclusion

When you understand the habits and how they work, it’s easier to tackle them – especially the unhealthy ones.

In this post, I shared how I replaced my unhealthy snacking with a healthy Paleo alternative. I know that this snack serves me much better in the long run than the chocolate bar.

Even if the chocolate bar is easier to eat, it’s just a short-term satisfaction and in just a matter of minutes, I want more.

With the healthy option, I feel satisfied longer and I feel good about myself.

Over to you: What is the easy alternative for unhealthy snacking?

Timo Kiander, a.k.a. Productive Superdad, teaches WAHD superdad productivity for work at home dads. If you want to get more productive in your own life, grab 222 of his best Tips for Becoming a Productivity Superstar.

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