How to Avoid the Mindless Munchies

By , SparkPeople Blogger

We’ve all had the ''I deserve this'' or ''I just need to relax'' munchies. What can we do to prevent them? After a long day of work, you come home exhausted. Or maybe you’ve spent the day feeling depressed, or maybe you’ve worked really hard on your plan. Perhaps you’ve had a fight with someone, or have been disappointed. The ''I deserve this'' or ''I just need to relax'' munchies'' actually fall under the category of emotional eating.

The ''I deserve this'' category means something is missing. Maybe you’ve had someone be too hard on you; maybe you’ve been too hard on yourself. What you are looking for is a treat. If you can control the portion and lay down some rules, this can be overcome. I personally overcame it by allowing myself treats out of the house. Treats are too tempting in the house. If they do have to come home, they are in a small portion or size. The other method, which I find impossible, is putting treats on your no-no food list.

The ''I just need to relax'' munchies are a sign that you may have some anxiety or stress issues. I’ve personally handled these issues by talking, blogging, and attending professional therapy sessions. There is a list of things that calm me and soothe me without food now. Candles, baths, blogging, talking, helping others and physical activity all seem to help.

It's important to sort the ''head hunger'' from the ''real hunger.'' Try drinking a huge glass of water; this gives you time to distract yourself. Then try other distractions like playing games online, physical activity, relaxing with candles, shopping, getting your haircut or even scheduling an appointment. By then, you know if you are really hungry. If you are, eat a healthy meal or snack that actually fills you. If you are not, then you have to decide to do ''damage control.'' As I say, ''One slice of pizza always has less calories than two.''

Keep your head clear. Don’t be seduced by the eating frenzy that leads to the food coma state. Yes, it is enticing to some of us because we are hooked on the brain chemical release that being overly full produces. We literally get hooked on our own chemistry like a drug, so when we try to eat less, it is literally like withdrawal for some. That makes us feel nervous and like we ''need to relax.''

There are super support groups here on SparkPeople for just about every need, and emotional eating is one of them. I’m a member of the Emotional Eating Group and it has helped me.

SparkPeople has also launched SparkPeople LIVE! meetings where you can see and talk with others via webcam and microphone. Sometimes Chris Downie, Coach Nicole, and even Coach Stepf have graced us with lessons. I’ve attended support meetings there and still do when I can. There are classes at about any time of day and evening. This is a great tool! It keeps me motivated and out of the kitchen for an hour. Then I feel so fired up after the meeting that I don’t want to binge or overeat. I find a healthy snack instead.

Finding people with the same issues can be good and bad. You can help each other fight together, or go down together. Find strong people to lean on at first to hold you up while you also communicate with Spark friends with the same issues.

These are my personal tips and tricks. Take what you like and leave the rest.

What do you do about the ''I deserve this'' or ''I just need to relax'' munchies?


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I plan my treats. Do I want to cave and have candy now?... or do I want to share a slice of cake on date night?

When I plan ahead and have something exciting to look forward to, it makes it easier to ignore those cravings.

Do I want to add cheese to my salad now?... or do I want cheese on my burger later?

Do I want an extra cup of coffee now?...or do I want a glass of wine later?
KOALA_BEAR 7/23/2019
If I choose to eat a food I am craving, I only eat half a regular portion. I then eat something else with a different taste like if I want cheese puffs, I then eat something sweet like a,piece of fruit, or even a bite or two of candy. I drink a big glass of water or make some some tea & decide what else I want knowing that it will be tracked. When I,want something immediately which is another sign, drinking choc soy milk or coconut milk w/ cinnamon & vanilla helps or I make a smoothie w/ banana & protein powder even late in the evening. Sometimes I can then eat late the next day & go light on calories so two days balance out. I try whatever works. Report
PAMBROWN62 7/17/2019
I have gotten better the longer I have been on my journey. However, I still have these moments. I have learned to use some strategies to delay giving into the urges. Since this is a lifestyle and not a diet dealing with this will be ongoing. Report
DRAGONFLY631 5/15/2019
I don’t keep junk food in the house so that helps. Report
Some great tips Report
I stopped mindless eating by planning meals in advance, keeping fruit, healthy fresh veggies prepared for snacks, and stopped buying salty chips and pretzels. Report
I am working on stopping my mindless eating. Report
It's easy for me to eat mindlessly. These are good reminders. Report
Cured mindless munching by not buying "mindless" foods. If you get the munchies and only have say prunes on hand to munch on, it is automatically limited. I get a massage when I'm feeling the need to relax or unwind. Report
Great information that I so needed! Thank you!!! Report
Great comments!! I struggle with this one for sure!!! I take a long bath and try to rationalize with pros and cons of eating or snacking! Really find evenings hard!!! Report
This is a great ideal. This is really great information. This is one area I need help in. I have not had any snacks today at all except sugar free and fat free gum. Report
Thank you Report
I've recently found a free online trivia site with almost unlimited quizzes and questions to play at your own speed and in your own areas of interest. It's been great therapy for over-snacking.

Often when I'm desperate to eat something sweet or salty (and am bored or tired rather than hungry) the concentration needed to do a few quizzes will make me forget all about finding treats. Report
I like your observation "one slice of pizza is fewer calories than two." I guess I should remember that when I'm faced with my mom's potato bag of potato chips is fewer calories than two!! Report
I struggle with this - thanks for the ideas on how to overcome. Report
What a fabulous blog! You do such a great job of pinpointing what I, at least, face regularly, Beth!! My biggest problem is night time eating. I have fabulous days, then many are the nights I just undo all the good by binging. Sometimes I just go upstairs to bed early, but let's face it, that's just avoidance, and if I don't learn to deal with it better, does that mean I'll never be able to stay up beyond 9 o'clock? I have been looking for the right hobby to keep my hands busy, like many of the commenters here have talked about. A while back I decided to try cross-stitching, but somehow, as with many things, I put it on the back burner and then it slipped by the wayside. I do believe I am going to try to get that back up and running. Thanks, as usual, for a great blog!! Report
I'm reading the posts for suggestions as this is an area of great weakness for me. So glad to hear that there's Judith Beck team on SparkPeople. I'm off to find it right now!

Thanks for a thoughtful and helpful blog. Report
I eat when I'm stressed, so really need to try and stay calm. I'm keeping busy, so that helps. Report
I substitute an activity that literally keeps my hands full, like knitting or reading (an honest-to-goodness, printed book, magazine or newspaper!). I find it's useful to not have my hands free. Being at the computer, for instance, doesn't help me with the temptation to eat. Report
I follow Judith Beck, PhD in her wonderful book "THE BECK DIET SOLUTION". We have a Beck Team here. Report
I play with my kids. They won't let me have an unhealthy snack without giving them one and I am certainly not giving them junk food. Report
I pray, read, have some water or crochet. Report
I knit! I find if your mind and hands are busy, by the time you have finished a row or a pattern, the craving is usually gone. If it is not, I do another row/pattern and then it is time for bed. Report
Drinking water has helped me a lot. Report
I am learning to play the ukulele. And I crochet in front of the TV. Amazing how much those two things help. Report
I do not buy any bad snack foods for I know I will eat not only the portion amount but more then I should. I find stress make me want to eat and I can't tell the difference between hunger and tireness. Report
I eat it. For me it is about moderation. Since this is a lifestyle change, I am not going to deprive myself of those rewards. As long as it keeps me within my daily ranges, I will indulge. For me, the treat is usually bread. I LOVE bread!! I could sit and eat an entire loaf in one sitting. Last night we bought a loaf of artisian sour dough bread, I cut off two servings for myself (my treat for 3 hours of fitness), my husband got what he wanted, then I threw the rest in the trash so I wouldn't be tempted to "snack" on more later. At the end of the night, after my pudding snack desert, I was still within all my nutrition ranges. Report
I never feel like "I deserve this" because I always know I can't afford it. I have enough trouble getting the minimum daily nutrients so I buy absolutely NOTHING extra. Ever. If someone offers me something free when I am out somewhere, I know I can take it because I never even make my minimum daily calories. I try to divide whatever it is into as many portions (bites) as possible, so I can have it over several days. One square of a hershey bar lasts me for two different times. I haven't received a paycheck since October 28th and am living in sheer desperation on cash advances. I never, ever "eat to relax" because it is so NOT relaxing to be aware of what the food costs. I have somehow, miraculously managed to lose all the weight I gained through sheer stress and eating nothing AT ALL but Ramen noodles for months at a time - plus one McDonald's dollar burger a week. On that CRAZY diet, I gained weight. I have lived in financial HELL since my husband's job disappeared 8 years ago. I worked 16-18 hours a day, plus a 2 hour commute, for 6 1/2 years. Then I went with a start up company - which went out of business at the end of October. We started a new company, which has clients but no revenue yet - so as of this weekend, I am losing my office AND my internet connection. They couldn't pay the rent here. I have no savings, no insurance, and my only family is my husband and my mother, who I also have to support financially. That is why I am in SO much debt and so much trouble. To me, food is not "fun", it is NOT a "reward" - it is not recreation. It is fuel for survival and an extraordinarily burdensome cost that can not be totally avoided. Through SparkPeople, I learned about healthy eating for the first time in my life - and went thousands of dollars in debt to do it for the past seven months. Once a week, our local City Councilman hosts a reception at a local restaurant to introduce the neighborhood to that restaurant. They provide food at these, free. That has become my most valued meal of the week, because I can actually eat without spending anything. I guess "Mindless Munchies" are not my biggest worry. Stress weight is.