Q I live by myself and, after dinner, because no one is here to watch me, I have a terrible habit of grazing on biscuits or chocolate even though I know I am not hungry. I just don’t know how to get rid of the craving. Any suggestions?
A After-dinner nibbling is something a lot of people struggle with.
It’s one of many examples of how easy it can be to eat as a distraction, a way to manage your feelings or, in this case, to create a routine around eating certain types of food at a specific time of day.
When you repeat a behaviour, such as having something sweet after dinner, it can soon become a habit. This means your brain starts to expect and anticipate the behaviour and, as a result, can create the feeling of a craving for it.
Creating habits is one of your brain’s clever ways of trying to help make it easier to do things that it sees you doing over and over again. These habits can be helpful if it means it makes it easy to hop out of bed at 6am to get to the gym, but not so helpful when it means eating half a packet of cookies when you aren’t hungry.
The best solution is to create a new habit that you do at the same time you would normally eat your sweet food — try having herbal tea after you have finished eating, to cleanse your palate.
Alternatively, find an activity that takes you out of the kitchen. Maybe take an early shower and brush your teeth, do a crossword, phone a friend or chew sugar-free gum to make your mouth minty.
Another thing to remember is if those sweet treats aren’t in the house to start with, it will make it a lot easier as you won’t have to battle with your willpower so often.
So, best not to buy them or, at least, have them out of easy reach.