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It’s confusing, isn’t it?
You’re trying to figure out if you can snack in between meals and still lose weight, but you find all this conflicting information:
Snacking is good! It speeds up your metabolism!
No, don’t snack, too many calories!
Have these snacks: peanut butter, hummus, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese. They’re healthy; oh wait, those healthy snacks aren’t so healthy after all. Have an organic no-trans-fat protein bar instead.
It’s enough to make you want to scream.
I know the feeling - because any suggestion at all that healthy snacking is, well, healthy, is enough to make me scream too.
Let me explain.
In this article:
- Snacking And Obesity
- Don’t Bother Counting Calories
- The Multi-Billion Dollar Snack Industry
- How The Healthy Snacking and Weight Loss Trap Springs Shut
- Stop Snacking And Do This Instead
- Are You Ready To Stop Snacking?
Snacking And Obesity: The Link Between Them Isn’t Really What You Think
Between 1970 and now, many things occurred that resulted in today’s obesity epidemic:
- The prevalence of high fructose corn syrup in food items
- Skyrocketing sugar consumption
- Low fat foods produced in response to faulty research claiming fat is bad for you
Notice what’s not on the above list? A massive increase in the number of calories people consume.
A report by the US Department of Agriculture in 2011 noted that Americans consumed only slightly more calories yet snacked more than two times as often as in 1970.
In other words, the frequency of snacking is one of the biggest root causes of obesity, not the number of calories consumed.
But why does frequency of eating matter more than the number of calories? Let’s take a look.
94% of the US population snacks at least once per day. An average consumer in the US eats 4 to 5 snacks per day along with 3-4 beverage snacks per day.
From a healthy weight and metabolism perspective, this is horrific. No one’s body is designed to eat so often. When you graze all day long, you continuously spike your insulin - creating a significant excess of this powerful hormone in your body.
Your body is designed to seek what’s called homeostasis, which is the tendency to maintain a stable, relatively constant internal environment despite changes to it. When large amounts of insulin flood your body, it struggles to stay in homeostasis.
You may develop what’s called insulin resistance, where the cells that need insulin becomes numb to the hormone’s signal because there’s too much of it. But your pancreas, which makes insulin, never gets the message that there’s too much, so it keeps pumping out insulin in a vicious cycle as it thinks it’s maintaining homeostatis But in fact, insulin resistance is a pre-diabetic state.
One of insulin’s roles is to regulate blood sugar. When you constantly spike insulin, you’ll experience wild blood sugar swings - because insulin’s job is to bring down your blood sugar. When there’s too much insulin, it hammers your blood sugar far too low, causing you to be hungry, irritable, and tired.
As well, insulin is such a powerful hormone that it blocks fat burning. You simply can’t lose weight in the presence of too much insulin. In fact, because insulin tells your body to store fat, you’ll gain weight. A lot of it.
And it gets worse, which I’ll explain in a moment.
Don’t Bother Counting Calories
When people go on a diet they almost always count calories, a flawed and easily disproved method of weight loss that leaves you vulnerable to hunger and cravings.
And what do you do when you’re hungry and trapped in cravings?
You give in.
You eat frequently because you’re so darn hungry. Every time you eat, your insulin spikes, causing you to feel hungry soon after eating, resulting in a blood sugar crash from the insulin that floods your body, and raising your stress levels to the sky.
Surely, you reason, if you choose healthy snacks, you won’t have these issues right?
But wait, there’s more to the story.
The Multi-Billion Dollar Snack Industry
Global Industry Analysis Inc, a company that tracks and projects global trends, observes that the healthy snack industry is exploding. The worldwide revenue from healthy snacks is expected to exceed $600 billion dollars (that’s right, billion with a ‘b’) by 2020.
This explosive growth is driven by products called functional snacks - protein bars, so-called organic snacks, and those labeled gluten-free, low-carb, low-calorie, GMO-free, or no trans fat.
Even though items like organic peanut butter, full-fat organic Greek yogurt, and hummus are acceptable as part of a healthy meal, their lesser versions have been co-opted into snacks, resulting in them being far less healthy.
When I was growing up in the ‘70’s we didn’t have this dizzying array of protein bars, sugar-laden Starbucks drinks, or the sports performance drinks you find everywhere. Sure, we had granola bars, trail mix, jerky, and mixed nuts - but the choices pale in comparison to today.
We have too many choices, without enough information about what’s truly healthy for us.
How The Healthy Snacking and Weight Loss Trap Springs Shut
Here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter if these snacks really are healthy!
Because they still spike your insulin, with its resultant hunger, blood sugar crash, and irritability - not to mention the high risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.
It’s a trap.
Your blood sugars plummet in response to your snack.
You then feel tired and stressed.
You’re hungry; craving something to eat.
When you eat, you feel better because food lowers stress and provides energy. Your mood is elevated.
Sounds good, right?
Without understanding what’s happening in the background, you think you’re doing something healthy. Yet you’re creating a massive amount of insulin that wreaks the kind of havoc on your body that I described earlier.
Yet you have to eat because after each snack the insulin drives down your blood sugar, causing you to get hungry soon after you eat. And let’s face it - you won’t go long being miserably hungry. I don’t blame you. I wouldn’t either.
Stop Snacking And Do This Instead
Break out of the vicious cycle of snacking high insulin hunger more snacking more insulin.
The solution is elegantly simple:
It’s called intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting, known as IF, isn’t a diet. It doesn’t tell you what to eat. Rather, it’s a pattern of alternating eating with periods of purposefully not eating.
You don’t have to go hungry; the key is to eat healthy fats with your meal. Not only is fat satiating so it will keep you full longer, but of the three food macros - fat, carbohydrates, and protein - it spikes your insulin the least.
So grab a hard-boiled egg and slice it over salad, drizzle olive oil on some veggies, or spread some almond butter on celery sticks. Just make sure you do this as part of your meal instead of a snack. You'll be delighted to discover how much longer you can go before you get hungry again.
When you emphasize healthy fat at mealtime and combine it with periods of not eating in which no insulin is triggered, you can see how you train your body to stop producing excess insulin and help restore it to healthy levels. Plus, when your insulin is normal, you’ll easily be able to get into fat-burning mode and shed those unwanted pounds.
As you can see, it’s exactly the opposite of what happens when you snack.
If you haven’t yet tried intermittent fasting - I strongly encourage you to try it.
In fact, I’ll go so far as to say intermittent fasting is even more important than what you eat. That’s how powerful it is.
Are You Ready To Stop Snacking?
I know. You thought you were doing right for yourself by choosing healthy snacks.
It’s not your fault - there’s a gigantic industry that floods you with messages about these snacks.
But now you know better. You’re armed with the right information to take charge of your weight loss. Intermittent fasting will help.
And you don’t have to do it on your own! You probably have a lot of questions about intermittent fasting. I’ve got you covered - sign up for my free mini-course to learn how to do the basics.
Then watch your weight loss really take off.
I look forward to your success!
Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.