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Snacking is Not as Great for Your Health as You Thought

Amelia Freer, nutritional therapist to the stars, on why giving up snacks is the smartest choice you can make.

Snacking is Not as Great for Your Health as You Thought
(Source: iStock)

Amelia Freer may be the woman behind Sam Smith losing over 14 pounds in two weeks, but she has no desire to be lumped into the diet and weight loss industry. "After working with clients for ten years I see people are getting more and more confused. The nutritional world is highly complex and I made the book Eat. Nourish. Glow. to be really simple and accessible," she told StyleBistro. Despite Smith's fast success, the nutritional therapist actually advocates a slow, gradual process when it comes to a healthy lifestyle change. It's her antidote to quick-fix regimens, short-lived detoxes and yo-yo dieting saturating the wellness world today.

We chatted with Freer about one of her biggest healthy eating tips—stop snacking. It turns out that eating smaller portions more often, even healthy food, isn't stabilizing your blood sugar levels and curbing cravings but actually setting you up for failure. Here's what you need to know.

Eating too often makes you hold on to fat

"I've found over the years that people are eating far too much: three meals a day, then a coffee here, then a bagel here, then a chocolate there. I was looking at my clients' food diaries and they were eating something every thirty minutes and that puts the body in a permanent state of producing insulin. We don't want to be producing insulin in such large quantities. It puts our bodies in fat storage mode."

Giving up snacking makes you more mindful

"Reducing the amount of times that we're snacking makes us more conscious and aware of how we're using food and why we're using food. For me, it is the key to weight loss."

Snacking confuses your true hunger cues

"We have such regular access to food and convenience shops that we got used to being full all the time. Now, if we're not full we mistake that for being for genuine hunger. After fasting for five hours, as I do, I'm ready to eat. I'm no longer afraid of that state of not feeling full all the time. I just try to work with clients to make them a little bit more aware of the difference. Not being full and actual, real hunger are very different."

Aim to fast in between your main meals throughout the day

"I now fast five hours, and was once this girl who ate little and often and was eating constantly. Now, I eat only three meals per day and my mind has adapted and my body has adapted to not needing to be putting something in my mouth all the time. The human body performs its best when it's in the fasting state."

Snacking puts the body in a permanent state of producing insulin...It puts our bodies in fat storage mode.

–Amelia Freer

Start giving up snacks slowly over time

"Even though I was very healthy when I stopped snacking, I found that three hours later I was absolutely ravenous and wanted to eat off my arm. I just added an extra half an hour to my fasting over a period of three weeks."

Eating a balanced breakfast is key

"What I've found is that it is crucial to get breakfast right because it is the starting foundation for the day.  Getting a good fat and protein along with vegetables helped me make that transition to five hour fasting. Aim for one fruit, one protein, three to five vegetables and a portion of good fat per meal."

Aim for consistency, not perfection in social situations

"As long as I'm controlling my food choices 80 percent of the time, when I go out or go to a friend's house I won't have anxiety. Get it right for yourself at home first and try not to worry about going out. Once a week, let your hair down and relax and eat what you want to so you're not feeling too deprived. I love red wine. On the weekend I will have a glass or two—make sure you're allowing yourself this so you're not on an on/off diet."

Eat. Nourish. Glow., $25, at barnesandnoble.com
Eat. Nourish. Glow., $25, at barnesandnoble.com
(Source: Harper Collins UK)

aim for nutritious food if you must snack

"It needs to be very small. Have one healthy carbohydrate such as a small piece of fruit or something like cherry tomatoes or a healthy cracker, married with protein like nuts or nut butter or a little piece of chicken or egg. Just make sure you're marrying the two. A little portion of carbohydrates, like a piece of fruit on its own, will make us hungry later. The protein slows down how the sugars in that carbohydrate get converted so we feel that we get a bit more energy for longer. It's always a combination of the two."

give up only one thing at a time

"What I find is giving up snacking can be emotionally challenging rather than physically challenging. Just give up one thing. I want to encourage people to do it slowly. It's a journey not a destination. It's taken me 10 years to get to the point where I eat a really clean diet. It doesn't matter that the girl next to you is sprouting her own lentils or making her own nut milk. You'll get there one day. It's a gentle journey. You have to not compare yourself."

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