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Snackoholism – A very British addiction

Forget cigarettes, alcohol and even drugs, there is a new addiction sweeping the nation – snackoholism.


Forget cigarettes, alcohol and even drugs, there is a new addiction sweeping the nation – snackoholism.  We were brought up being told not to eat between meals but now it seems that we literally cannot help ourselves, we have become a nation of snackoholics with 4% of Brits actually admitting to being addicted to snacking and finding it impossible to quit. 
No sex please, we’re peckish
A survey by home delivery diet brand, Diet Chef, has uncovered some shocking truths about British snacking behaviour - not least that more than one in ten of us (12%) would rather snack than have sex.  It seems our need to snack is taking over our lives as 6% of us even admit to snacking in bed pointing to the fact that for some Brits, romance really is dead.
A third of us (34%) would rather give up alcohol than snacks and 13% of smokers said they’d rather kick their nicotine habit than give up their chocolate, biscuits and crisps.
As a nation, the number of snacks we are consuming has reached colossal proportions.  Our snack of choice is crisps, 61% of Brits admit to eating at least one packet of crisps per day – some as many as five or six packets a day – this equates to a staggering 48 million+ packets of crisps being consumed every day by the adult population of the UK.  Add to this 45 million+ chocolate bars and the 78m biscuits and cakes we eat every day and it is no wonder we have an obesity crisis on our hands.
One in 10 of the people surveyed have either a burger, a pizza or a portion of chips as a snack every day showing we no longer understand the difference between a snack and an actual meal.  Yet only 14% of the people surveyed knew how many calories something as basic as an average portion of chips contained.
Diet Chef’s nutritionist, Caron Leckie, comments: “Our survey shows the extent to which snacking has got out of control, most of the people we surveyed said they snack out of habit or boredom which shows people are eating without thinking, not out of necessity.  The Diet Chef programme provides all your meals and one snack per day and controls your calorie intake so you are guaranteed to lose weight.”  
Caron’s 10 steps to avoiding snacking:
It can be difficult to curb or change snacking habits as there are many different components involved – sometimes we snack out of hunger, boredom, cravings or just pure habit.  Identifying our snacking ways and preparing ourselves is the first step to snacking success.  As the saying goes failure to prepare is preparing to fail.
1. Identify what - whether you want to cut down on or cut out your snacks you need to know truly what you are snacking on – it’s actually quite common to snack without even realising what or how much we are having.  Keeping a food diary can help you identify your snacking reality, and using a BMI calculator can help to ensure you know how many calories you need to be consuming each day.
2. Identify where - once you know what your snacks are, you need to consider where you are most likely to snack.  Is it in the office?  Passing the vending machine?  Or at home?  When you know where you snack you can focus your efforts on clearing out your snack drawer in the office or the snack cupboard at home.
3. Identify when - then think about when you are most likely to get the urge for something – at night in front of the TV?  Late afternoon?  Or it might be emotionally related – whenever you’re stressed, lonely, bored or feeling down.  Knowing when you snack gives an indication of what may trigger your snacks – is it mid-morning? Are you having a sensible breakfast? Is it when you’ve had a bad day? Your snacks may be more emotion-related than hunger or boredom – when you’ve sussed out your snacking patterns, you’re ready to confront them.
4. Find a healthier alternative - there are always alternatives, if you are craving chocolate try a low calorie chocolate drink or instead of crisps try some popcorn - a healthier option means although you are snacking, it’s guilt-free.
5. Distract yourself - occupy your mind with other things – go for a walk, phone a friend, cleaning/ironing, read a book, take a bath, paint your nails - try a few things and see what takes your mind of those snacks.
6. Avoid tricky situations - prevention is better than cure so if you are tempted at lunchtime when you go to the shop, remove the need to go to the shop with a packed-lunch, take everything into work with you. If you associate having a biscuit with a cup of tea or coffee, cut back on the amounts you are having.
7. Cut the portions - if avoiding the situation doesn’t help you can make anything instantly healthier by cutting the portions - this way you get a little of what you fancy, just in a smaller package. Understanding portion sizes is an essential part of losing weight and maintaining your ideal weight.
8. Fill up on fruit and veg - we should be aiming for at least 5 a day so if you feel yourself reaching for a snack, try make it fruits or vegetables packed with nutrients and this will keep your hands and belly full till mealtime.
9. Make small changes - sometimes trying to tackle everything at once can mean we end up with too much on our plate (literally).  If you snack in the morning and evening – pick one to start with, or if you like both chocolate and crisps – again just pick one.  If you deprive yourself of everything that you like and is habitual, it’s much harder and likely to end in a cycle of deprivation and bingeing.
10. Don’t forget drinks - cutting your snacking is typically aimed at cutting some calories so don’t forget drinks will count too.  Whether it’s a fizzy drink, orange juice or the mid-morning caramel latte – they add up so choose a healthier alternative like green tea or water helping to cut your calories and also keep you hydrated as thirst can often be mistaken for hunger leading you to snack.
Notes to editors:
Survey carried out by OnePoll on behalf of Diet Chef amongst 2,000 UK adults in April 2012
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