Snacking on The Virgin Diet
By JJ VIRGIN
You probably have a co-worker whose diet plan includes 100-calorie snack packs, which she munches on while multitasking at her desk all day. You know better: those tiny packets are mostly sugar that spike and crash blood sugar, raise insulin, and ultimately store fat.
On The Virgin Diet, I take that a step further: I don't want you to snack unless you absolutely have to. I realize this goes against the between-meal grazing and consistent mini-meals some experts recommend, but hear me out.
Why Snacking Inhibits Fast Fat Loss
I've found that three meals (I count The Virgin Diet Shake as a meal) works better than mini-meals or snacking for fast fat loss. Here's why:
Every time you eat, you raise insulin levels. Granted, those sugary snack packs will raise insulin more than raw almonds would, but eating triggers an insulin response, period. Insulin's job is to get sugar out of your blood and into your cells or stored in your liver or muscles.
In other words, insulin is a storage hormone. Guess what else it stores really well? Yep: fat.
Snacking is also an easy way to rack up calories. I don't worry about calories so much in my book “The Virgin Diet,” since I find when you eat the blood sugar-balancing foods I recommend, you instinctively know when you're full. By optimizing the right hormones, you maintain steady blood sugar levels, reduce cravings, and signal your brain to stop eating.
That doesn't mean calories don't count. They do, and too much of even healthy foods will stall fast fat loss.
Leaky gut and other digestive problems also stem from constant grazing. Taking a bite of this and handful of that throughout your day means your poor digestive system doesn't get a break, and eventually problems occur. Gut-related inflammation, for instance, can seriously stall fast fat loss.
Tips for Eating Meals So You Won’t Need Snacks
When you eat substantial meals with enough food to make you full but not stuffed, you won't need to snack. You can go four-to-six hours without hunger and cravings. Try it, and see.
Start your day with The Virgin Diet Shake to stay full and focused all morning. A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a higher-protein breakfast reduces your hunger hormone ghrelin, which means you're less likely to raid your receptionist's homemade peanut butter brownies she left in the office lounge.
I load the Virgin Diet Shake with my All-in-One powder, frozen berries, kale or other leafy greens (seriously, you won't taste them), flax or chia seeds, and unsweetened coconut or almond milk.
That fast fat loss formula - protein, good fats, and fiber - keeps you full and focused for hours. You can use the same formula for The Virgin Diet Plate at every meal.
4 of My Favorite Plate Options Include:
1. Grass-fed beef with broccoli in coconut sauce and ½ a sweet potato
2. Free-range chicken with brussels sprouts and lentils
3. Wild-caught salmon with zucchini and quinoa
4. Spinach salad with free-range turkey and avocado drizzled in olive oil
Admit It: You're Snacking for All the Wrong Reasons
Your on-again/off-again boyfriend was a total jerk this morning, so you order a pastry with your morning dark roast. Looming deadlines leave you stressed, so you eat half a donut your coworker didn't want. At 10 P.M. you're bored, so you head to your freezer and devour that half-eaten pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
Rather than real hunger, people often snack out of boredom, stress, and other emotions.
Habit is another reason. You've become accustomed to rewarding yourself after a super-hectic afternoon, for instance, with a handful of something crunchy. And you associate Seinfeld reruns with popcorn.
Snacking also usually involves trigger foods. I don't see many people devour turkey breast, but watch how they eat popcorn: moviegoers get those big jugs and mindlessly munch while semi-engrossed in their film. Even healthy foods like raw almonds can become trigger foods that become difficult to stop eating.
Find non-food rewards. Instead of that late-night ice cream binge, for instance, take a hot bath with some chamomile tea and a trashy novel. Take a ten-minute brisk walk when you're feeling stressed rather than hitting the nearest Starbucks. (If you've got to get your caffeine fix, at least stick with calming green tea and bypass the food counter.)
Over time, you'll break the snacking habit and begin associating pleasure with non-food activities.
Keep The Enemy Away, Otherwise It Will Appear Before Bedtime
Ever notice how a will of steel suddenly dissipates around 10 P.M.? You've stuck with “The Virgin Diet” rules all day. You feel wonderful, you have increased energy and mental clarity, and your jeans fit a little looser.
Then it hits you as you're watching “Sex and the City” reruns: there's a jar of almond butter in the fridge. All thoughts are suddenly off Samantha's latest hook-up and more on getting your almond butter fix.
I allow almond butter on The Virgin Diet, but if some TV show or whatever cues a Pavlovian response to grab a spoon and devour it? Well, sorry, but you can't have this enemy lingering in your kitchen. It's got to go.
Even healthy foods can become problems when you can't control yourself. Let's face it: everyone has their poison. Keep the snacks out of your home and you'll be far less likely to succumb before bed (or any time).
Your Fast Fat Loss Friends to Decrease Snacking
Besides doing your meals right and keeping the enemy out, I've got a couple of tricks to curb your appetite and cravings so you're less tempted when those 3 P.M. double fudge brownies appear in the break room.
Many times getting the afternoon munchies simply signals you're thirsty. A glass of water could satisfy your hunger and save you a few hundred calories in the bargain. Green tea makes another hunger-buster, and the ECGC it contains provides an added fat-burning bonus.
Late-night hunger pangs are the worst. You've done dinner right, you haven't allowed your (dietary) enemy to enter the kitchen, but before bed you suddenly think that leftover chicken Marsala will help you sleep better.
I don't have to remind you that late night is the worst time to snack, since your body will most likely store rather than use those calories. Water to the rescue: one study at the University of Washington found everyone who drank just eight ounces of water before bed curbed their hunger completely.
Want to zap your snack cravings even further? Mix a scoop of fiber into your water. Among its duties, fiber balances blood sugar levels and reduces your hunger hormone ghrelin.
If You Have to Snack...
Maybe you're having movie night and want to munch on raw almonds while your friends devour buttery popcorn. Or you're stranded at the airport suffering a three-hour layover, and you're not ready for a full meal.
Sometimes you're going to need a snack. Make it infrequent rather than a daily habit, and don't allow snacking to replace healthy meals.
6 of My Favorite Snacks Include:
1. Raw nuts and seeds
2. Apple slices with almond butter
3. Nitrate-free jerky
4. The Virgin Diet Shake
5. Turkey slices with avocado
6. Kale chips with hummus or guacamole
Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness expert JJ Virgin is author of NY Times bestseller “The Virgin Diet” and the bestselling “Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy.” She was also co-host of TLC's Freaky Eaters. JJ frequently blogs for The Huffington Post, LIVESTRONG.COM, and other prominent media outlets. She created the 4 x 4 Burst Training Workout and regularly appears on TV shows like Rachel Ray and The Today Show to discuss topics such as fast fat loss, weight loss, and food sensitivities.
Blom WA, et al. Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Feb;83(2):211-20.
University of Washington Study reported in Integrated and Alternative Medicine Clinical Highlights 2002 Aug 4;1(16)