Top 20 Reasons For Being Overweight - Part 3

Following a three year a study of nearly 1000 overweight people, I have put together a list of the top 20 reasons that we find ourselves over weight.

The last 2 posts have covered reasons 1 to 6. In this post, I'll be revealing that the 7th most prominent contributory factor in us is becoming overweight is Snacking and Grazing Between Meals. This entire post is dedicated to looking at some of the causes we snack, what we can do about it, and some ideas to help us snack more healthily...

7 Snacking and Grazing.

Habitual snacking or comfort eating represents a big challenge to many of us who are wishing to bring our weight under control. So, what causes us to pick at food in between meals, late at night, when we're bored or 'because we can'…?

So, here are ten of the main reasons we may find ourselves snacking and ways to combat it;

1. Dehydration..!!
‘Lack of water’ seems to get blamed for everything! But it's true, we're far more likely to snack if we're a little de-hydrated. Ironically, a lot of the snacks that many of us turn to, are either high in sugar (biscuits, chocolate, sweets, etc) or high in salt (crisps, nuts, etc), which compounds the effect! Whenever you find yourself rummaging through the cupboards or the fridge for 'no apparent reason', try a glass of cool, clean fresh water. Virtually every time, you'll notice that 'snacky' feeling dissolve away.

2. Don't allow yourself to become famished! In a previous blog, I mentioned that people who leave it until they're absolutely starving before they eat, are far more likely to make poorer food choices, eat much faster and consume much larger portions (missing the signals the stomach sends to the brain). Also, a person allowing themselves to become absolutely famished significantly increases the likelihood that they'll snack on something, given the opportunity.

3. Comfort Eating or Boredom. Yes, we've all been there. Feeling rotten about ourselves for some reason, so we head off to the fridge to see if we can find something to cheer us up!
Or we might just explore the fridge because there's nothing else to do .... and in either case, more often than not, once we've consumed whatever snacks we could unearth, we either feel 'completely riddled with guilt' or are totally bemused as to 'why we've just done that!'

Sometimes, it's just possible to catch this before it happens. Whilst you’re at the 'pre-snack rummaging' stage, just ask yourself, "Am I really hungry, or do I just want to change the way I feel?". This is a great question because quite often, once you realise you aren't actually hungry at all, you can feel a real sense of achievement and discipline as you walk away from the fridge having resisted the urge .... well done you!

4. Plan your snacks and stick to the plan. Of course there are snacks that can help contribute to your vitamin  / '5 a day' intake, so don't just chose them, plan a time when you’ll actually be eating them. By having ‘planned’ meals and snacks throughout your day, this is far more likely to allow you to feel in full control of your eating patterns by eliminating those times where you perhaps felt uncontrollably hungry in the past.

5. Never eat meals or snacks in front of the TV. If your mind is engaged elsewhere other than on your food, you will almost certainly miss the signals from your stomach and continue eating way past the point of what would be considered a 'sensible portion'.

6. Don't buy snacky food in the first place. Sometimes it’s just ‘good common sense’ to keep temptation out of harm’s way! The overwhelming majority of my clients agree that if the stuff isn't in the house in the first place, it doesn't bother them. So, when you're doing the weekly shop (by the way, don't even think of doing the weekly shop when you're hungry or snacky!), it's worth making a conscious decision to avoid buying some of those 'naughty' snacks in the first place.

7. Chew sugar free gum. Doing this between meals can make you far less likely to snack.

8. Resist snacking on meals that you are preparing. Okay, you may want to test the sauce is hot enough or check the pasta is 'al dante', and that's okay. However, polishing off a stray lamb chop because there's an odd number in the packet is just going too far!

But of course, we've all done it. Snacking or picking when preparing a meal is quite commonplace and clearly catches most of us at our most vulnerable ... just before a meal. Quite often, we don’t even know we’re doing it. The handy thing is that, once we are aware, we generally can exercise much more control. So, be aware…!

9. Don't finish off the food other people leave. Sometimes, people find themselves doing this out of pure habit. It isn't that difficult to break this particular habit with a little conscious effort. In addition, if for example, you find yourself frequently finishing off your partners meal, consider adjusting their portion size in the same way as you would your own.

10 Brush and/or floss your teeth after each meal or planned snack. We’re conditioned from a very early age that the act of brushing our teeth, along with the flavours that come with it, causes us to not expect any food for a while. In effect, it ‘switches off’ the hunger receptors in our brain. This will help you stay away from food for an hour or two; long enough for you to become engaged in something else.

Okay, So It Isn't Always That Easy ....!!

Of course it isn't. And losing weight and becoming fitter isn't something that happens in an instant, it's a journey. Three square meals a day is all well and good, but we all sometimes need a little something in between — particularly when we live an active lifestyle. However, snacking can easily become a diet downfall rather than an energy boost.

Finding food to eat when you’re hungry can be difficult when you’re trying to eat healthy. Having the time to prepare snacks is most of the battle. To eat healthy, is to eat fresh. Freshness doesn’t always come out of a box or package. Granted, those are the easiest and quickest foods to munch on. Just being able to grab a bag of crisps would be the ideal amount of time we would want to spend on preparing a snack! However, to get closer to your weight loss goals, it can be a good idea to 'pre-make' your snacks in advance.

So with that in mind, here are a few healthy, sweet and savoury snacking options, which you can use to fill a gap without piling on the calories!

It's also worth bearing in mind that many of these snack ideas need a bit of 'advance planning', which is great; when we can plan ahead, we're generally in much more control and are far less likely to be tempted by impulsive unhealthy munchies!

Remember when you’re dividing these snacks up, that they are just snacks, to be consumed between your three other meals. Portion control is always key in order to get the best results, so keep in mind that although these snacks are healthy, you should never over eat them.

1. Frozen Grapes
The first time I tried frozen grapes, I expected them to be hard and toothy-chippy like marbles. But I couldn't have been more wrong: they're like little ice lollies ... sweet, with the grape taking on almost an ice-creamy texture underneath the peel.

They're about 100 calories a cup, fat-free, and have all the beneficial flavonoids of regular grapes. Just wash them, pop them in a ramekin or container in your freezer, and let them sit for a few hours. Delicious!!

2. Fresh Popcorn
Popcorn is one of the best snacks to choose for overall crunch appeal. It’s light, healthy and provides a high amount of fibre. You can pick up bags of Microwaveable popcorn kernels in most supermarkets, they're inexpensive and will last you a while. For extra taste, add a few squirts of fat free butter spray and a pinch of seasoning salt.

By the way, don't confuse this snack with the likes of Toffee Popcorn, Butter Popcorn or other pre-packaged flavoured popcorn snacks. Many of these are very high in salt, sugar and/or fat.

3. Dried Apricots and Almonds
Almonds are high in protein and fibre, as well as being low-GI, a good source of magnesium, and rich in vitamin E (an antioxidant). Dried apricots, on the other hand, are rich in carotenes, which may lower the risk of cancers of the throat and lungs — and provide you with potassium, iron, calcium, silicon, phosphorus, and vitamin C. Interestingly, dried apricots have a far greater nutritional value than fresh ones because the nutrient content is so concentrated. Gram for gram, dried apricots have twelve times the iron, seven times the fibre and five times the vitamin A of fresh ones! The best way to eat this snack is to impale the almonds in the apricots!

Portion size:  Try 3 or 4 apricots with 10 to 15 almonds for a delicious snack of just approximately 125 calories.

4. Chicken Breast
Sliced chicken breast is a great snack to include in your dietary regimen. It's easy to cook an 'extra' chicken breast when preparing a meal, allowing you to have it on hand in the fridge for a quick snack. Cold, sliced chicken breast tastes great and is high in protein, low in fat and has virtually no carbs.

Always choose all natural boneless, skinless chicken breast versus pre-packaged luncheon meats which are processed and contain added sugar and salt.

5. Hummus or Peanut Butter on Crisp-bread, Baked Potato Crisps, Carrots or Celery.
A number of combinations here, all of which are quick, easy and healthy in moderation with a good mix of protein, fat, carbohydrate, and lots of fibre. While peanut butter is high in fat, it’s the unsaturated (or ‘good’) kind — and peanuts are a great source of the antioxidant vitamin E. Peanut butter is also rich in protein — so is an especially good option for vegetarians — and a good source of magnesium. Opt to spread the peanut butter on rye crisp-breads — which are low in salt, high in fibre and have a low GI — so you won’t get an energy high followed by a crash.

Hummus is best when you make it yourself using chickpeas — but if you don’t have time to do this, opt for the reduced fat variety, which will supply you with vitamin E, manganese, and disease-fighting garlic. Use raw veg — such as beta-carotene-rich carrot sticks and potassium-rich celery — to dip into the hummus, in order to boost your fibre intake.

Portion Guidelines: Two teaspoons of peanut butter on two rye crispbreads = 180 calories, whilst 50g (1.8oz) reduced fat hummus with carrot or celery sticks = 125 calories.

6. Dark Chocolate
Much to the surprise of many, you can eat chocolate as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Dark chocolate, containing at least 70 per cent cocoa solids is a good source of antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, which are the type that are found in green tea and red wine.

A number of studies have found that chocolate's main fat, stearic acid, has a neutral effect on the LDL (or ‘bad’) cholesterol. Dark chocolate has also been shown to reduce high blood pressure, and has twice the magnesium of and more iron than milk chocolate. Plus chocolate makes us feel good!

Portion size: A 20g (0.7oz) bar or chunk = 100 calories.

7. Hard Boiled Eggs
Planning ahead and having some hard boiled eggs on stand-by, give you a quick, high protein snack on hand at anytime! Hard boiled eggs are an excellent source of protein, simple to prepare and each one only has about 76 calories. Eggs are also very nutritious. In fact, they contain a wide array of essential vitamins and minerals.

Vitamins and Minerals in Eggs

A: good for the skin and growth.
D: strengthens bones by raising calcium absorption.
E: protects cells from oxidation.
B1: helps properly release energy from carbohydrates.
B2: helps release energy from protein and fat.
B6: promotes the metabolism of protein.
B12: an essential vitamin in the formation of nerve fibers and blood cells.

Iron: essential in the creation of red blood cells.
Zinc: good for enzyme stability and essential in sexual maturation.
Calcium: most important mineral in the strengthening bones & teeth.
Iodine: controls thyroid hormones.
Selenium: like vitamin E, it protects cells from oxidation.

Beware though, the yolk is extremely high in cholesterol, containing more than two-thirds of the recommended daily limit of 300 mg! However, the yolk has many health strengths necessary for immunity, healthy skin, nerves and vision. The yolk contains good amounts of B Vitamins, Vitamin A, iron and riboflavin.

8. Olives
Olives have numerous health benefits, including being rich in Vitamins (in particular Vitamin E), minerals, monounsaturated fats, and antioxidants. They are full of nutritional value, helping to fight against a number of critical diseases; including cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, constipation, inflammation and asthma.

Benefits of Olives
The Vitamin E contained in Olives is the body's primary fat-soluble antioxidant. Antioxidants help to strengthen the body's immune system; reducing the severity of asthma, cancer, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis, premature aging, as well as delaying the effects of aging.

Olives contain compounds called polyphenols that appear to have significant anti-inflammatory properties. The juice of the olive, otherwise known as olive oil, is a delicious source of antioxidants. This oil is monounsaturated, and it has a positive effect on the cholesterol level in our blood streams, by helping to reduce it.

Monounsaturated fats are an important part of our diets. These oils act to keep cholesterol from sticking to our artery walls, and thus combating against diseases such as heart disease and strokes. Not only that, but they help to control blood sugar, a big plus in offering protection against diabetes.

9 Walnuts
Walnuts are a tasty and highly nutrient dense food to snack on and can add flavour and crunch to a meal. They are an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids and are also rich in vitamins and minerals that help us to stay healthy. Walnuts are high in poly and monounsaturated fats and especially linoleic and alpha-linoleic acid. Those two acids cannot be synthesized by our body and must be provided daily. They are called essential fatty acids. They are involved in the manufacture of certain hormones, part of the cell's membrane and they regulate the cholesterol. 5 walnuts (28g) supply our daily needs in those acids.

Health Benefits
Walnuts contain an antioxidant compound called elegiac acid that supports the immune system and appears to have several anticancer properties. Alpha-linoleic acid is an omega-3 fatty acids. This family of acids has an anti-inflammatory action. Walnuts are therefore useful in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and itchy skin conditions. (Dry skin is usually the first sign of an essential fatty acid deficiency).

Heart Healthy
The high amount of unsaturated fats in the walnut helps us keep our blood cholesterol down. Walnuts lower blood cholesterol with a rise in HDL (called "good" cholesterol) and a drop in LDL (called "bad" cholesterol). Therefore, walnuts may reduce heart disease risks. Studies suggest that people who eat walnuts are less likely to develop coronary heart diseases and heart attacks.

Nutrient Dense
Walnuts are also a good source of protein. They contain 15.23 grams of protein per 100 grams, which is equivalent to 100 grams of chicken. Walnuts are rich in calories. They can help people with small appetites, such as elderly and convalescents, to meet their daily calories requirements. Walnuts are also a very good source of the manganese and a good source of copper. In addition, walnuts contain the antioxidant phytochemical, elegiac acid.

10 Whole Grain Breakfast Cereal.
A great example of a quick and convenient snack, that is 'easy' to have in the cupboard.

Wholegrain breakfast cereals such as Weetabix, bran flakes, unsweetened muesli, Shreddies and porridge oats are a great, low calorie source of vitamins and dietary fibre. For example, a 30g snack sized portion of 'No Added Sugar Alpen' contains just 112 calories. Why not try with a spoonful of fat free yoghurt and/or a handful of fresh berries ...?

11. Whole Grain Bread Sticks, Celery Sticks & Salsa
Salsa, which is the Spanish word for 'sauce', is a good source of minerals, some vitamins, and the important antioxidant lycopene.

A typical ramekin (about half a cup) of serving of classic salsa has just 35 calories, and is a good source of the fat-soluble vitamins A, E and K. It supplies 7% recommended daily allowance of vitamin K and 8% RDA of vitamins A and E.

A ramekin of salsa will also deliver 11% of our RDA of vitamin B6, 4% of our RDA of vitamin C

Go easy on the Whole Wheat Bread Sticks at 33 calories each. But as for delicious crunchy celery, it's loaded with vitamins and can help to satisfy a snack craving for virtually zero calories. In fact, celery is what is known as a Negative Calorie Food. This means, you actually burn off more calories chewing and digesting celery, then it actually contains!!

12. Twiglets
Twiglets are those little whole-wheat knobbly sticks, designed to look like twigs, that have a sticky marmite flavour coating on them. They don't feel at all greasy like crisps do and contain 96 calories and 2.9g of fat (of which saturates 1.3g) per 25g bag .... not too bad if eaten in moderation.

Twiglets are actually baked rather than fried so are marketed as a more "healthy" snack. This of course depends on how many you munch! Oh, and if you hate Marmite, then it’s likely you will hate these too!!

13. Fruit Smoothie
As far as simple, healthy snacks go, nothing beats a homemade fruit smoothie for ease of preparation (as long as you have a smoothie maker!) and general deliciousness!

For starters, they're a super way to make sure you're getting plenty of fresh fruit on a day-to-day basis and you can be as inventive and creative as your mind will allow you to be.

Smoothie Tip: Using properly ripened fruit, which is so full of flavour, is how you avoid adding unnecessary ingredients like milk, cream, sorbet, ice cream, rice milk or yogurt. When you add those things, the smoothie stops being a healthy snack and becomes a fatty dessert!!

14. Sugar Free Jelly
Half a pint of sugar free jelly, gives you a sweet burst of fruity flavour, it contains about 16 calories and you can even count it towards your daily fluid intake!

15. Dried Fruit Pieces
A handful of dried fruit is a great alternative to sweets. Dried fruits such as apple, mango, banana, pineapple, papaya, strawberries and raisins are another convenient, delicious and nourishing snack option. Make sure to choose unsweetened and untreated dried fruits. As most of the water has been removed in these types of snacks (which is what helps to fill us up!), it's also a good idea to accompany dried fruit with plenty of water or unsweetened juice.

16. Low Fat Crispbreads with Non-Fat Cottage Cheese.
Depending on the manufacturer, a snack-sized 50g serving of fat-free cottage cheese only contains about 35 to 40 calories, but monitor your serving size to ensure you do not consume too much of a good thing. And remember just because the cottage cheese is fat-free, does not mean it is cholesterol free, 50g of fat-free cottage cheese contains 5 mg of cholesterol.

17. Half a Tin of Soup
A perfect choice for a healthy snack. soup is a high volume, low calorie food. It also provides the feeling of satisfaction and fullness, without the extra calories often found in larger meals or less healthy, convenient snacks.

Ideally of course, home made soup is far better, but in terms of a quick, inexpensive and convenient snack, a reasonable brand of non-creamy soup can offer a good amount of nutritional value for the time it takes to prepare. For example half a tin of Heinz Vegetable Soup contains all the goodness of carrots, potatoes, swede, onions, peas and haricot beans. In fact 29% of the contents of the tin is made up of vegetables.

A 200g portion (half a tin), contains just 89 calories and hardly any saturated fat.

18. Sugar Snap Peas
Pre-washed string-less sugar snap peas can be found in your local supermarket in plastic bags.

If you are trying hard to add nutritious food to your diet, you are going to have a tough time beating this tasty treat.

The difference between sugar snap peas and regular peas is that you don't have to shell them. With sugar snap peas you get to eat the entire pod with the peas nestled inside. The outer shell tastes deliciously sweet and you get a big CRUNCH out of them.

This is really a great snack. With no effort on your part, except for buying and opening the package, you can have 25% of your daily allowance of Vitamin C. Sugar snap peas have protein, iron, fibre, calcium, Vitamin A and micronutrients that we still don't know much about.

If you grab a bag of sugar snap peas instead of potato crisps, just think of what you will be doing for your health!

19. Antipasto
The Italians know a thing or two about healthy snacking. Olives, marinated veg like aubergine (eggplant), sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes or peppers all make wonderful quick snacks. Go on then .... you can even throw in a little prosciutto (but don't tell anyone!)

20. Water
Another point to remember if ever we're prone to occasional snacking, is to ensure we're well hydrated. When we're slightly dehydrated, our brains confuse the signals between hunger and thirst. So, whilst we might perceive that we're feeling a bit hungry, what our body is actually craving is fluid; anything that doesn't contain caffeine, alcohol or sugar. More often than not, a glass of water or flavoured water will quash those 'snacky' feelings within 3 minutes.

I'll be uncovering more of the Top 20 Reasons We're Overweight in the next blog...



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