When I was doing a radio talk show one night a caller said, “I constantly ‘co-eat.’ I nibble when I watch TV, when I’m on the computer, when I’m reading and when I have friends over. What can I do about this?”
We’ve worked with a number people who have been vexed with this, and there are two general approaches that can help. Onedeals with behavioral substitution and the other one deals with behavioral interruptions.
First, a person can try and substitute a different (or healthier) behavior for their snacking. We’ve recommended people buy those big trays of pre-cut veggies from the story and nibble on these. Not only are they a bit healthier, but they also give a person to break a habit other than going “cold turkey”. That is, they are less reinforcing that eating malted milk balls or chips and so eventually –if a person wants –they can ease themselves away from the veggies to nothing.(Chapter 7, “In the Mood for Comfort Food” in my book Mindless Eating gives more ideas about how to use substitution to work for you.)
The second approach is to stopping co-eating or hand-to-mouth munching is to find some way to interrupt the behavior. If people don’t want to use the substitution method we suggestthey use thisapproach. They put a loose-fitting rubber-band on each of their wrists. Anytime the snack, they need to snap the rubber-band on the hand they snacked with. This does two things. First, it makes us aware of everytime we snack. Second, it makes us have to “pay” for something that tastes good with something (the snap) that hurts a little. Before long people tell us they simply decide to leave the chips in the kitchen and not bring them into the TV room.
For 30 years my Lab and I have focused on discovering secret answers to help people live better lives. Some of these relate to health and happiness (and often to food). Please share whatever you find useful.
This video of one of my post-docs gives a flavor of one type of research that we've done: