Are You a Nibbler?

Does this sound familiar: You head over to your parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner, hang out a while, and finally sit down to the table for the grand meal… only to find that your mom won’t be fixing herself a plate. Apparently she’s been “nibbling all day” and is no longer hungry. Right? Heard that one?

It happens all the time, not just on holidays, and it might be sabotaging the good moves you’ve made in the diet arena. It’s sampling as you cook, or it’s eating what the kids left over, or it’s munching on the crust of the pizza when the box has long been abandoned. All these little bites—the ones that don’t make it onto your food diary log—add up, and their total calories could be worth noting.

You might be thinking “I totally do that!” but you might also be thinking “Do I do that?” There are people who consciously nibble as they bake or cook, and there are people who do it without realizing they do it. It’s time to start paying attention. If you prepare dinner for your family but find you have little appetite when it’s time to plate the food, you are likely a nibbler. Try to notice what your hands and jaws are doing while you’re cooking.

If you know you’re guilty already, curb the problem by first identifying why you do it—do you feel guilty throwing your kids’ uneaten food away? No problem. Pack it up and put it in the fridge for tomorrow, or add it to the compost bin. You might just consistently cook more than you need to. Prepare less, let your family eat it all, and if they’re still hungry, offer them an apple. Do you hate to leave just one bite (not enough to put in Tupperware)? Pause just long enough to think—is it really worth adding that bite to my midsection? I thought not. Women especially have a tough time tossing out perfectly good food. It’s probably got something to do with starving children in Africa. It’s a good instinct, but it’s not our fault those kids are starving, and adding inches to our midlines is not going to feed anyone else’s kids.

As you nibble while you cook, start writing it down. Don’t make it official—little bites don’t need to be recorded in My Fitness Pal—but keep a notepad by your cutting board, and as you nibble, scribble it down. I think by the fifth time you have to wipe your hands to pick up the pen to note yet another “tiny bite,” you might be cured—for the day anyway!

What this all amounts to is adding some consciousness to your food preparing. Realize that all those little bites of crust add up to calories you absolutely didn’t need that day, and would have been perfectly fine without. Occasional tasting is fine. It’s the habitual nibbling that might be the reason you can’t seem to part with those last couple of unwanted pounds.