It’s 3 p.m. Do you know where your Doritos are?
You probably do. Actually, they’re probably smeared all over your fingers and keyboard now that you’ve frantically wolfed them down in between your two o’clock meeting and your four o’clock conference call. So what drove you to the snack machine this time? Was it true hunger or just a trick of the mind?
More Americans snack at 3 p.m. than at any other time during the day, according to a November 2008 telephone survey by Extra gum. Can we keep our national need to nosh from tipping the scales?
Sneaky Snack Attacks
Having a 3 p.m. snack is not necessarily unhealthy. Spacing out your calories during the day can help maintain blood sugar levels and keep you going until dinner. But it’s why we snack in the afternoon that can cause problems. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed—and 71 percent of women—reported this rationale for snacking: “It’s there.” And 33 percent said they don’t think about the consequences of reaching for a snack until they’ve already eaten it.
My downfall when it comes to maintaining my weight is always boredom. Those long hours between lunch and dinner—when the rush of the morning has worn off and there’s nothing to do but watch the clock—leave me restless and jonesing for something satisfying. Put a donut anywhere near me during that time and you can bet I’m going for it. Most people gain the “freshman fifteen”; I lost it, simply because I didn’t fall into the trap of snacking the minute I got off the bus from school.
I’m not alone here. Forty-seven percent of us snack out of boredom and a whopping 71 percent nosh while watching afternoon television or engaging in some other mindless activity.
For others, stress is the trap. Three in the afternoon is right when all the tension you’ve accumulated since 9 a.m. hits, and many of us (39 percent) cope by reaching for our favorite comfort foods. Especially if you work through lunch, the long hours of ringing phones, answering emails, and just dealing with day-to-day office problems makes that afternoon mocha frappe with extra whipped cream sound like it would really hit the spot.
The Culture of Consumption