I hear it all the time–“Rita, how do I stop my endless stress or boredom snacking?”

Are you struggling with snacking that feels almost on automatic pilot?

Like you feel compelled to snack even though you know it’s not in line with your weight goals?

If you are, please listen to this week’s episode 19 Thin Thinking Podcast’s coaching session that I made for you –showing you how your brain really is driving you to snack not out of the need for food but something deeper and how to work with your brain more effectively to shift out of the mindless snacking once and for all.

In This Episode, You'll Learn:

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Rita Black: Finding yourself stress or boredom snacking too often throughout the day? It turns out that your snacking structure may be a subconscious self-care structure that just needs some tweaks. In this thin thinking episode, we look at some thin thinking brain breaks that can swap the snacks out for true stress relief and find yourself being more productive and focused to boot.

Rita Black: Did you know that our struggle with weight doesn't start with the food on your plate or get fixed in the gym? 80% of our weight struggle is mental. That's right, the key to unlocking long-term weight release and management begins in your mind. Hi there, I'm Rita Black. I'm a clinical hypnotherapist, weight loss expert, best-selling author, and the creator of the Shift Weight Mastery Process. And not only have I helped thousands of people over the past 20 years achieve long-term weight mastery, I am also a former weight struggler, carb addict, and binge eater. And after two decades of failed diets and fad weight loss programs, I lost 40 pounds with the help of hypnosis. Not only did I release all that weight, I have kept it off for 25 years. Enter the Thin Thinking Podcast where you too will learn how to remove the mental roadblocks that keep you struggling. I'll give you the thin thinking tools, skills, and insights to help you develop the mindset you need. Not only to achieve your ideal weight, but to stay there long-term and live your best life.

Rita Black: Hey, there! History has been made in my life. I just want to share that all with you. For the first time in 19 years, my husband and I have been alone in our house for almost two weeks. Can you believe that? And it has been amazing, especially after a year and a half of us all being together. Most of the time under one roof, what a nice break it has been. And it's, my kids are not super high maintenance. I want you to know that and I love them dearly. But as a parent, if you've been a parent or with kids or other people in your house, you know, you always have that part of your brain engaged about what your kid is up to, what they need to be doing. Should I be feeding them? Are they doing their chores? Are they doing their homework? And for almost two weeks now, that part of my brain has been on vacation. And I feel like that pre-kid side of my brain is starting to come back to life and it's been fun! Of course I miss my son and my daughter is up at college doing research the summer. She's got an internship. But my husband and I have gotten to know each other as the, our pre-kid selves. And that has been super fun.

Rita Black: So this brings me to our episode today and the value of brain breaks as a daily practice, you know, kind of how to kid break, but I really want to dive into this because I really am seeing a new dawning of an era in the idea of brain management. You know, as we learn more and more about the brain, you know, it has come to the fore that our brain is this organ that we kind of take for granted. And we work our brain really hard. And especially in this digital era, our brains are always being stimulated from the moment we get up until the moment we go to bed. Zing, zing, zing, zing, zing, zing! You know, it didn't always used to be like this. I mean, I remember the olden days before the advent of the iPhone, or, you know, even the Blackberry or, you know, even the internet, you know, when you could stare off at the clouds, you know, for a half hour and you didn't feel compelled to reach in your pocket and pull out the thing and scroll, or do anything else. Your brain had more downtime than it does nowadays with digital era.

Rita Black: So, our brains need breaks. And what I have found in my practice, both with smoking and with weight management is that people have mutated and use smoking and eating as breaks for their brain kind of unwittingly, you know? So I wanted to look into how we need to take care of our brains and give our brain breaks throughout the day and alternative ways, much better ways to give our brain, our poor brain needs breaks because cognitive studies have shown that every 90 minutes or so, our brain needs to kind of have a little downtime or rest for about two or three minutes, or we get overwhelmed over stressed. We don't perform as well. And I think a lot of people think they have ADHD or are foggy or not focused, not because they have ADHD or are, you know, your focus is just because their brain, they aren't shutting off their brain.

Rita Black: You know, my husband is way more technical than me and you know, when something's goes wrong with my computer or my phone, my husband, he pretends he's one of those technical guys, those IT guys that comes and he's like, "Move!" He makes me get up. And he has to sit in my chair and he's like, he's like, "Have you turned off your computer?" And I was like, "No". And he's like, "What do I tell you when your computer isn't behaving? What do you do?" I was like, "Turn off my computer?" He's like, "Turn off your computer and turn it back on. And it will, it will probably again, right?" Like whatever is going on, wrong with it. And he's right. You know, I will turn off my computer. I will turn it back on. And usually what was wrong is right. Most of the time.

Rita Black: But so, you know, to think that our brains, which are like computers are running 24/7. You know, when we're asleep, they're dreaming. You know, like our brain is on all the time. So it was ridiculous to think that we can keep throwing stuff at our brain all day long. And that is going to keep, keep performing. We need to give it, we need to shut it down and we need to put it on, you know. Do not disturb, you know, and give ourselves, our brains, a timeout. Or we are going to start to overdrink, overeat, oversmoke, overuse marijuana, you know, like as a way to escape and shut our brains off. Not because we're bad and we're rebellious and we're horrible and awful, but it's just because enough is enough and our brains like, "Hey, I need a break." And so it's like, well, if going out and smoking a cigarette for 10 minutes is going to give me a break. I'm going to tell you to go smoke a cigarette. Or if going into the snack room and snacking on a bagel is going to get you away from your computer screen. I'm going to tell you, "Hey, go get that bagel." So we need to come up with some better brain break ideas to start to take care of these poor brains of ours or else, you know, we're just gonna, you know, or else, those soft addictions are going to keep proliferating. I hope that makes sense.

Rita Black: So, because it ain't about the smoking, you know, like people, you know, I work with smokers, and most smokers will admit that, you know, they'll go out, then they really want to have that smoke break, but, you know, it's not so much about what about the cigarette or even the need for nicotine, because people can go without nicotine for long spans of time without feeling withdrawal, but it's the dopamine center in the brain agitating them as like, "I want that thing. I want that thing. I want that thing." And it doesn't even really want the cigarette. What it wants is 10 minutes outside, you know, where you're not sitting at your screen. So a lot of times our urges for, you know, snacks and other things are really our brain saying, "Hey, dude, you've been working me too hard. Let's go take a siesta for 10 minutes and give me some downtime." So let's look at some ways that we can do that.

Rita Black: My daughter this year, you know, she went away to school and even though she was not going to classes, she was, you know, in her dorm room going to college. Ridiculous! But anyway, that's the way that it was, that's the way the year rolled. But she and her dormmate across the way, because they were in singles because of COVID, they would study together and they did this Pomodoro technique, which was 25 minutes super focused study, and then 10 minutes off. And the Pomodoro technique, I think was brought by this guy, oh, gosh, I don't have his name in front of me right now, but it was the word Pomodoro came from the fact that he used this timer and he would time it for 25 minutes and it was in the shape of a tomato. So that's where the Pomodoro came in. And, and a lot of workplaces and productivity studies, and I know college students use this technique as a way to, you know, really focus, then rest your brain, you know, take a break, have a little fun, play on your phone, and then focus, focus, focus, then take a break. And I have begun, you know, using my phone to, you know, say, set the timer for 10 minutes and just shut off for 10 minutes and, you know, do something different. And it's such a great technique to just give yourself that timer. I think a lot of smokers, the cigarette is like the perfect 10-minute break. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes, uh, to smoke a cigarette. And I think a lot of times for especially a lot of parents who are overworked and over drained, smoking outside, gets them away from their kids and get some, you know, that break that they want or get some out of the office.

Rita Black: And I think it's the same thing with food. You know, we are with our kids and then, you know, nobody's going to follow us into the kitchen. So we'll walk in there and we'll go, oh my God, I don't want to deal with homework anymore. And we'll start snacking, or the same thing with, you know, in the evening when everybody's being noisy and rowdy, and you go in the kitchen and you have that snack, or, you know, you go into the staff room and have that snack, or you go to the vending machine or whatever, you're getting up from your desk and you're getting away from stimulation or meeting or whatever it is, you know, in our brain is looking for that break.

Rita Black: So, what you want to do is instead of like this idea of taking away the, you know, like smokers, I say, don't think of it as like you're taking away the smoking, but you're creating a new self-care structure. And I say that to my, my weight management people as well, I'll say, you know, that night eating structure that you have, don't think of it as taking it away, but you're creating a new self-care structure in the evening that doesn't require you to get popcorn, then some chocolate, and then some crackers, you know, three different little breaks, but that you're going to create some new self-care structures for your brain. So, here are some ideas and, and look at your day and think about maybe about every 90 minutes, every two hours to give yourself a little downtime. And you can be very creative with this. I think most people wake up in the morning and it is really great if you can spend some time, just meditating or journaling or walking and thinking about your day, because I think our brain needs kind of to, after coming out of sleep, the brain is a little still in the subconscious state, and we need some time to just like be, and before we run in, start doing a bunch of things, you know, that morning walk is a great time or, going and just making a cup of tea or coffee and sitting out, you know, at your dining room table or outside on your patio. And just, um, thinking about your day, it's like a nice brain regrouping time to think your day through, you know, with my, weight mastery students and my monthly mastery community, you know, we really believe in that morning meditation time to think the entire day through for success, you know, so we're using that sort of downtime to, to create a vision for the day. So it's, you're engaging the brain, but in a restful way, not in like, oh my God, I've got to get the lunches together. And I've got to get the, um, you know, I've got to get in the car and I've got to race off and I've got to get to work. And I got to get turned on my computer and just start working. You take that time to get your brain sort of set up for success for the day.

Rita Black: And then during the day, it's, you know, some ideas are, you know, take a walk. Wherever you are, if you're at work or you're at home, go walk up and down your block. Go! You know, during COVID I got in the habit of doing that. I would just go outside into my yard, and, you know, potter around in my garden. There was always something to be done. You know, I like gardening. So there, I was like, oh my God, there, you know, weeds to be weeded there's, but, but it was just so nice to be outside in the dirt, or, you know, looking at, you know, walking down the street and looking at different people's yards. I like that. That's a great break. Or, you know, if you're in an office going outside and walking around the office building even, you know, that's getting your blood pumping.

Rita Black: Stretching, just making a cup of tea. If you get up and you watch the kettle boil or do some stretches while the kettle's boiling, that's a nice brain break. It is a meditative state. You go and sit down with that cup of tea and just think about stuff, or, I mean, you can look at your phone, but the idea is you're doing, you're not doing focused work, or you're not focused on something. A brain break could even be, if you are doing chores in your house, it's just this idea of you're breaking up the day and coming back to yourself, and connecting with yourself and giving your brain a little rest. 'Cause you can literally feel like, especially if you've been focused on a screen, your brain kind of coming down like (coming down sound). You know, if you go sit outside when the sun hits your eyes, there's something that a chemical called, I don't know what the name of that chemical is. I should look that up. That's admitted in your brain that just creates that like "Aaaah feeling".

Rita Black: SO getting outside, I think is such a bonus, if you can do that. And, but you know, just definitely even when you stop doing something, you can feel your brain sort of. And a lot of times when we take that break, it's when we have those epiphanies of like, oh, that's the solution to that problem. So, look at the clouds, doodle, dance! I love taking dance breaks. I will, you know, shout out to Alexa, you know, some song, some classic rock song, and then just make a fool of myself dancing around my office or dancing down the hall. I don't do that so much at my office in the office building I work in, but I do that when, on, when I'm working from home. I will connect with people. I will call somebody for a break, a brain break. I will, you know, I will connect with somebody, you know, through social media. I mean, and again, I'm not, I don't necessarily say use your phone all the time, but this is the idea is to create the structure in your day where you take care of yourself instead of having to reach for food. And once your brain is looking for ideas, your brain is an amazing problem solver. It will come up with ideas. You know, I'm just giving you some, I'm not saying these are the best, but these are ideas to get your brain thinking about it.

Rita Black: And now one thing that I love, love, love to do in the afternoon, if I can, is to take a nap. And again, I call it a power nap because it's short, but it resets my brain completely. And I have read in numerous sources that the brain actually needs to shut down in the afternoon. And I do believe that this is one of the reasons why people start reaching for snacks more in the afternoon. Eat like chocolate and stimulants because the brain actually really wants to just shut down and take a nap. But you know, it, if we can't, then we might, you know, try to stimulate ourselves in other ways, including eating. I had a client once who worked, a lot of story, she worked on the set of, when Julia Child, the chef and Jacques Peppin, the chef were working together and they shot that famous series. You know, if you're old like me, you would probably remember it. It was not that long ago, maybe a decade and a half ago. So as sometimes like in the early two thousands, I think, but this, in Julia child at the time was, I want to say late seventies, early eighties, like she was fairly, she was up there a little bit, but you know, she was Julia child, like nobody messes with her. Right?

Rita Black: So Julia every afternoon had in her contract that she got a nine minute nap and she got so mad if you let her sleep over her nine minutes, but she got mad if you let her, you know, if you interrupted her before her nine minutes. So she was very particular about exactly nine minutes and I get it because that's about the perfect time. You know, you don't need a big old hour long nap. That's too long. That then will make you groggy. But there's this justice. It's almost like shutting off a light switch and turning it back on taking a quick little power nap in the afternoon. And I've done this at a desk. I've done the sitting in a chair. If you get into the practice of it, you don't need a bed, but it is awesome. And I have ha I have clients, you know, again, I work in Hollywood. So I work with a lot of people who run companies like startups. And it, you know, people who are younger than me who are like, you know, have big ideas and different ways of thinking. And, you know, I have a lot of these guys saying, Hey, yeah, I've built a meditation room in my offices so my clients and my, or my employees can go in and they can, you know, like go and chill out. And I find that they're far more productive that way. 'Cause they're happier. You know, we have Facebook here, we have Google those, those companies try to provide, you know, like spaces for their employees to hang too so that they aren't always on, on, on, but in that downtime, they get creative. I know those companies also overfeed their clients and how far too many snack, snack foods and that's how they become my clients. But, um, but you know, they're also trying to promote like, "Hey, we want you to chill so that we know that you can be focused and creative and productive."

Rita Black: So you know, this idea that we have to push, push, push, push, push ourselves all the way through an eight hour Workday. I don't think, I think it works against us and not for us. You know, napping even like, even sitting in the driveway as you pull up as a brain break before you go in and just taking a moment to say, "Okay, what's tonight about?" You know, like, let me just take a moment to, to settle before I go in. Because for a lot of people, we struggle with the eating, you know, right when we walk in the door and going to kind of unwind with food, well, why don't we unwind in our driveway and kind of settle ourselves so that we don't have to go in and unwind with a glass of wine or a beer or, cheese and crackers.

Rita Black: So these are just some ideas, but what I want you to start to think about is your self-care structure, because your life is, is individual to you and where you need your breaks in your brain, it might be different than me. And then even in the evening, again, I think we need some breaks in our evening. You could do a dance break or stretches or, you know, if you need to get away from the kids. I, when my kids were young, I used to hide out in the bathroom and read trashy magazines like people and okay. And you know, it was like, oh my gosh, it was like cocaine. I'm telling you reading those trashy magazines, cause you didn't really have to read them. He would just looked at them and they were just amazing nowadays, you know, now we have our phones with all the images are TikTok and all that stuff. So, but you know, think again about your brain and, you know, taking a hot bath, you know, beautiful breaks to give yourself.

Rita Black: So I'm going to teach you one technique. Two techniques actually that are really great, little quick breaks that you can do. Their super duper easy and I hopefully you will love them. So, what you do the first one is just the deep breath five and the deep breath five is super simple, but this really does help center your brain. And that's just take a breath and you've probably done this a million times before, but I'm going to remind you of it. So you take a deep breath in, through your nose, to the count of five and out through your mouth for the count of five. And in 2 5, 2, 3, 4, 5, I've been through the nose and out through the mouth, 2, 3, 4, 5, try it with me in, through the mouth nose, 2, 3, 4, 5, and out of the mouth, 2, 3, 4, 5. Good. You can see how, like, just doing that, just sitting there, you know, like some people when they become non-smokers, they're like, oh, what I really liked about smoking was just the deep breath. And I was like, yeah, you know, you, now you can do it as a non-smoker too. Call it your non-smoking breath. But you can call that your shift breath. That's what I do with my groups since we start to take our shift breath and connect with ourselves and just come back to our body and come back to our brain. We spend so much of our day outside of ourselves and, you know, taking care of everybody and everything. And when you just come back and connect with yourself, it's a powerful thing.

Rita Black: Okay. The other technique it's called Hakalau, and it's a Hawaiian meditation technique. It's kind of cool. So what you do in a super easy, what you do is you, you stare right in front of you or whatever you're staring at, and then you move your eyes up to where the wall meets the ceiling, you know, and that seam. So you're going to look at the seam. You're going to stare at the seam and then you're going to take, um, your left eye and you're going to move your left eye to the corner, the left corner. And they're going to move your right eye to the right corner. So you'll do that at the same time. So you're kind of separating your gaze into two separate places. I'm doing this right now, as I'm, I'm telling you this. And what it does is when you, you do this long enough and you just breathe, you get into this nice little trance state, it's kind of trippy. It's not, you know, you don't levitate or anything like that, but it's just like, you can do this at your office. You can do this, you know, in your bedroom. You can do this, you know, sitting at a, not on a bus, but you know, like you can, you can do this in any space. And it just gives you, like, if you have two minutes just to do it, just puts you in a different mind space and it can calm you down. And it just mellows you out is called Hakalau. So, that is my little Hawaiian a treat for you.

Rita Black: And, you know, you're gonna need to be disciplined about this. Meaning like most people are like, I can't take a break. If I could take a break, then you know, like we get all weird about giving ourselves permission to take a break. You need to give yourself permission or you're probably going to eat. So give, you know, set your timer, you know, take your phone out, go, you know, set it for five minutes, set it for 10 minutes, start it two and work up from there. It takes discipline because when we struggle with our weight, we don't make ourselves a priority in our life and you need to start making your brain and resting your brain a priority. I swear it will change your life and you will feel more rested. You'll feel more composed. And when you're taking care of your brain, you have more willpower. You have more ability to say no, because your brain is stronger. You're strengthening your brain by taking better care of it. And I think your biggest challenge to all of this will be giving yourself permission to do it and make it a project.

Rita Black: All right. So remember to subscribe to the podcast, if you haven't. So you never miss an episode. The link is in the show notes and leave me a message. If you have any ideas for upcoming episodes and have an amazing week, and remember that the key, and probably the only key to unlocking the door of the weight struggle is inside you. So keep listening and find it.

Rita Black: Do you want to dive deeper into the mindset of long-term weight release? Head on over to www.shiftweightmastery.com where you'll find numerous tools and resources to help you unlock your mind for permanent weight release, tips, strategies, and more, and be sure to check the show notes to learn more about my book From Fat to Thin Thinking: Unlock Your Mind For Permanent Weight Loss.