An Obesity Medicine Expert’s Simple Technique to Stop Unplanned Snacking

Brushing your teeth can be a helpful tool in combating unplanned snacking.

Robert Kushner, MD, is an obesity medicine expert, Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and Director of Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. He also works closely with the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), Founder of Your Weight Matters, and is Program Co-Chair of the OAC’s Annual Convention.

Recently, in his ‘Health Nudges’ newsletter, Dr. Kushner shared a simple technique to combat unplanned snacking that we want to highlight here on the Your Weight Matters Blog. His advice? Brush your teeth after every meal.

Why Teeth Brushing?

“It’s a win-win” says Dr. Kushner. “Your teeth will be healthier, your smile may be brighter, and you may have less need for an emergency dental visit! I often recommend this strategy to my patients who find themselves snacking at night after dinner.”

Interestingly enough, Dr. Kushner brings up a valid point about oral health. Did you know that overweight and obesity are linked to oral health problems?

  • Higher tooth decay levels
  • More missing teeth
  • More required dental fillings

A number of different factors affect the relationship between weight and oral health. For one, weight-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease can worsen the health of your teeth. Other factors include a poor diet (lots of sugar), uncontrolled heartburn and prescription drugs that treat weight-related health conditions.

Dr. Kushner explains, “Brushing and flossing your teeth after meals can help you break the habit of unplanned snacking. This leaves you with a fresh, clean minty mouth feel that serves as a tangible prompt to remind you that eating is over.”

Unplanned Snacking

The other important topic here is that of “unplanned snacking.” You might struggle with this if you find that you are easily enticed by food or it triggers some kind of emotional response.

In these situations, having a distraction (like brushing your teeth) can be helpful. If you’re a stress eater or you tend to eat out of boredom, it’s important to work through those habits and feelings while using food boundaries and other ways to cope.

Additionally, plan in advance. Stock up on nutritious foods and limit snacks like chips and cookies from your pantry. Take advantage of healthy grab-n-go foods like Greek yogurt, string cheese or sliced fruit. Lastly, create a mindful food environment. Don’t eat dinner in front of the TV while you’re sitting on the couch, but make it a rule to eat at a table with a chair, plate and silverware. All of these techniques are surprisingly simple, but they help a ton!

For more health advice from Dr. Kushner, visit DrRobertKushner.com.

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