Are snacking urges making you feel crazy, or causing you to question your self-control? If so, you aren’t alone.

First, understand that there are sound biological and psychological reasons why you’re drawn to snacking including:

Hunger and time pressure: Your brain is an energy hog and runs on glucose.Simple carbs are the quickest way for your body to get energy when you’re low on blood sugar. This is why a candy bar seems extra attractive when you’re hungry or time stressed.

Tiredness: In the same way as explained above, when you’re tired your brain will direct you to simple carbs as the fastest way to get more fuel.

Stress: Stress induces a fight or flight response. Your brain then needs quick energy in order to fight or run from the threat. Simple carbs can also feel soothing when you are chronically stressed.

Distraction and need for a break: Eating provides a socially acceptable distraction, as well as a break from your work. And of course snacking does provide needed energy.

Deprivation: If you’re not getting your needs met or not getting enough pleasure, food can become an attractive way to obtain an easy substitute.

Desire to relax: Eating activates the relaxation response in order for your body to digest. Eating a lot ensures that the body will attempt to relax in order to deal with the large amount of substance taken in (and if your body can’t relax then you have a recipe for digestive distress).

The bottom line is it’s not crazy or weak to reach for food throughout the day. Snacking is neither good nor bad. We keep doing it because it’s an effective short-term solution in many situations. The only question is if it’s serving our needs or if there is a better, more long lasting solution.

Snacking sounds simple but it’s actually a complex topic so it’s no surprise if you’re confused. Keep reading this series for more insight: Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.