The Real Reason You Can’t Stop Snacking

K. Aleisha Fetters, Women's Health
Photo: Getty

Photo: Getty

Do you open a bag of chips, only to find yourself clawing at the bottom minutes later? Your mistake might be stashing the bag within arm’s reach:Seeing nearby foods actually triggers neurological impulses to dig in, according to a new study in PLoS One.

MORE: 6 Ways to Stop Mindless Grazing Before It Starts

For the study, researchers from Utrecht University in The Netherlands performed a series of experiments in which college students stared at images of food on a computer. (Food porn, anyone?) In some of the images, the food looked close, while the rest made it look far away.

Participants had more “must eat now” thoughts when the food displayed looked like it was within their reach—regardless of how hungry they were. What’s more, the study subjects reacted more quickly to images of unwrapped foods, reinforcing the idea that when it comes to mindless munching, availability is everything.

MORE: The Craving That’s Hardest to Resist

Want to put a damper on uncontrolled snacking? Throw out your stash! Or if you can’t bear to part with it (hey, we get it!) at least store the goods in a super-high cabinet or a drawer that’s hard to get to—that way it won’t be staring you down and testing your willpower quite so much.

MORE: 4 Ways to Control Food Cravings