Happy 420 everyone! This time next year Canada will be celebrating it’s first April 20th with legal marijuana. And since I know none of you partake in illegal activity, let me introduce you to a side effect of smoking: the munchies.
Weed is known to increase appetite. The active ingredient (THC) mimics a neurotransmitter that increases hunger. Production of your 'hunger' hormone (Ghrelin) is kicked into overdrive until you feel like you're starving. THC also increases dopamine levels which is the 'feel good hormone', making sweet food extra tasty.
For all these reasons pot has been used medically to help those with cancer and HIV keep their weight up. When healthy people smoke, they may overeat and gain excess weight. The munchies do not cause cravings for salad. It’s for sweet and fatty foods.
When I worked in an addictions facility I had several clients struggling with weight due to massive amounts of snacks while high. Smashing a full bag of chips, a 2L of pop and a pile of chicken wings is completely plausible. Here is the advice I had for these clients:
1) Smoke less weed!
If you are smoking for recreational vs medicinal purposes, consider removing the source of the problem first. Even cutting back slowly will reduce appetite and food cravings. You might also find the energy to get more physical activity.
2) Set up a healthy environment
If you’re serious about cutting back on snacks, your best defense is keeping them out of the house. Remove Domino's from speed dial. Toss your takeout menus. 'Out of sight, out of mind' doesn't work when your brain is literally begging you to eat. So 'out of reach' is the best approach here.
3) Low calories, high volume snacks
Again, putting off instant gratification is not easy when you’re impaired. So have nutritious snacks ready to go when the munchies kick in. You want to eat a large volume with little calories, so pick some lower calorie options. Here are some comparisons of the calories in equal volumes of food:
• Popcorn (140cals) VS potato chips (547cals)
• Frozen yogurt (485cals) VS large Oreo Mcflurry (800cals)
• Vegetables and hummus (150cals) VS potato chips and creamy dip (836cals)
• Salsa (36cals) VS creamy dip (484cals)
• Mango slices (100cals) VS Skittles (400cals)
Stay away from calorie dense options, even if they’re nutritious. For example nuts or trail mix can be healthy, but it's pretty easy to eat 1000 calories worth without noticing. Eating calories also takes a lot more time than drinking them. It slows you down and solid food keeps you full longer. Eating vs drinking calories is definitely the way to go, whether you’re stoned or not!
4) Try a different strain
I don't want to sound like an expert, but I've HEARD that different varieties of weed can have very different effects. Some can increase appetite much more than others. Consult a dispensary or a knowledgeable friend.
5) Avoid boredom
Have something to do while you’re high. Play a video game or a game of cards. Go for a nature walk. If you’re watching a movie, have something around to keep your hands busy instead of mindless snacking.