Updated: Jun 3
Do you find yourself eating in the evenings when you know you’re not really hungry?
Nighttime snacking is a major culprit for extra calories and subsequent weight gain. And it can become a vicious cycle that's challenging to break if you've been doing it a while, but with the right mindset and strategies, it can be done.
What are the triggers?
Limiting what you eat during the day. Restricting your calories or food intakes all day long can will often lead to overcompensating later in the evening, whether it's a spike in food cravings or the mindset of being "good" all day so you can eat All The Things. You may think no big deal, I didn't eat much all day, but the truth is, eating this way often leads to far great calorie consumption at night than the rest of the day combined.
Eating with your emotions. If you’re feeling stressed, bored, lonely, sad or angry, emotional eating can trigger late night eating. It’s common to feel more in control of your eating habits during the daytime, especially if you have a fairly structured day that doesn’t allow “free” eating. Most of us have more downtime in the evenings, which can lead to unleashing all sorts of thoughts and emotions from the day, causing you to run for the chocolate, wine or chips.
Strictly out of habit. If you tend to snack when you’re sitting in front of the television, scrolling your smartphone or reading a book, it could be that you're eating simply out of habit. If you're used to opening a bottle of wine and grabbing a heaping bowl of popcorn to sit down and enjoy the Thursday night line up, for example, you may soon find reasons to do it on Monday and Tuesday too.
A “reward” for a busy or stressful day. If things didn’t quite go as planned during the day, your brain may tell you that you deserve that sweet treat or salty snack to make up for it.
And If none of these really apply to you, it may just be biology. According to a study published in the Obesity research journal, the body’s internal clock spikes your hunger levels at around 8pm. And guess what kind of snacks you’re more likely to want at this time? Not carrots or chicken breast, salty, sweet and high carb snacks.
Tips to curb late night snacking:
A lot of late night snacking is mindless eating, which means you're often eating on autopilot. How many times do you find yourself snacking in front of the television or while you’re cooking… without even thinking about what you’re doing, realizing how much you're eating or whether you’re even hungry?
Chances are, you’re not really aware of how much extra you’re eating. One way to avoid this is through mindful eating. Remove any distractions that stop you from being fully present with your food and start to make sitting down to eat at the table or countertop bar a big deal. Take sips between bites and notice the smells, tastes, and textures of your food. Mindful eating is one of the simplest and most effective ways to get back in touch with your body’s natural hunger cues.
Change your routine
If you do a lot of your nighttime eating as part of your routine, it’s definitely time to break the habit by replacing it with something new.
For example, instead of snacking while you watch television, try doing something else while you catch up with your shows, especially during commercial breaks (which can trigger late night snacking when they feature junk food). Doing some leg lifts, crunches or holding a plank, or dusting, watering the plants or ironing can be a great distraction.
If you find you tend to veg out after dinner, try soaking in a warm bath for a bit of self-care time, or if the weather is nice, get outside and go for a walk. Not only will you be doing something good for mind, body and spirit, It’ll stop you from falling into the lazy boredom that often leads to snack attacks.
Set a timer
Next time you get the urge to start snacking in an evening, set a timer to go off in 10 minutes. This is how long the average craving will last if you ignore it and find something else to occupy your mind.
In the meantime, distract yourself with funny animal videos, flipping through a magazine or catching up with some of your favorite social media accounts while downing some water. Then see how you feel when the alarm goes off in 10 minutes. You might be surprised to realize that your craving is no longer an issue. Positive self-talk and affirmations are great tool for this too.
But if your craving is still there, go ahead and enjoy a small snack. No eating out the bag or box, pour it in a portion size bowl and enjoy it distraction free.
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