It was a dark and stormy night. In the soft glow of the refrigerator door light, with a spoon in one hand and a carton of Chunky Monkey in the other, guilt enveloped Sally like a cold wet blanket.
She shook it off with the realization that after spending all day going from meeting to meeting, fighting traffic, and then –the last straw — discovering she’d missed a a one-day sale on inflatable lawn ornaments, she deserved this sweet treat!
No jury would convict me, Sally thought to herself, spooning the frozen dessert into her mouth with the passion of a death row inmate.
Let’s face it, romanticizing nighttime eating isn’t hard to do. It’s dark, you’re alone, and your willpower level is below zero. Who’s to know?
Even if you haven’t gone as far as the Sally scenario, you may have found yourself uttering one of these common phrases to justify a nighttime food bender:
- “I haven’t eaten all day! What am I supposed to do — starve??”
- “What else am I going to do with my hands while watching TV — just put them on my lap?”
- “If no one sees me eat this half gallon of Neapolitan ice cream it doesn’t count.”
Because after all, we all know once the sun goes down all dietary rules go out the window. Whether you’re stressed, tired, hangry, or just want to curl up with a bowl of [your favorite comfort food here], any and all eating feels justified.
I get it.
But here’s the thing: If you give in to your ravenous appetite you’re not only more likely to overeat (pretty much guaranteed), but studies show you’re also at risk for a lot of other, not-so-great, fates:
— You increase your risk of diabetes
— You’re more likely to gain weight
— Eating late at night may negatively impacts fat metabolism
— You’ll increase hormonal markers associated with heart disease
— Your sleep will suffer
Who needs any of that?
I’ve mentioned in prior posts that I credit my 15+ lb weight loss (which I’ve kept off for more than seven years) on cutting out nighttime snacking.
And it’s the absolute truth, regardless of all the exaggerating I do on these posts.
I decided that cutting out those calories would eliminate a few hundred and, may, over time help me lose weight.
And it did.
Keep in mind, however, it took about a year. We’re talking about 200 to 300 calories a night deficit at the most. It wasn’t as if I polished off a sleeve of Oreos and half pint of strawberry Häagen-Dazs each night and then one day decided to eat nothing after dinner.
It was a bit uncomfortable, but not horrible. It was a step I could handle.
It’s why I advocate making small changes when you’re working toward a goal, whether it’s to firm and tone up or lose weight.
It’s way more effective than vowing to NEVER AGAIN eat chocolate, cut out bread, ban booze and work out every day.
Skipping a small snack at night? Doable.
If this is your issue, I have a few tips that may help you, too.
1. EAT MORE DURING THE DAY
Wait, what? Eat MORE? This may sound counterintuitive, but if you’re “starving” at night and didn’t eat much during the day, chances you didn’t eat enough during the day, which is exactly why you’re ravenous at night. If you eat enough during the day you simply won’t be hungry at night.
Do not allow more than four hours to pass between meals so you avoid becoming too hungry to make sensible dietary decisions.
2. INCLUDE PROTEIN AT EVERY MEAL
Lean protein — fish, eggs, dairy, lean meats, beans, etc. — does a bunch of wonderful things. Protein revs your metabolism, keeps hunger at bay and fills you up. Strive to include 20 grams with each meal (approximately 3 oz) and about half that with snacks.
Plus, as we age our bodies become less efficient at processing protein. We need an ounce or two more each day than we did in our formative years.
Swap out any carb-loaded meals (I’m lookin’ at you, bagel for breakfast) with a protein to fend off hunger longer.
3. SET SMALL GOALS
Ideally, you want to stop eating two, preferably three, hours before you go to sleep. If you typically eat up until you turn off your nightstand light, begin with a half hour and “train” yourself to gradually go for longer periods of time between your last meal and sleep.
The side benefit: You will sleep better, too.
4. FIND A HEALTHY, NON-FOOD ACTIVITY
Cutting out snacking may also mean you’re cutting out something to do with your hands. A hot, calorie-free, comforting beverage at night fits the bill.
I sip on herbal tea. The downside? Pee dreams. You know, the dreams when you spend half the night looking for a bathroom because in real life you have to go. Those.
So maybe knitting or coloring may work better for you. Just make sure it’s non-food related. See my latest coloring project posted here… all those little details take my mind off anything caloric.
5. ADJUST YOUR MINDSET
I talk a lot about mindset because we often see these types of changes in a negative way. And telling yourself you “can’t” have something makes you want it even more.
Flip that switch. Know why you’re making this change and give yourself time to adjust. I’m talking about a month or two, not a couple of days.
“Oh, well, I tried this for a week and it didn’t work for me, so I may as well go back to my bad habits and forget the whole thing,” is an excuse. Stop doing it.
You can do this! I did it, and I don’t possess any superpowers. At least none that I’m aware of yet. That could change any given moment.
Do YOU tend to eat at night — and will you try any of these tips? Let’s chat! Leave a comment down below — and share this on your social networks — to get the conversation going…
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