Most women we know consume a significant chunk of their calories after 8 p.m. Why is late-night binging or grazing so common and what can you do about it?
The major reason why we stuff ourselves so late at night is because we are so accustomed to turning to food as a source of relaxation and escape. After a long day at work, school, running errands, taking care of the kids, taking care of your ailing parents – you name it – the evening comes and it signals “time to relax.” So, we fall into our old habits, our routine, and promptly open up the refrigerator, freezer, or pantry looking for something to soothe us. Usually it’s something sweet, as carbohydrate-rich foods release serotonin in our brains, which make us feel relaxed and happy. The problem with choosing cookies, ice cream, and/or chocolate is that they’re addicting and it becomes hard to stop at one or two cookies, once scoop of ice cream, or one piece of chocolate. Instead, we eat so much more than we planned to do. This overeating leaves us angry with ourselves (“I have no willpower!”), frustrated (“Why do I do this every night?”), and hopeless (“I give up! It’s useless to even try.”). Do these sound familiar?
What to do about it?
All hope is not lost, as we can do something to prevent our late-night snack attack. It takes some careful planning, an increased level of focus, and is entirely realistic to achieve.
- Snack in the afternoon: Most women don’t eat anything between lunch and dinner – too busy, trying to save calories to lose weight, no time – leaving them ravenous at night. When we go too many hours without eating, our blood sugar level plummets, leaving us hungry, moody, irritable, and low energy. Once we hit bottom, no amount of food will actually make us feel better, but we continue to eat hoping it will help. Have a snack of some kind of produce (fruit or vegetable) with some protein (nuts, string cheese, hummus, turkey, hard-boiled egg, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt) and there’s a better chance of eating less at night.
- Have a less addicting evening snack: Rather than reach for the sugary stuff, how about something like popcorn? It’s a high-fiber, finger food, which means it will take longer to eat and is really filling. One cup of air-popped popcorn has 30 calories. Better yet, buy the 100-calorie microwave popcorn bags in any flavor, for some built-in portion control.
- Have your snack in the kitchen: That’s right, no eating in front of the boob-tube. When we eat while we watch TV, our mind is distracted and not focusing on the food we are eating. Not only do we overeat, but when we get to the bottom of the bowl, we don’t even feel full because we missed out on the entire sensory experience that’s an important part of eating. Eat before you watch your favorite shows.
- Plan you meals: When we plan our meals and make sure that we are eating at regular intervals during the day, our bodies will have a constant source of energy and will never experience that gnawing, “starving” feeling. Make sure to have planned out the dinner menu ahead of time, so upon walking in the door, it can be quickly put together. It’s also a good idea to have some grapes, apples slices, or veggies and hummus to snack on while dinner is cooking, to take the edge off of the hunger, resulting in a smaller portion on the dinner plate.