You go the entire day eating healthy and mindful, only to sit in front the TV after the day is over with a bag of chips. Before you know it, the bag of chips is empty and you are left feeling angry with yourself, overstuffed, and miserable.
It is a cycle that many Americans experience; and there are several reasons behind why we do this to ourselves. The first step is to become aware of it. The second step is to make behavioral changes. Just like everything else in life, this is not going to be easy. You will need to be mentally aware and strong when trying to make this change!
If you are aware of this habit, and you are looking to change it, then let us discuss some ways to make that happen.
First, confirm you are eating a sufficient amount of calories per day. If you are unsure how many you should be consuming, meet with a nutritionist who can guide you in the right direction. You can also utilize My Fitness Pal or other apps to help determine approximately how many calories you should consume a day. Often times, we become so busy during the day that we forget to eat, or only snack and do not keep track of how much we are eating. By simply eating a healthy breakfast on days you know you will be busy, you may find that you can ward off that evening binge session.
If you are consuming enough calories but are still finding yourself mindlessly snacking, then it is time to make behavioral changes in the evening. Emotions such as boredom, stress, and anxiety are the most common reason for nighttime eating; and it can lead up to more than 300 calories above your recommended intake for the day! Following you will find some tips to help you determine why you are incorporating this behavior along with things you can do to make change.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Process if you are truly hungry or if you are bored, stressed, anxious, etc. If you are hungry, measure out something healthy. Don’t eat while sitting on the couch; only eat in the kitchen sitting down at a table. The less comfortable you are, the less likely you are to binge.
- Don’t watch shows or movies that increase your stress or anxiety levels before bed. When we are feeling stressed or anxious, we tend to physically crave food. This is a physical reaction that occurs in the brain. We tend to crave salty, high fat foods when stressed or anxious.
- Make sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep. When we are overly tired, we also tend to turn to food. With streaming and On Demand available at our fingertips, we tend to “binge watch” TV shows. This can cause us to stay up later in the evening, which can also lead to less sleep and even stronger evening food cravings.
- Find an activity to keep you occupied. Discover that boredom or just a simple habit of eating in front of the TV is your issue? Then consider an alternative activity while watching TV. Are there photos you’ve been meaning to organize? Have you been considering learning how to crotchet? Maybe you have a new Sudoku app you’ve been planning to play. Use the time in front of the TV to find activities outside of eating to help take your mind off of food.
Other ways to work on changing this behavior:
- Exercise. When we exercise during the day, we tend to sleep better at night. It also can help ward of cravings. It also helps to remember, “I don’t want to ruin all of my hard work”.
- Journal. Not only journal the calories, macros, etc.; but also keep track of how you are feeling when you want to eat. Making the connection between behavior and emotions that are attached to that behavior are key to making change.
- Meditate/breathe. We tend to be consumed throughout the day with work, chores, to-do lists, children, etc., that we often forget to really breathe. We tend to take short, quick breathes, that fit our lifestyle of rushing from one place to the next. In the evening, take some time to close your eyes and breathe. Deep, steady breathes in and out through the nose, “between the eyes”. Bring in as much air as you can and slowly release it. This will help reduce anxiety and stress and, in turn, will help reduce that “need” for food.
Remember that this is going to take a true commitment from you! It is not going to happen overnight. There is no quick fix for this behavior. It is going to take time, energy and commitment on your behalf to make this change. Remind yourself frequently why you want to make this change. And, of course, baby steps!!! Don’t expect to do all of the above immediately. Decide which one you can realistically start with today and apply it tonight and repeat that behavior again for a few more days. Then incorporate another one. One step at a time and you will be much more likely to have success.
*** Please note that if you find you get up during the night, after falling asleep, to eat, you could suffer from Nighttime Eating Syndrome (NES). This may require help from a therapist/counselor who can utilize certain techniques to assist you in changing NES behaviors.