Before I lost weight, my husband and I would sit on the couch after the children were asleep and work our way through a bag of chips followed by a bowl or two of ice cream. And then, to even things up, we’d have a few more chips. I woke up in the morning feeling tired, bloated, and ravenous.
Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have recently published research showing that mice allowed to eat for only eight hours a day were actually healthier than others that ate around the clock–no matter what the contents of their diet. If proven in humans, this could mean that when we eat contributes as much to the U.S. obesity epidemic as what we eat.
If you’re having difficulty breaking your nighttime eating habit, I want you to know it can be done. Here are nine techniques I used to break the hold that nighttime snacking had on me.
Break out your calculator.
The first thing to do is break out your calculator and figure out how much you typically eat at night. I know, it can be scary.
I literally gasped to myself when I calculated I was consuming an average of 800 to 1,000 calories after dinner. If your total is more than 100 or 200 calories, you are probably eating too many calories after dinner.
Plan your evening–including the food.
The second thing to do is plan your evening. I know you plan your day. Why not do the same for the evening? Structure your activities so you stay away from the pantry and out of the kitchen.
Shut down the kitchen.
Sweep or mop those floors, put the dishes away, turn off the lights, and close the door. It seems simple, but once the kitchen was sparkling clean and everything was shut down, it helped me remember that I was done eating for the night.
Develop new skills.
Watching television or surfing the Internet is fun and entertaining, but sometimes it wasn’t enough to distract me from food. So I learned new skills that involved my hands. When I was knitting, sewing, or scrapbooking, I couldn’t eat without messing up my creations.
Give up and go to bed.
This did not happen very often, but there were nights when the cravings for sweets were hard to resist. Instead of giving in, I gave up and went to bed. After all, I couldn’t eat while I was sleeping. When I woke up in the morning the cravings were gone, and I was refreshed.
Always have a hot drink on hand.
Hot drinks helped me avoid nighttime snacking. Sometimes I would have herbal tea, and other times I chose decaf coffee or green tea. The hot drink seemed to fill me up and take away the urge to eat.
Remind yourself of your goals.
If you’re feeling bored and wanting to eat, tell yourself that part of your plan is to cut down or stop nighttime snacking. Sometimes I would have a little internal dialogue with myself that got me back on track.
Have healthy snacks available.
There were times when I was legitimately hungry after dinner. Sometimes it was because I was so busy tending to the kids that I did not eat much, and other times I still had calories left from earlier in the day. It is okay to eat at night if you have something healthy. Think carrot sticks or low calorie cheese instead of cookies and chips.
Brush your teeth.
Brushing your teeth leaves a minty feel in your mouth that doesn’t go very well with food. I often brushed my teeth directly after cleaning the kitchen. Having a clean mouth helped me skip the nighttime snack and improved my oral health. It was a win-win situation.