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These Simple Tricks Can Help Fight Those Nighttime Demons

By Jan Claussen, MS RD LDN

 

Paul is one of my bariatric patients. He is the kind of person who would never dream of eating a doughnut or other sugary snack during the day. And yet, when nighttime comes, he often gets tripped up by unhealthy snacking.

 

But, Paul is not alone. We’ve all been there: our nighttime “snack” turns into a fourth (or fifth) meal. Why do the post-dinner munchies mess with so many of us?

 

Well, I’m not sure if it’s the monotony of watching TV or the sheer fact that we’re exhausted after work, or that our willpower for the day expires after 7pm. But there certainly seems that it’s much harder to fight the urge to chow down on chips, cookies and other snacks after the sun goes down.

 

But if you want to be able to eat one cookie without finishing the whole sleeve or you want to learn how to stop thinking about the cake in the fridge, here’s how I taught Paul to do it—and you can, too.

 

First of all, start things off right with a protein packed breakfast. It not only sets the tone for the day but it also helps to prevent having sugar cravings at night. Research has shown that squeezing a healthy breakfast into your routine is definitely worth it—especially if you want to avoid overeating later in the day.

 

The second thing you must do is to be sure that you are eating enough during the day. You see, when you fail to eat enough during the daylight hours, it sets you up to want to overeat at night. Being overhungry after dinner can lead to a nutritional disaster and make you more likely to crave junk at night.

 

Finally, you should consider what you missed eating during the day. Think back to what you ate during the day, and instead of simply reaching for a snack, try eating any of the necessary food groups that you may have forgotten. For instance, if you didn’t eat enough vegetables or fruit, be conscious of eating those first.

 

You should also consider this: Dig deeper to find out what is making you snack at nighttime. Are you bored? Upset? Lonely? Procrastinating? What emotions are you experiencing? Once you understand the reason behind the behavior, you can find ways to change it.

 

Maybe you need to rearrange your nightly routine. Drink a large glass of water before getting up to grab a snack, brush your teeth and go to bed earlier, pack lunch so you make sure to have a good nutritious meal earlier in the day. Also, you may need to set a “stop eating” time, preferably two hours before bedtime. Find activities you like to do.

 

Think of changes you can make work with your lifestyle. You have the power to change your behaviors, and there’s no better time than the present to start the process.