How to Avoid That Middle of the Night Snack
By Barb Brathwaite, RN MSN CS
When it comes to snacking, many of us have a “Jekyll and Hyde” type split personality. During the day our Dr. Jekyll personality is able to control our eating habits. But at night the Mr. Hyde side comes out as we indulge ourselves on unhealthy snacks. While our daytime selves are able to find contentment with healthy, nutritious foods, our nighttime persona are only happy with potato chips and pints of ice cream. Maybe we do this out of boredom or because we’re stressed or lonely, but the bottom line is that too often we eat too much after dinner.
If it seems that your nighttime munchie personality is here to stay, here are a few things to consider:
What are you feeling when you develop that craving? Are you lonely, sad, bored, or angry? Feelings can trigger the impulse to eat, especially if this has been a familiar pattern for you. Once in touch with your feelings, you can acknowledge them as well as your anxiety and provide a different outlet. Some ideas to help you cope may be: call a friend, attend a support group, do yoga, go for a walk, work on your new hobbies.
Has eating at night become a habit? Maybe at some point it was a comfort. You don’t need that anymore. You can comfort yourself in other healthy ways. If you stop snacking at 2 am, your body will get used to it and the cravings will diminish.
Are you tired? When tired, our defenses are down and we are more apt to eat when not hungry. Studies show that people who get less than 7 hours of sleep per night tend to be overweight. Take care of yourself and get 8 hrs sleep per night. It is important to have healthy bedtime rituals. Try to go to bed the same time every night and read a book or dim the lights and listen to music- anything that will help you to relax.
Do you keep your trigger foods in the house? If you keep unhealthy foods within easy reach, the temptation will be great when feeling vulnerable. If the snacks are not in the house, you won’t eat them.
Do you have a hobby or something that brings you pleasure and satisfaction? When working on healthy lifestyle changes, it helps to develop a hobby or activity that brings pleasure. This is the time for you to become creative and develop yourself. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do but never did? Try scrapbooking, knitting, painting, etc.
Do you eat mindlessly? When you eat your meals, take away the distractions. Try to eat quietly, sit at an uncluttered table, turn off electronics, including the television and eat slowly, chewing your food thoroughly. Stay in touch with your pouch and when feeling full, stop eating.
Did you eat your three meals with a healthy snack or two during the day? Did you get the full amount of protein? If you miss meals or don’t get enough protein, that can be a set up to fail. It can contribute to unhealthy snacking. If you have not made eating 3 healthy meals/day a priority, why not?
It is important to prioritize your needs and take care of yourself. It is very easy to get distracted in our busy world but it is easier to make the lifestyle changes if we make our needs a priority.