All day long you’re a super star. You get your required daily amount of protein, you blast through your goal of getting 10,000 steps, and you’re practically swimming in leafy greens. But come nighttime, your willpower decides to turn in early leaving just you, your pantry, and the ridiculously tantalizing food commercials and online recipe videos that can take a grownup to their knees.
Ever wondered why you crave sweets, or other junk food, at nighttime? Some experts blame our circadian rhythm for going primal, tapping into when our ancestors needed to load up on starchy, high-calorie foods to prepare for times when food would be scarce. Or, it could be that late night is when you’re finally alone or maybe feeling lonely. Or this could just be the time when you and your loved one can finally talk, eat, and catch up. Or, over-snacking could be your coping mechanism for dealing with a stressful day. Regardless of your own reason for evening eating, the result is usually the same: shame, guilt, poor sleeping, and weight gain. Followed up, of course, with promises that tomorrow will be better.
If you’re tired of this cycle and want to curb nighttime binge-fests, read on for a few ideas on how to stop this habit.
Pay attention. For many people, at any time of day, snacking tends to be mindless. Tune in to how you’re feeling at the moment you’re reaching for your snack. Are you really and truly hungry? Or are you actually bored, stressed, or tired? Also, keep track of your daily food and calorie intake via quick notes jotted in your phone, and start a new habit of glancing at it every night after dinner to get a calorie reality check. With your stats in mind, you might be less likely to indulge in your snacks.
But first, we drink. Another habit to put in place, pronto: every time, before you dive into the quesadilla or ice cream, drink a giant glass of water. You can even flavor it with citrus or a little fruit juice if it suits your fancy. This simple trick can help your stomach to feel full and make you less likely to snack, or to snack as much. Plus, your body will often tell you it feels hungry, when it’s actually just a little dehydrated. Bonus tip: mixing a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar in your water can be an extra-effective appetite inhibitor, and has other health benefits as well.
Substitutions, please. If you’re going to snack, do it wisely. If you’re usual go-to is the bag of chocolate candy, try a hefty portion of air-popped popcorn (a measly 125 calories in FOUR cups!) with a small amount of the candy sprinkled in. If you prefer the carton of ice cream, try eating a small bowlful of frozen grapes. YES, we know it sounds like a sad comparison, but you might be surprised at how satisfying those sweet little bites are when they’re frosty. Plus, they take a long time to eat, which can give your craving for the real stuff time to pass. Is your weakness the salty stuff? Try some salty edamame – you can find it packaged in smaller-serving bags, and it can be microwaved and in your bowl in just a few minutes. It can be pretty satisfying to pop the beans out of their shells, plus you’ll get a ton of fiber and protein, leading to way less morning-after guilt.
Exercise also happens to be an effective snack-buster. You’re less likely to attack the package of cookies if you’ve just exercised hard. But if you can’t fit in an evening HIIT session with us, even a quick DIY exercise routine at home with burpees, squat jumps, pushups, and planks can be enough to help you steer clear of unneeded junk food binge.
You don’t have to fall victim to self-sabotaging snacking. Simply by being aware of how you’re feeling, and knowing what alternatives to arm yourself with can help break the habit.