Healthy food or not, night time eating is getting in the way of your success. You know it, I know it, everybody knows it. Healthy calories are still calories and junk food calories stack up even quicker than you know. Your life, health, morning routine, and overall confidence level will improve once you ditch this toxic habit. As the saying goes, "Old habits die hard." And it's true. Breaking a habit takes time and repetition but rest assured there is a way to do it.
I find that there is a particular time of day when people struggle the most, this starts around 4:00 pm and usually lasts till bedtime. There are many factors (also can be identified as triggers) that contribute to night time snacking so it's helpful to do a thorough evaluation of what could be leading to your downfall. Once you do determine the "why" though, you are still left with the "how". How do you break the habit of snacking, nibbling, and down right self sabotaging at night time? Stay with me.
1. Don't skip meals.
What you do the first half of the day will largely determine your success the second half of the day. Don't skip meals and come home ravenous before dinner. Eat enough at each meal so you feel satiated and stable enough to prepare dinner without snacking. Not skipping meals requires the simple task of planning ahead and sometimes preparing food in advance. This is my number one suggestion for avoiding night time eating! Fill up during the day and you wont be so tempted to eat at night. Structure your day to set you up for success at night.
2. Set a reminder.
Reminders are a completely underrated method for getting things done. Imagine, dinner is finished and your spouse sits down with a nice bowl of ice-cream in front of your favorite Netflix show, someone comes flying through your door and says "don't do it! don't eat the ice-cream!". Wouldn't that be such a helpful, encouraging word to hear during a time that you struggle the most? You may not be able to find someone to fly through your door like that but you can do the next best thing, set a reminder. Use your phone to create a re-occurring reminder to pop up at a certain time or write it on a post it note and put it on your fridge. When you are trying to change your behaviors, you have to remind yourself of what you want to do and what you don't want to do, it won't come natural.
3. Get an accountability partner.
Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to results. Being accountable to someone helps you keep your “eyes on the prize”. A good accountability partner will encourage you to move forward in the face of obstacles, encourage you with words of inspiration and motivation to keep going, offer a fresh viewpoint, and when necessary, be stern with you to prevent you from straying from your course. At the end of the day, just knowing that someone will inquire about your progress toward a goal or resolution may be enough to hold you to your word.
4. Determine a replacement behavior.
Giving up eating at night time is easier when you have something to replace it with. Plus, a replacement behavior can help you cope with whatever you doing in a healthier way. For example, maybe you're eating at night time because you are feeling stressed or anxious. Instead of using food to soothe you (which actually just makes things worse, not better), you can choose to start journaling and write about what you're feeling. The replacement behavior doesn't always have to be so cognitively involved, it could be something simple like drinking tea reading a book, or stretching.
5. Drink water.
When you eat at night, chances are you're not eating because of actual hunger. Maybe you've had a couple meals during the day and you just finished dinner 30-60 minutes ago, in this case your body doesn't need any more food. So rather than eating, drink water. Drinking water can also help discourage eating by just filling you up!
6. Get into a better routine.
Revamping your routine at night can help pull you out of snacking behavior. This can start when you get home for work or you can make after dinner the focus if thats where you struggle most. Rather than going straight to Netflix after dinner, try going for a short walk around the block. Take a bath. Start drinking tea. Input a healthy behavior into your night time activities to keep your positive momentum going into the night and prevent you from making a poor choice.
7. Identify the trigger.
Understanding your eating triggers can help you successfully stop snacking. A trigger is something that starts a chain of events. For example, a sad or anxious feeling can lead you to experience a carbohydrate craving or want to snack. Walking into your parents house can trigger you to mindlessly eat what's in the fridge or on the table. There are three different types of triggers: settings (location), feelings, and foods. Everybody has eating triggers. When they happen, it's crucial to recognize them for what they are and explore how you might stop them from happening again.
8. Delay instant gratification.
Don't sacrifice what means the most to you in the long-term for something you want in the moment. In todays world, instant gratification is easier than ever. We are in the age of one-click transactions and instantly available information. Food, information, media, entertainment are at the tip of our finger tips whenever we need an escape. Instant pleasure, however, is not always (if ever) a great option; in fact, impulse control is a crucial life skill. Delaying gratification is the ability that will help you reach your goals more quickly. Snacking is typically one of those impulsive behaviors. Developing the ability to delay gratification allows you to slow down and make the choice you know is beneficial. Learn to ride the wave of temptation and delay instant gratification.
9. Track your success.
Monitoring your progress will inspire you to hold yourself accountable. Each day you have a specific goal to hit and when you do you can mark the day as completed. It helps you visually see how your good works are adding up and motivates you to keep going in the same direction. It's essential to celebrate each win, big or small. As humans we tend to naturally gravitate towards where we fall short, not what what we are doing well. Celebrating each win helps you condition your mind to see the good in your efforts, not criticizing yourself for not being where you'd like to be. Tracking takes that to the next level. What's measured is managed! I recommend using a journal, habit-tracker (make your own or search on amazon.com), or a giant whiteboard that you can hang up on the wall.
10. Don't keep your favorite snack foods in the house.
Even the sight of your go-to snack foods can lead to a craving. Why make it harder on yourself? This is a simple step you can take that will help you practice more discipline at night time. Refrain from purchasing processed, snack foods during your next grocery shop. If you can't completely eliminate from the house because of kids or your spouse, try moving them to a specific area away from the kitchen, maybe the basement or the garage. You may also purchase snack foods that they like and you don't, making it less tempting for you to grab.
Don't fight the good fight all day long only to stop at the finish line before you go to bed. Try some of these strategies to overcome night time eating!