Do you find yourself standing in front of your fridge at night, looking for things to snack on after supper?
Do you eat healthy all day, only to blow your efforts by stuffing yourself before bed?
Do you over-eat until you’re feeling so full that you’re uncomfortable, promising yourself that tomorrow you’ll do better, only to find that tomorrow brings the same result?
You are not alone! Thousands of people struggle with over-eating at night and it is a big contributor to unhealthy weight gain. I shared a little about my own struggle with this in my last post: “Overcoming Night-Time Binge-Eating & Meal Planning” and here I offer 7 practical tips that can help you take control back and get free from this unhealthy habit.
Start by committing to making a positive change in your life. Your commitment needs to be based on more than just wanting to lose weight, because a superficial reason will lead to a superficial commitment. What is the deeper reason? Do you need to overcome a food addiction? Or maybe you want to lose those extra 20 lbs so you can play ball with your son without tiring out so quickly? Whatever it is, write it down, post it in a visible place, commit.
2. Eat more protein at 4pm and supper time.
There are different reasons for nighttime over-eating. Sometimes it’s hunger, mostly it’s boredom, emotionally-driven, etc. Are you eating because you’re hungry? If so, you’re probably not getting enough protein the late afternoon and at supper time. Take a look at your most recent meals, if you’re not already having a late afternoon high-protein snack (like my chicken balls, Greek yogurt, or a hard-boiled egg), introduce this into your daily meal plan. Make sure you’re getting enough protein at supper also (lean chicken breast, fish, eggs, lentils or beans).
3. Address the underlying cause.
If on the other hand, you’re eating for another reason like boredom, emotions, etc. Then sit down and think about what is driving your eating. If boredom, then find an evening activity that can take your attention off the kitchen and onto something more productive (television is NOT productive!). Go for a walk after supper, join a book club, take a community art class… If it’s emotional, find another venue to let your emotions out: try journaling, it’s a great way to reflect on your inner feelings (no, I’m not hokey!). By putting it down on paper (or computer screen), you’re more likely to arrive at solutions to your challenges and move forward.
4. Drink tea.
I like to invest in a number of flavours of non-caffeinated tea (like Chamomile for sleep, or Chocolate Hazelnut tea for yumminess!). Throughout the day I drink Green Tea for it’s metabolism-boosting properties, but because this has an energizing effect I avoid it after 4pm. Chamomile tea is great right before bed because of it’s calming properties. There are lots of herbal dessert teas in grocery stores that are really tasty! This will also increase your water intake.
5. Snack on Romaine lettuce, leafy greens or celery.
If you’re truly hungry, then have a low-carb, high-protein snack such as low fat plain Greek yogurt with a few almonds, low fat cheese and veggie sticks, or a hardboiled egg. If those don’t sound appealing to you, well, then, you’re probably not truly hungry! Sometimes we eat at night because we just want to snack (it’s the habit of putting something in your mouth!). When I’m faced with this then I will snack on leafy greens, celery sticks or Romaine lettuce. I know this sounds ridiculous but it actually works. Romaine lettuce straight from the fridge is crispy and cold; it can make a reasonable snack item. I’m not going to lie, it doesn’t eliminate my craving for dark chocolate dipped in homemade almond butter (mmmm….) but it’s a wiser choice. So just do it.
6. Go to sleep earlier.
Ok, I’m serious about this one. It’s hard not to eat late at night if you’re staying up until the wee hours of the morning! What else are you going to do?! Try going to bed before 11pm (I go to sleep every night at 9:30pm if I can!). Not only will it prevent over-eating, it’ll also have the benefits of improved sleep quality and quantity, which has proven effects on decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone) – a key contributor to central abdominal weight gain!
7. Plan a healthy evening treat.
Part of the trigger for binging is if you’re excessively depriving yourself. If your diet or meal plan is too strict and you’re constantly feeling deprived, you’re more likely to fail because you’ll end up binging in a moment of weakness and then everything falls apart. By planning to have a healthy treat in the evening that you’re looking forward to, you will take away that sense of deprivation, and greatly eliminate the chance of binging and “falling off the wagon”. My healthy evening treat this past week has been either 2/3 cup low fat Greek yogurt mixed with 1 tbsp almond butter, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 cup blueberries (DELICIOUS) or a Quest Protein Bar. By building this treat into my meal plan, I give myself a reward in the evening for making good choices throughout the day, and don’t feel like I’m being uber-strict with my healthy eating to the point of deprivation.
8. One last one.. don’t forget to create a MEAL PLAN.
I talked about this in my last post.