Picture this – You’ve eaten SO well throughout the day and are feeling pretty damn good about yourself, and then BAM, 9pm hits and you lose IT!
Do you know this scenario well?
I sure do!
I’ve been there many, many times, and still find it one of the hardest habits to break. It’s a frustration felt by many, and over the past 10 years I’ve seen most of my clients battle with this bratty little habit.
Why do we completely lose it at night?
Well first of all willpower.
At the end of the day our ‘tank ‘o’ willpower’ is running on empty, and this leads to us saying YES to the bag of chips or cookies hiding in the cupboard, willing us to devour them. Even if you’re someone like me that eats nuts, fruit, or lean proteins at night, it still adds up.
Now, let me be clear before we continue on. Eating at night will not make you fat or derail your fitness goals. It’s the OVEREATING at night that can become a problem for some of us. If you’re hungry, eat. Just choose something that’s healthy most of the time. A little bit of protein, a little bit of fat, awesome.
I’ll say it again, it’s the night time eating when you’ve already had your healthy intake of calories and food for the day, that can lead to problems. This is such a huge and debatable topic, that I could go on for ever, but I’m not going to do that, let’s keep it simple. I like simplicity, and I like my clients to listen to their own bodies. So, if your night time eating is bothering you and making you feel shitty about yourself, take a small step tonight, to begin to change this habit.
I have first hand knowledge and insight when it comes to this topic as I was a night time binge eater for years. I didn’t overeat every night, it seemed I would do it in spurts, usually 4-7 days in a row, and then I would stop for a while.
For example, I would get in the habit of eating PB + Banana sandwiches before bed, now is there anything better than PB? Simply irresistible. Some days I would eat a snack before bed and sometimes I would binge and eat way too many calories!
Why was I doing this?
I thought about it a LOT.
And I realized a few things. I would overeat if I was lonely, or stressed out, or tired, and sometimes I was rebelling against myself, as I ate so ‘clean’ I wanted to enjoy foods like everyone else did. This went on for years, and everyday after I ate WAY too much at night I would exercise a bit harder and feel guilt and shame for a good 2-3 days.
It was exhausting!
I finally stopped the crazy binge cycle for that reason, I was exhausted. The mental anguish and guilt far outweighed the ‘reward’. I still snack at night, some days more than others, but not to the extent I used to. Plus my snacking or overeating is always healthy food – nuts, protein, baked tortilla chips, fruit, veggies.
And to be perfectly transparent, when I used to overeat at night, I never gained weight. Ever. I am not telling you this so you think, “Cool, I can eat as much as I want and stay the same weight!” I was younger (late 20’s) exercising most days of the week and always ate healthy, my body was probably burning the calories efficiently, my metabolism was running smooth, and enjoying the extra calories on the days I wasn’t so ‘in control’.
I’m telling you this because most people who eat too much at night, as I did, feel immense guilt and shame, which unfortunately keeps you stuck in the same binge/shame/stress cycle. Once the stress, body shame, and guilt of eating at night are gone, you won’t want to do it as much.
Crazy but true.
Remember there is never one right way to eat, always focus on your needs, your goals and your lifestyle. Through my own experiences and working with my clients, I find the typical reasons for overeating at night are:
1) We’re tired and our bodies are preparing for sleep, subconsciously we’re trying to ‘wake ourselves up’ with food, which usually tend to be carbohydrates (toast, cereal, chips).
2)We’ve had a long day and are ready to relax, maybe watch some TV or a movie, which becomes your trigger to eat.
3)You’re a stress eater and are worrying about your day or the day coming up, food is your comfort.
Your first step to change a habit is awareness.
Start to notice any patterns you have when it comes to night time overeating.
WHY are you eating?
Is it physical hunger?
The trigger of watching TV?
If you’re ready to make a change, do it tonight, take that first step NOW. I want you to eat dinner, then close the kitchen. Don’t eat anything after dinner. You’ll wake up tomorrow, feeling really good about yourself, you’ll also realize YOU DIDN’T DIE.
Wow, amazing hey?!
Then when you’ve done it once, you can do it again. It isn’t new anymore. You can repeat the new habit. Please don’t get stressed out and put a lot of pressure on yourself, acknowledge it’s a hard habit to change and you’re not alone in this.
It’s your mind that will always win, so control it, let your thoughts know who the boss is! You have the power to reach for the cookies before bed OR or say “Nah, maybe tomorrow though”. That takes the pressure off, you can always have food, but you’re deciding WHEN and WHY first.
TIP – Ask yourself, “If I eat this how am I going to feel in 5 minutes?”
That would often stop me in my tracks. Take your first step tonight, and tomorrow morning let me know you didn’t die;)