You’ve worked so hard all day. Whether it was crazy deadlines and infuriating people at work or high-energy kids who never seem to stop fighting with each other or screaming, by the end of the day, when you’ve given as much as you can give and done as much as you can do, things finally quiet down and you have a little bit of time for yourself. You hit the couch, flip on the TV or the ipad and now it’s time for a treat. You open the cupboard or the fridge or freezer and you have a moment of delight as you anticipate enjoying your favourite snack in peace and quiet. After the crazy day you’ve had? You deserve it!
I don’t think I’ve had a client yet who hasn’t told me some version of this story. They know that nighttime junk food snacking is derailing their weight loss and health goals, but they don’t know how to stop.
Well here’s how you do it:
One reason that you may be hungry or cravings things like sugar at night is because you’re not keeping your blood sugar stable throughout the day. When we eat a lot of sugar or simple carbohydrates (bread, crackers, pasta, rice, soda, etc.) it sends our blood sugar sky high.
What goes up, must come down so after the high comes the crash.
When we crash we crave more sugar or simple carbs to get our blood sugar back up so we can start feeling good again. This constant rollercoaster effect is exhausting for your body and can leave you famished by the end of the day and ready to sell your first born for a cookie or bag of potato chips.
There are two primary ways to avoid the blood sugar rollercoaster. The first is to make sure that every meal and snack you eat includes some protein, complex carbohydrates (vegetables, low-sugar fruit, whole grains, etc.) and healthy fat (nuts, seeds, avocado).
The second way is to boost your intake of fiber throughout the day. Fiber helps slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream and thus prevents the quick spikes that result in quick crashes.
Also, make sure that you’re staying well hydrated throughout the day and eating whole, nutrient-dense foods so that you don’t wind up dehydrated and undernourished by the time evening rolls around.
Another reason that you may find yourself binging at night is because you’re trying to use food to address a feeling other than hunger.
When we’re feeling tired, stressed, angry, sad or even lonely, it’s unpleasant. We don’t want to feel that way. Our brain knows that eating sugar and fat makes us feel instantly good so when these yucky feelings come over us, our brain makes us crave junk food to try to make the bad feelings stop.
The problem is that food can never really address any of those feelings. It gives us some immediate relief and helps us numb or avoid the discomfort, but it can’t bring us relief long-term.
The only way to do that is to work on implementing self-care techniques throughout the day and week that get to the root cause of those feelings. Make sure you’re getting enough good quality sleep, use meditation or deep breathing techniques to reduce stress, journal about the thoughts and feelings that are bothering you and make time for activities that you truly enjoy and that make you feel really good.
Have an alternative ready
Snacking at night doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you do find yourself really hungry in the evening then go for it – just make sure you’re choosing something that is going to be healthy for you.
Personally, I love either apple slices dipped in a little almond butter and cinnamon, or some air-popped popcorn and a nice mug of herbal tea. Sometimes I’ll even enjoy a square or two of dark, organic chocolate – yum!