A very often-heard issue that I hear in my Health Coaching Practice is that of night-time grazing. It’s a tough habit to kick, for sure, because so much tension and tiredness from the day follows us into the evening, and well, what’s a person to do but have a snack, and another snack, and, sure, yet another snack or two. And so it goes.
Even with firm plan in mind, (and it looks great on paper, complete with beautiful images of healthy new recipes), we snack. We can have all the best intentions, complete with planned meals, shopping ahead, purging our cupboards of preservative and additive-laden foods, and filling the refrigerator with fresh fruits and vegetables, and still, we snack.
It’s consistency that is truly the most challenging hurdle of all when it comes to healthy eating.
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Let’s get down to basics here. For many people struggling with grazing the proverbial “elephant in the room” is the issue of whether or not we will actually follow through with our good intentions and plans both day and night. Even among the most dedicated health seekers, unhealthy habits which lead to uncontrollable overeating are not uncommon. Especially under the cloak of night and in the privacy of our own home, a few treats combined with a stressful day and low energy can very easily roll right into a binge.
Trust me, you are definitely not alone when feelings of stress, anxiety, and exhaustion lead to the despairing sight of an entire day’s healthy eating unwind. Let us resolve right here to guide that aforementioned elephant out of the living room.
Begin with These 5 Top Tips
1. Aim for balanced and structured eating across the day. Irrational food cravings and the inability to stop eating despite having all the best intentions, come from true physiological and biochemical drivers. Unbalanced, stressful, and chaotic eating patterns can send feedback messages to our internal appetite regulating circuits. If our brain thinks we’re in danger or approaching famine, it lets out a starvation response to ensure that we have adequate nutrition on board.
Eating under pressure, eating too quickly, skipping meals, and grazing through the day all have the potential to wreak havoc with blood sugar levels and elicit a stress response. The first place to start if you have unstructured eating patterns is to look at meal balance and sensible eating patterns. A balanced whole food meal should keep you satiated for at least 2 hours. If you are hungry soon after eating, consider adding some healthy fat or protein to make the meal more satiating without affecting your blood sugar levels.
2. Keep hydrated. Skipping some extra snacks will initially feel uncomfortable. It’s not a punishment, so put the guilt away. Drink plenty of water. Sometimes when we think we need to eat, it’s that we are thirsty.
Add some cups of tea during the day and into the evening in place of food. Tea is warming, fills your belly, and can give you something to do with your hands. Find new tea varieties that you can enjoy. Find a nice new blend, a pretty pot with a cute matching mug. There’s no shame in being a tea lover.
3. Slow down. Chew well. Protect each mealtime as an opportunity to sit down and pause. It takes time for food to digest and for the body and brain to realize that we’ve eaten a meal. Eating slowly, along with being easier on your digestive system, allows them both to acknowledge that you’ve had a satisfying meal.
Eating a whole food balanced dinner earlier can help to nip pre-dinner shacking in the bud. The other benefit of eating earlier is in not letting yourself feel starved in the period leading up to a late-night dinner.
4. Have your last meal earlier. Waiting until you’re starving in an attempt to skimp on calories through the day can play against you. If you’re overly hungry, you’re less likely to be adequately satisfied with dinner, and more likely to reach for post-dinner snacks of sides.
Take the time to enjoy your food and company and chew properly. This will pay off in terms of a more effective digestion process, which, in turn, leads to better nutrient extraction and promotes satiety.
5. Set an intention to close your eating window. I read recently that quieting the grazing monster must come as an intentional choice. Without making the firm decision yourself, it can be too easy to talk yourself into just a little mouthful, which can lead to multiple revisits to the kitchen. Choose to stop! Decide on a realistic time that your will not put anything further into your mouth. Thus is the eating window closed. This practice can become further embedded by putting some rituals around it such as brushing your teeth or brewing a pot of tea. The point is to be purposeful about your choice to not snack on anything after this time.
It’s not easy to totally change deeply ingrained eating habits. Mindful eating is not a technique or skill, as much as it is a process of learning to engage with what your body really needs. So, set realistic goals and celebrate achievements – the minor victories along the way. Mark the days on a calendar that you managed to conquer late night binge eating. Health is an individual journey. It’s about changing behaviors one at a time, assessing what is helpful and what is not helpful for your body.
If things become confusing and overwhelming, reach out for someone, like a good health coach, to share the journey with you for awhile. You can always click on the link to a 15 minute get acquainted call with me on any page on abundantrawlife.com I would truly love to hear from you.