Are you ready to once and for all stop mindlessly snacking at night?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered when it comes to the nightly pull of the fridge, freezer and cookie jar!
Wave goodbye 👋🏽 to the struggle, because I’m going to teach you how to:
•Identify your triggers for snacking at night
•Plan your meals & snacks
•Discover healthier alternatives
Identify Your Triggers For Snacking At Night
We don’t do anything in life without a trigger, also known as a cue.
You eat breakfast because it’s 8 AM. You brush your teeth because it’s bedtime.
Visually, it looks like this:
Cue→ Action→ Reward
It’s time to watch the next episode of The Crown on Netflix (cue).
You go to the freezer and scoop some ice cream into your bowl (action).
Your sweet tooth is satisfied and all is right with the world! (reward).
So what you need to do is figure out your triggers. It may look completely different from what I shared above.
You may snack as soon as you get home from work, or after you went for a walk, to reward yourself!
You may resist and resist (“I’m going to be strong tonight and NOT have a snack”), but then each and every time you give in again, repeating the same tired line…”tomorrow I’ll resist!”
You may even tell yourself how good you were today so you deserve a treat! And so the nighttime snacking struggle continues. And continues.
Nighttime Snacking Triggers
You don’t normally think about your triggers. They just happen.
So I’m going to have you go through an exercise to discover your own cue…the thing that happens right before you go to get the snack or treat.
It requires a bit of work, but what good thing doesn’t?
You’ll need some sort of notebook. Just something small, perhaps that can fit into your purse or pocket.
Even one of those little notepads will work just fine (you know, the tiny ones with the spiral binding).
When you realize you are getting up from the couch, have put down your car keys, have flipped on the TV…whatever moment you feel yourself moving toward the kitchen, stop, take a deep breath and get your little notebook.
Write down the time, what you were just doing (be specific), and what you are on the way to do.
Write down how you feel…try to be specific again. Are you tired, bored, stressed, angry, sad or lonely?
Are you looking for comfort? Or a reward for a tough day?
You may even be telling yourself, “what’s the use, I’ll never stop so why even try?”
Anything that pops into your mind when you’re just on the way to get the treat, write it down.
You can still have the treat!
Don’t fret. This is just to get a handle on your triggers and thoughts before we devise a plan.
Do what is described above for the entire week…not the weekend for now (whatever your weekend is).
If after the week is over you begin to see a pattern, great! You can move on to the next step. If not, don’t fret.
Just do it for another week. Be sure to write this down in your notebook.
If you’re still not sure after two weeks, feel free to shoot me an email! I’ll help you work it out.
Plan Your Meals & Snacks
Now that you’re more aware of what you’re doing and also getting a handle on why you’re snacking every night, it’s time for some planning!
In fact, you may actually be hungry when you reach for a snack in the evening.
Think about it. If you’re dieting (and if you’re over 50, chances you are either on, or about to start a diet), you may restrict yourself all day, but when you get home and unwind, your willpower has all gone the way of the dodo bird.
So you need to be sure you’re fueling properly throughout the day and not leaving yourself famished in the evening, searching for anything and everything.
In the evenings, we’re usually just about fresh out of willpower, so avoiding the tempting treats becomes all that much more difficult.
Planning Your Meals
There’s some wisdom in the old adage to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.
Studies show that rising on the earlier side and eating a relatively hearty breakfast with adequate protein, and then gradually eating lighter fare throughout the day, can more easily quell the urge for snacking at night, especially with junk food!
Be sure to add a good source of lean protein in adequate quantity to your dinner meal and that will not only help you feel satisfied, but won’t leave you craving as much salty, fatty, or sweet foods later on.
I can remember, and you probably can, too, back when I was younger we almost never ate dessert! Certainly not every evening.
We ate 3 meals, and most of the time when I got home from school I had a couple of oranges or apples. The fruit was the only snack!
We just did not eat a bunch of crap. Partly because we couldn’t afford it, but partly because it just didn’t exist!
So plan your meals every day, eat enough protein, and you’ll decrease your craving for unhealthy food in the evening.
Planning Your Snacks
Now, what if you still want to eat something in the evening? I know I do!
What we’re trying to do here is stop eating mindlessly in the evening, and also stop eating unhealthy snacks every single night.
So if you still want to fit a snack into your evenings, then pay attention! This part is crucial to your success! Don’t skip it.
It’s so easy to get into an unhealthy habit when the unhealthy thing either tastes so good, or you associate it with something quite pleasurable.
The “something pleasurable” can be watching a TV show with your partner in the evening! I know that’s a time I look forward to each and every night with my husband and I don’t plan to give it up!
Sure, I could be more productive during that time, but it’s a chance for us to wind down, giggle a little on the couch, and just watch something funny. It’s a time we both treasure.
And we also want something to eat! We don’t need it, and aren’t usually super hungry, but it just seems to “fit.”
So for a while now I’ve been planning for the snack, saving room, and looking forward to a reasonably healthy, measured snack in the evening.
Healthy Snack Ideas
We have air-popped popcorn often, or some fresh fruit mixed with low-fat vanilla yogurt (which is oh-so-yummy), and even a measured quantity of crackers and cheese.
Once again, getting some protein in there can help you sleep and make more tryptophan available to your brain, which also helps with sleep! That’s a win-win in my book.
I sometimes have a small ramekin bowl with fat-free chocolate frozen yogurt. It satisfies my sweet tooth and gives me a bit of a protein boost. Yes, it’s got sugar, but I tend to watch that throughout the day, so I have rationalized it!
Make Sure To Plan & Measure
No bringing over a big bag of Doritos with a couple of paper towels and going to town!
Putting your healthy, satisfying snack on a plate or in a bowl is also helpful for limiting how much you eat. All part of the planning!
Related Post: 5 Delicious No-Guilt Healthy Snacks
What if the very idea of having to plan and measure makes you shudder? Then it may be best for you to stop eating after your last meal.
Give yourself a window of time in which to eat (usually 9-12 hours) and just don’t eat anything after that time.
It’s simple, and it works for a lot of people.
If you need something to do with your hands and/or mouth, drink a hot cup of herbal tea.
A really good herbal tea with a sweet and spicy flavor is Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice. It’s caffeine free, so good to drink in the evening.
One of the best tricks I have found is to have some sort of minty taste. Chew a stick of minty gum (sugarless), or brush your teeth and rinse with a strong mouthwash.
This teeth-brushing trick works surprisingly well. And once it becomes a habit, your brain will actually crave the minty, fresh feel! That’s a total win-win in my book.
This only works well if you’ve fueled your body well throughout the day, as per the advice above. Otherwise, you may still be hungry.
One other thing…and I saved the best for last!
If you have regularly eaten only 200 calories on average of a snack in the evening, and you quit completely, say, stopping any eating after dinner, all other things being equal, you will lose 20 pounds in a year!!
This is amazing when you think about it. Twenty pounds in a year is just a little over 1.5 pounds a month, a number with which most people wouldn’t dance a jig.
But they add up. If you were wolfing down 500 mindless calories and you instead began planning your snacks and had, say, a 250 calorie snack instead, you would lose over 25 pounds in a year!
We’re talking some serious pounds here. It shows how small things really do add up.
If you do this over other aspects of your life, such as, cutting down (or out completely) your nightly wine drinking (a 5 oz glass of Chardonnay is 120 calories) , or cut a meager 50 calories from each meal (VERY easy to do, by the way, if you’re planning and tracking your meals) the effect will be even greater.
No we’re saving 200 or more calories from your former evening snack, and another 150 or more total from your meals or wine, you’ve now lost 36.5 pounds in a year without starving yourself AT ALL.
This is really the key to the whole weight loss over 50 conundrum and what I teach in every single thing I write or share in Facebook lives.
You Can Break The Habit Of Snacking At Night
Now that you have some solid ideas to help you stop unplanned nighttime snacking, you need never be caught mindlessly chomping on chips again!
Remember the three steps to stopping your nighttime (mindless) snacking:
- Discover your triggers
- Plan your meals & snacks
- Find healthy snacks if you still want a (planned) snack
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