Seventy-five percent of emotional eaters surveyed said that evening (after work and later) is the hardest time to resist overeating. Sound familiar?
Stress from the day, loneliness, boredom, and all kinds of uncomfortable emotions tend to bubble up once the workday is over and the brain isn’t as stimulated. That’s one of the reasons people often binge-watch TV and eat mindlessly after work. Not only are we tired, but we just don’t want to face our thoughts and emotions.
And speaking of TV… that definitely doesn’t help, as you’ll see in a minute.
But there’s hope. You don’t have to fall into the same mindless eating rut every evening after work. Here’s a few key tips to keep you from blowing up your health goals.
Don’t enter the kitchen unarmed!
I encourage you to try these 5 simple strategies to end nighttime eating. Experience how sweet it is to wake up in the morning, actually hungry and ready for breakfast… instead of feeling gross and bloated (and guilty) from the night before.
- Don’t skip meals!
Skipping meals may seem like a shortcut to weight loss, but it’s actually just the opposite.
- Skipping meals causes your blood sugar to drop, making you “hangry (hungry & angry).” You can’t think straight when you’re hangry and you don’t always make great decisions.
- Skipping meals causes your metabolism to slow down and your body to go into fat-storage mode because it thinks it’s in a famine. And, when your body’s in famine mode, you actually crave food and overeat… and the cravings are usually for calorie-dense foods (high-fat, high-carbohydrate) rather than nutritionally dense foods (veggies).
- Unwind With Meditation
When you unwind with meditation you’ll be less likely to unwind with food.
Many people “veg out” in front of the TV after work and that’s one of the worst things you can do (but believe me, I get why we do it). It’s easy to snack on something while sitting on the couch (just to keep your hands and mouth busy)… but also, many commercials urge you to eat. One study found that teens who watch 3+ hours of TV per day (which is actually around the average) crave junk food. It’s no surprise.
Also, did you ever notice that food commercials are almost never for healthy food? The food industry really messes with the power of our subconscious, to the point that eating becomes about feeling better, and not nourishment. You’ve seen the Snickers commercials: “You’re not you when you’re hungry.” Thanks a lot, guys…
Meditation may not be as stimulating and exciting as TV-watching, but meditation helps you handle stress, which is the main component of emotional eating. It’s also a safe way for you to face your thoughts… and realize, “they’re just thoughts!” Thoughts come and go, like leaves and sticks bobbing along a brook in nature. You don’t have to react to each one; instead, you can just observe them and let them move along, like watching the leaves move down the stream. In this way, meditation helps lessen the emotional impact of our mind’s thought patterns.
- Talk It Out
When you share about your day with a girlfriend, spouse, spiritual teacher, or parent, it’s easier to get relief from your burdens. We aren’t made to go it alone. Social support is a way to release emotional stress, and to gain insights from other people’s experiences. Even a 15 minute chat with a good listener helps significantly. Trying to keep those emotions in means stuffing food on top of them to keep them down. Instead of stuffing it down, talk it out!
- Make It a Meal
Repeated trips to the kitchen for ‘just one more bite’ of something… nibbling on ‘just a handful’… if you were to add up all those innocuous little ‘bites’ and put them on a plate at the same time, you’d be absolutely blown away at how much you just ate. So how can you preemptively do this?
Go to the kitchen and pull out all the bags and boxes of foods that you normally nibble on throughout the evening. Then, imagine what each of your favorite go-to snack portions looks like individually… and mentally put them all on a plate together. At the same time. The sheer quantity will shock you.
Now put that stuff away and go make a real meal.
Meals are beautiful rituals that can actually be incredibly soothing. Meals are about nourishment, not soothing emotions. Cook for yourself (and others) with LOVE. Seriously, put love into every meal you make. Eat slowly and savor every bite.
Create a real meal and put everything you eat on a plate. It’s satisfying both physically and emotionally, and especially if you have a glass of room temperature water with it (for easier digestion). You will be far less tempted to snack later. Putting care into preparing and eating a meal makes it a conscious decision about taking care of yourself, as opposed to the mindless nibbling that is not about nourishing your body, but ignoring it.
Making a meal, which is a way to demonstrate self-care, makes you feel good about yourself. Even if you’re eating alone, you deserve to be nourished. You deserve to have a great meal. So even if it’s a little bit more effort, if you do it with love, it doesn’t feel like effort. It’s a reward.
- Go To Bed!
Removing the distractions helps you avoid overeating at night.
Distractions from your emotions, like Facebook, binge-watching TV, doing extra work, etc. keep you up too late and make it too easy to eat. Hours have gone by… then you’re too stimulated to go to sleep at a reasonable hour… which is stressful because you know you’ll be tired tomorrow… so you distract yourself some more… then you finally go to bed but it’s probably not a great sleep… then you’re not rested enough enough the next day… then you’re even more stressed the next day… and the cycle repeats and repeats.
A better solution? Go to bed!
Download the FREE “Cheat Sheet”!!
Nighttime eating is a big problem for so many, but it doesn’t have to become your daily routine. For a full list of tips on overcoming nighttime eating, download the Banish Nighttime Eating cheat sheet HERE. And please let me know if I can offer further support to end your emotional eating.