How many times have you eaten healthy through the day and then late in the day, suddenly the snack monster takes over, one treat after the other, potato chips, cookies, brownies, whatever is in the house? Sometimes it’s so bad that you drive to the store to fulfill what seems like endless cravings. Hours later feeling fat and discouraged you trudge to bed beating yourself up for another unhealthy day. Sound familiar?
It was apparent early in my weight loss journey that a change in the scale was going to require me to stop snacking at night. Conservatively I probably ate 1000 calories in cheese and crackers after dinner.
While I’ve managed to maintain a hundred pound weight loss for more than 10 years it doesn’t mean that the snack monster no longer exists. To this day this it’s been my most difficult weight loss battle, I’d rather snack than eat a meal.
Snacking is one of America’s favorite pastimes. In 2014 the snack food industry was estimated at $124 Billion dollars and salty snacks topped the list. As a society, our obsession for snacking has become so extreme that many of us consume enough calories to qualify as a 4th meal. Additionally, experts point to our insatiable desire to snack as a leading cause of obesity.
Exactly how do you stop snacking at night?
The best place to start is by understanding your snack habit triggers. A food journal has shed infinite wisdom on the why and what I eat and has served as one of the cornerstones to my healthy weight maintenance.
Forced to commit pen to paper before putting food into my mouth, suddenly I began to see patterns and became aware of the unconscious habits developed through the years.
As an example, at 10 am every day the smell of fresh baked French rolls permeated the floors from the kitchen below my office. Within minutes I was slathering butter on to the doughy warm French roll. The crunchy outside and the soft inside melted in my mouth. The food journal made me take a hard look at the whopping calories and the low nutritional value of my mid-morning munch.
What it didn’t do was make the craving go away. Every morning at 10 a mental battle ensued, was I going to stick to my healthy eating plan or to give in to the entrenched habit?
Sure the roll tasted good but after such a long period of time repeating the same behavior, it was no longer about taste, it was habit. The solution was to avoid the mental willpower battle in the first place by creating healthier eating habits.
A food journal, as painful as it may be to examine, can assist you in looking objectively at your snack choices and times. Once you become aware of your patterns, it’s possible to start separating the healthy from unhealthy habits.
Once you have captured several days in your journal answer these simple questions designed to help you to stop snacking at night.
What time(s) do you crave snacks?
How frequently does it occur at the same time?
Is it a specific food?
Do you desire the same sensation, crunchy or creamy?
Is it the same flavor salty or sweet?
The answers will help you define the snacking urge when it rears its ugly head but if knowledge were enough who would ever eat potato chips again? We know they are fattening and unhealthy but many of us still find them a snacking staple.
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Here are 35 proven ways to help you stop snacking at night
- Drink a protein shake. Protein keeps you feeling full for hours.
- Drink water first. Dehydration can mask itself as hunger.
- Dehydrate your own healthy snacks. Zucchini chips are a great alternative to chips and Pink Lady apples make a delectable sweet-sour treat
- Take a bath with lavender oil. It relaxes the body and the mind.
- Go for a walk or run.
- Do 24 sit ups
- Brush your teeth. Nothing goes well with toothpaste.
- Hold a plank for as long as you can.
- Don’t bring snacks home in the first place.
- If you do have snacks in the house, keep it out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind.
- At work avoid the desk with the food. You know the one, the person who has every salty and sweet snack ever made and can’t wait to share.
- Don’t skip meals. It’s a tempting way to save calories but you’ll be more hungry and more apt to snack.
- Know the calories of your snack. A snack should be around 150 calories.
- At the movie theater buy the small bag of popcorn, take a reasonable portion, about 2 cups and toss the rest. Yes, it’s expensive but so is being fat.
- Lay off the diet soda. Aspartame is quite possibly one of the most controversial items on the market and is suspected of causing major health issues Additionally it’s been shown to cause an increased craving for sweets. Why not just avoid it?
- Ask yourself what you are feeling that makes you hungry. Loneliness may cause you to eat foods you associate with family and a social environment. If you are feeling emotional, take care of how you feel don’t eat to cover it up, you’ll only feel worse after the binge.
- Realize you might be hungry but most of us won’t starve. Keep it in perspective.
- Before you put it in the grocery cart ask yourself if it fits into your healthy eating plan.
- Chew gum.
- When the snacking urge hits have chopped vegetable available for munching.
- Prepackaged chopped salads are ready made healthy alternatives but be wary of calorie-laden toppings and dressings.
- For a salty treat microwave edamame in the shell or try this tasty low-cal edamame dip
- Veggie, black bean or lentil soup are low calorie filling choices for snacking.
- Eat a protein-based snack. 14 almonds or a piece of string cheese are packed with protein and around 100 calories
- Don’t eat in front of the computer or phone
- Savor every bite. Slow down and enjoy your snack.
- Put it on a smaller plate or bowl. When you eat from a big plate that isn’t full your mind tends to make you think you haven’t eaten enough.
- If you are at a party or somewhere with multiple choices, looking at the entire spread first. Then decide how to spend your calories.
- Eat with chopsticks
- Only snack at your dining room table. The less convenient, the less likely to snack
- Get enough sleep.
- Get enough steps during the day. Use a fit bit or pedometer for tracking
- If you work from home take regular breaks and keep away from the kitchen.
- Be sure to eat 30 grams of protein for breakfast. It fires up your fat burning genes and will keep you full for hours.
- Drink a warm filling glass of hot tea.
Start with the one solution you think has the best chance of working. Keep doing it every time you have the urge to snack at night and before you know it you will have built a new healthy habit.
CJ Johnson’s Fitness Transformation Blog
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