It’s 9pm. You finished dinner with the family a couple hours ago. You’re not hungry but you want a snack.
Well, hello, internal struggle, it’s nice to see you again. I’ve missed you since last night.
Your mind is telling you no but your heart is all like: snuggling up with that ginormous box of Cheez-Its on the couch during the Bachelorette sounds like the best thing in the world right now. We convince ourselves that we deserve it. The kids are in bed, it was a long day, this is our time to enjoy life’s little pleasures.
Sound familiar? Well, I’ve got news for you: you’re not alone. I asked my Facebook friends what their Achilles heel is when it comes to late night snacking and I received 45 comments about chips, cheese, crackers, ice cream, chocolate, wine, cereal, popcorn, pretzels, and Nutella. I loved this thread on my timeline because it felt like a confession of sorts. We don’t talk about it a lot, but look, when you feel like you’re the only loser in the world going to town on an entire sleeve of Thin Mints, I promise you– you’re not. And I’ve got something to tell you: it’s not your fault.
After years of research, Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the NIDA, recently presented a lecture announcing that refined processed foods are equal to, if not more addictive than, cocaine, heroin, and morphine. Through brain scans, she discovered that during the moments before consumption, we experience the exact same kind of anticipation as drug addicts before taking a hit. That’s right, you heard me correctly. Your salivation for those hyper-palatable foods is in fact an addiction. Habits formed along the way that eventually led to a lack of control. Luckily, these habits are reversible. Or rather, there are ways to create new, healthier habits that will take the place of your old ways.
I typically hear about 5 different scenarios that paint the picture for our reasons to snack at night. Here are some ideas for how to make these scenarios a little prettier.
#1. When you are convinced you deserve a treat.
You ate healthy all day, and you deserve a little indulgence. I’m right there with ya. I teach my clients about the 80/20 rule because it works for me: 80% healthy food, 20% fun food. That’s why at the end of every day I indulge in 5 Dove dark chocolates. They are 210 delicious calories. They don’t ruin my entire day of clean eating. And they satisfy my sweet tooth. So when you’re craving something bad for you, fine, have it. Don’t deprive yourself. Instead, portion out the amount you know you should consume (hint: there’s usually a “serving size” on the label. Follow it), eat only that, and let that be it.
#2. When it’s all in your head.
You know there are treats in the pantry but you also know you have the willpower to say “no” to them. This is when you have to remember the bigger picture. Your “why” for wanting to make a change. So why do you want to make a change? My guess is that your answer is somehow related to your health. When it’s all in your head, this is when you should pull out your Pinterest board of healthy motivation. What, you don’t have one of those? Well go make one! And pin everything that will inspire you to take baby steps toward your goal. If Pinterest isn’t your thing, scatter other reminders around the house that will keep your head in the right place. Maybe there’s a hot dress you want to fit into again. Hang it on display in your bedroom. Maybe you have a new grandkid you want to stick around for. Post a picture of him on your fridge. Anything that will help you visualize your success.
#3. When you have a major craving.
Make a healthier version of it. Make a whole bunch of it on Sunday so that you have it ready to go for your entire week. Even better, portion it out into individual servings. Because it’s the convenience you want late at night, right? Air popped popcorn, chocolate peanut butter protein balls, baked sweet potato chips, and banana “ice cream” are all perfect alternatives. I could show you pins all day long, but you can do a search yourself to find a healthy alternative to your favorite snack.
#4. When you want company.
When you want a friend to share your favorite tv show with, or if you have to get work done on the computer and you need something next to you. Substitute the junk with some herbal tea. You can milk that puppy all night and it will be with you through the entire thing.
#5. When you’re bored.
Go to bed. Seriously. Unless you’re a sleepwalker, there is a 100% chance that you will not eat when you’re asleep. As my friend, Jaynie, mom of 3 adorable kids, says: “I’m a toddler…put me to bed before 7pm and all is good. After that…I’m a wanna be frat boy!!??”
Because everyone’s brain functions differently, maybe all of these will work for you, or maybe only one of them will. But try them all out, see how they go, and let me know what’s working for you. Got other ideas? Please share them!
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