What’s Up with Night-Time Snacking?
It’s 7 p.m. Dinner is done, the dishes are put away, and you’re watching your favorite show. The next thing you know you’re standing in front of your pantry (or fridge or freezer), pulling out chips (or ice cream or crackers or popcorn) to satisfy your craving. And you might even find yourself there again at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., too! Does this happen to you? What’s going on? Are you really hungry? Night-time snacking is one of the biggest challenges and culprits of weight gain. When you eat within a few hours of sleeping, your body stores the food as fat.
Believe it or not, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes of night-time snacking -- habits, hormones, emotions, nutrition deficiencies, sleep deprivation – even the influence of television! See my top tips below to help you skip the snacking.
• Emotional eating. Have you heard of emotional eating? Perhaps you've experienced this or seen a movie where the jilted lover tries to soothe her broken heart with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream - Did you know they even have a flavor called “Chocolate Therapy?” But emotions that can drive you to snack are not always that clear or dramatic. Everyday stress, anxiety, frustration, loneliness, and boredom are just a few of the feelings that cause many people to comfort eat. You may not even be aware of those feelings, but night-time can magnify them and send you to the kitchen.
• Entertaining. When we get together with family or friends, it’s often about eating. And summertime brings picnics, BBQs, family reunions, and more! If you’re worried that you’ll offend your host who’s baked all day, or that your family or friends will give you a hard time (and what’s that all about?), let them know you are focusing on healthy habits, and find other ways to join in and connect! If that idea makes you uncomfortable (you’re not alone here, this is a very common challenge) let’s talk about ways you can handle this with your friends and family.
• TV triggers. When you’re watching your favorite shows, you’re the target of commercials for fast food, sweets and salty snacks. These ads work, as they were designed to, and trigger the urge to snack – companies spend millions of dollars to create those cravings. Take back your power by muting the television or fast-forwarding through your recordings.
• Hormone health. Your body produces hormones to help regulate your appetite – insulin, leptin and ghrelin are just a few. If these hormones are out of balance, you might feel as if you can’t control your hunger, because your brain is not acknowledging that you’re full. For example, why do we crave something sweet right after a big meal? It’s physical! Your body produces insulin after you eat in order to process the carbohydrates (sugar). Making just small changes to when and what you eat can help keep your hormones in check, making it easier for you to kick your cravings and maintain or lose weight.
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