Just One More Chip...
It's 9 pm on a Tuesday night...
You've had a long day of working, driving the kids to and from soccer practice, and dealing with the store clerk who charged you $3 extra on your groceries.
"It's not about the money! it's about the principal!"
Anyway - you sit down to de-stress when all of a sudden, it hits you.
"Oh boy... those chips and salsa in the kitchen sound mighty fine right about now..."
You stand up, grab the chips and salsa and look at it...
You know you probably shouldn't, but your desire to forget about the stress of the day and go face first into the salty, sugary goodness is overpowering.
Long story short, you end up finishing the entire bag and end up feeling worse than you did before!
Late-night overeating is a common habit that causes many people to gain unwanted weight.
If you think you're alone- you're not. I, and most folks I talk with, struggle with late night overeating to some degree.
It's only natural for us to want to sit back, relax, turn on the TV, and eat our favorite sugary treat.
Every once in a while, this can be a good thing - the problem is when splurging on food a few night a month turns into an every night occurrence for years and years.
Things start to add up, and your waist expands in response.
Habits play a major role in the success or failure of your weight loss regimen- late night overeating is one bad habit that you need to fix and eliminate to achieve your fitness goals.
Here are a few tips I have for overcoming this habit so you can eliminate late night overeating for good!
1. Identify the Cause
One reason I see people struggling with late night eating is because of overly-restrictive daytime eating.
If you spend the whole day fighting cravings, you'll likely lose willpower by the time you get home at night.
Simply having a habit of late night eating could also be at fault.
You've become accustomed to eating at night while watching tv, so you naturally gravitate towards doing it more.
Another common cause is boredom.
Most people spend the evenings winding down from the day. It makes sense that we occupy this free time with something enjoyable like eating.
While identifying these possible causes is not enough to entirely eliminate them, it can definitely help work towards positive change.
Here is my suggestion: Whenever you find yourself wanting to snack or overeat late at night, take a quick 5-10 minutes and really think about why you want to eat.
Is it because you are actually hungry? Or are you bored, suppressing emotions, wanting to alleviate stress, etc.?
2. You May Struggle With Trigger Foods
I've written about Trigger Foods before, but here is a quick explanation:
Unlike food cravings (which are usually controllable), trigger foods are much hard to resist and often lead to overeating.
For example, my trigger food is Oreo cookies. I literally can't control myself whenever I am near them.
"Carter, how many Oreo's did you want? 1,2,5, or 10?" - random person
"Yes" - me
Because of this, I don't buy Oreos, and I keep them out of my living area.
I'm all for eating things like candy, ice cream and chocolate in moderation, but some foods are harder to resist than others.
If you feel like you simply can't control yourself around a particular food, my advice is to either remove it completely from your environment or only eat it in controlled situations (like at a restaurant).
3. Find an Eating Schedule That You Enjoy
Another reason why so many people struggle with late night overeating, especially on a diet, is because of an irregular eating schedule.
We get busy during the day, and sometimes eating isn't on our radar. While this might not seem impactful in the moment, skipping meals can result in worsened cravings and a greater likelihood of overeating at night.
Instead, find an eating schedule that you enjoy which works for your life and stick to it the best you can.
For example, I enjoy pushing my first meal back 4-8 hours into the day and only having 2-3 bigger meals. Some people do better eating 4-6 smaller meals.
Find an eating schedule that works for you and follow it the best of your ability. This will help establish a new eating habit and also break the bad habit of overeating at night.
4. Find a New and Engaging Evening Hobby
I enjoy watching episodes of Breaking Bad just as much as the next fella, but I've found that watching too much tv is like a free invitation to overeating.
Instead, try to engage in more productive and distracting nighttime activities like reading or writing.
If you have kids, maybe start having family board game nights or some other social activity?
The possibilities are endless here -just make sure that you enjoy the new activity and you'll be set.
5. Start Tracking Your Food Intake
A lot of people don't like the idea of tracking their food. They think that tracking food is obsessive and too complicated to do consistently.
I couldn't disagree with this more, and in fact, I believe tracking calories (and especially macronutrients) is an excellent way to lose weight AND allow for small late night indulgences.
You see, most people who are overeating at night are also eating too much during the day. If they were to account for the calories in their night time snacking, they could still enjoy it while losing weight.
This is where counting calories become useful
If you track your calories during the day, you can easily fit in a few hundred calories from a night time snack without the guilt of overeating or gaining weight.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of bad advice online on track food in an enjoyable and sustainable way. Most people make it way harder and obsessive than it needs to be.
I haven't written a full-blown article on it yet, but my good friend Mike Vacanti wrote a post on tracking food for weight loss that is super informative and useful (I've referenced it many, many times)
Click here to check it out.
Late night eating isn't the worst thing in the world...
I like going into the kitchen and get a small bowl of ice cream from time to time too!
The important thing is that you are snacking and eating late night "comfort" foods in moderation.
If chronically overeating at night is a problem for you, then try the tips above to help you stop or lessen the harmful effects.