I don't have any problem making great food decisions all day long.
Until 5:15 pm that is.
That's when I walk in the door after work and usually a work-out. My energy stores are very low. I'm attempting to accommodate the needs of three other little people all while trying to prepare dinner, that they wanted a half-hour ago.
If I can make it through dinner prep unscathed, there's still the rest of the evening to contend with. And that's where the battle really begins.
Eating a Plant-strong, Nutritarian diet has eliminated all of my food ghosts and goblins of the past, except for this one: night-time snacking. I have absolutely no problem resisting any food craving I have all day long, until 7 o'clock hits.
What's up with that? I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one.
The New York Times published an article about something called "decision making fatigue." Here's a key excerpt from that article:
"The discoveries about glucose help explain why dieting is a uniquely difficult test of self-control — and why even people with phenomenally strong willpower in the rest of their lives can have such a hard time losing weight. They start out the day with virtuous intentions, resisting croissants at breakfast and dessert at lunch, but each act of resistance further lowers their willpower. As their willpower weakens late in the day, they need to replenish it. But to resupply that energy, they need to give the body glucose. They’re trapped in a nutritional catch-22:
1. In order not to eat, a dieter needs willpower.
2. In order to have willpower, a dieter needs to eat.
As the body uses up glucose, it looks for a quick way to replenish the fuel, leading to a craving for sugar. After performing a lab task requiring self-control, people tend to eat more candy but not other kinds of snacks, like salty, fatty potato chips. The mere expectation of having to exert self-control makes people hunger for sweets."
Holy s#1+. That just described me.
And the NYT isn't the only news organization talking about this phenomenon. Here's how the people at Prevention Magazine described it on NBC's The Today Show:
"Budget your resolve: Each of us has a limited supply of self-control, which means if you try to exert it in too many areas at once, you'll rapidly deplete your reserve. A study from Case Western Reserve University illustrates the point. Researchers placed freshly baked chocolate chip cookies before two groups of participants, instructing one group to eat two or three and the other to eat radishes (while watching the others partake). Then everyone was asked to try to solve an impossible puzzle. Participants who had to resist the treats gave up on the problem twice as fast as those who were allowed to indulge. 'Willpower is like gas in your car,' says Vohs. 'When you resist something tempting, you use some up. The more you resist, the emptier your tank gets, until you run out of gas.'”
That's me. I run out of "gas" at the end of the day, big time (well, not the literal kind of gas, I've got enough of that to last all night, and all morning).
Well, maybe not "big time." I wouldn't call my night time eating a binge. I've overcome any of that behavior by filling up at breakfast, lunch and dinner with high nutrient food. So what I'm really talking about here is that "treat" at the end of a busy, stressful day. But that treat, every night, is the difference between me at my happy weight and me at my something more than my happy weight. And I don't like it.
It's just like Beck says on Day 13, I have to overcome my cravings if I want to remain at a healthy weight for me. Because that's what it is: cravings. I'm not hungry at night. I'm craving a treat and my resistance is shot.
Beck says that we don't have to give into cravings and that they will disappear. Wait it out, it goes away, and over time you gain confidence that cravings do pass. Here's Beck's advice on how to do just that:
(1) Label your feeling as "just a craving" and not an "emergency" or real hunger. This is a very important step and if you don't feel that you know the difference yet, please do the exercise on Day 13.
(2) Decide you are not going to eat anything, because just that decision will relieve you of the tension. Beck says it's the not knowing that causes us the strain. Once we make a firm decision of "no" the craving should start to diminish. Do not give yourself a choice.
(3) Get involved in a compelling activity. Watching TV is probably not enough. Taking a shower, talking to a friend on the phone, reading a book or working on a project is more like it. Beck has a long list of great ideas for distractions.
(4) Drink water, tea, or club soda. Thirst can mask as hunger.
(5) Distance yourself from the food you crave. Remove the food from your house or you from the place that the food is. I always need to remind myself to throw away whatever it is that has newly become my nighttime "treat." Guess what I'll be doing as soon as I finish writing this post!
(6) Read your Advantages Response Card to remind yourself of why you want to resist cravings.
The key is this: you don't want to strengthen you giving-in muscle. You want to build your resistance muscle. And it is a muscle. I built it once before and I can do it again.
How are you doing with resisting food that is not on your plan? Is this particularly difficult for you at night?
Got any tips and tricks for building a resistance muscle?
Just a reminder, if you haven't done so yet, please enter HGK's blogger giveaway of two copies of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant Based Nutrition. The questions are awesome so keep 'em coming. I can see some popular ones beginning to emerge from the pack!