Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reader Advice Day: Night Time Snacking

Greetings Everyone!

It's time for another installment of "Reader Advice Day," my single favorite feature on Healthy Girl's Kitchen. The following is an e-mail I received a few weeks ago, and instead of responding myself, I though we could all get involved. Thousands of heads are better than one, I always say.

So here's the e-mail, with some of my own thoughts on the subject. But I'm most interested in YOUR thoughts.

"Hi Wendy,

My name is Mark and I'm a 57 year old guy from New York. I recently began a vegetarian diet (January) based on Dr F's Eat to Live book for both weight and health reasons. From there I found my way to your blog and thoroughly enjoy it from both a content and delivery perspective. It's clear you love what you do!

I've managed to step away from 'anything with a mother or a face' except yogurt, keeping oils to a minimum, I feel great and have lost about 12 lbs in 6 weeks. But I'm still craving ice cream and anything salty at night, only after I eat dinner. Even with this cheating I have managed to drop a little weight and feel so much better.

If you've experienced this type of craving may I trouble you to reply or blog about what is was like and how you approached it.

Thanks for sharing your gifts and knowledge with all of us!"

First off, I want to tell all of you that night time eating is a problem that I have struggled with all of my life, or at least since I could walk and open up a refrigerator. Both of my parents were night time snackers. My mom, with fruit (fresh, canned and dried) and nuts in her bed at the end of the day, and my dad at our kitchen table as he worked on "paperwork" for hours every night, after he got home from a very long day at the office (my dad was a really hard worker).

My night time eating was and is a way for me to fill myself up on highly caloric food after being "good" for the day, but mostly it's a physical and psychological stress release. Most of it was done as a sort of sneak-eating until about 10 years ago when I stopped that (having kids has a way of changing us for the better I think). I'm pretty confident that my night eating has something to do with me being tired at the end of the day and craving a boost of energy. It always involves vegging out in front of a television and mindlessly eating whatever was or is around that was fatty and either sugary or salty.

I always knew that it was "wrong," but somehow, at the end of each day, the relief of sitting in front of that TV and eating just brought me a relief that nothing else does, even to this day.

As my level of awareness grew over the years, my use of "my drug" subsided somewhat, but I still do it on occasion and usually in phases.

I guess the fact that I don't do it every day is actually some form of success, considering my level of addiction.

There are a few things that have really helped me:

(1) Awareness of why I eat at night-sometimes it is real hunger, but most of the time it is a reward I give myself at the end of a long and stressful day. Somehow, pretty much all of my days feel long and stressful, no matter what I am doing in my life. I tend to drive myself to the brink of exhaustion.

so . . .

(2) [edited to add] You must make a huge effort to rid your home of all of your trigger foods. I promise you, if it is not in your kitchen things will make a dramatic turn in the right direction. Get out a big garbage bag and just make a sweep of your fridge, freezer and pantry. Throw out all of the junk. Don't feel one ounce of guilt about putting it in your trash can. That is where it belongs, not your body. I did this a long time ago and I have never regretted it.


(3) With awareness I can make other choices, rather than eating. The awareness that I am trying to fuel my exhaustion has led me in the last few years to just GO TO BED. Even if it is 7:30 or 8:00 at night. I get up sometime between 5 am and 6:30, so I can't be surprised that I'm wooped at night.


(4) Have a cup of hot tea, it really feeds the same monster. You'll be shocked!

(5) If I really can't control myself, at least choose food that is not patently unhealthy. Some fresh banana soft serve (where ice cream used to be my thing) or puffed corn/rice/kamut cereal does wonders for my feeling of relaxation, even if it is fueling an addiction that I would rather overcome.

Whatever you do, don't eat out of the bag or the carton . . . at least put it on a plate!

and finally, I want to mention the spiritual connection.

(6) Try turning the problem over to something higher than yourself. As you are experiencing the urge to snack, try asking a higher power for help. Tell your higher power that you just don't want to do this anymore and please, can they take the urge away. You might have to repeat this mantra 10-20 times in one night, but it does diffuse the urge. People have found great success with Overeaters Anonymous and other 12 Step Programs. This is an addiction after all!

Or, if that sounds ludicrous to you, try this: Every time you have the thought that you want to get a snack, say to yourself, "Next." Realize that what you are feeling is just a thought, nothing more, and you don't have to act on it. Thoughts come and go all of the time, it doesn't mean that we should place stock in them. Just say "Next" and watch how your mind moves on to something else. Again, you might have to "next" yourself 20 times in one evening, but it's not very difficult to do.

What about you. Are you a night eater? Were you ever a night eater? Did you overcome it? How? Any ideas are most welcome! To leave a comment/view the comments, please click on the title of this post (the orange text above).
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