You’re in between episodes of the new show on Netflix and the screen pops up that indicates you have ten seconds before the next show starts.
The thought comes in your mind.
"I’m hungry." Or... "I want something crunchy."
Either way, you head to the kitchen and grab something small and now you’re halfway through a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies.
It happens to all of us.
Late night snacking was a ritual in our house. And each time, the after snack regrets come rolling in.
“I shouldn’t have done that. Now, I definitely need to go to the gym tomorrow.”
If only there was a way to stop before you start.
Well, that’s the problem we are going to solve.
Avoid Buying Snacks
Our first suggestion is that it all starts in the grocery store.
Don’t buy the snack in the first place. We always say,
“If it’s in the house, either you or someone else in the house will eat it.”
So if it’s not on the list of foods you think you should be having to reach your goals, then maybe it’s best if it never enters your house.
Currently, we don’t have many snacks in our house. I won’t say it’s because we are super healthy people, it’s because we have very little willpower late at night. You should see us around a small tub of ice cream. It doesn’t last days in our house, it lasts hours. So we have a policy, if we want a snack that bad, we either have to make it from scratch or get in the car and go get it. That usually stops our craving right there.
Investigate Why You Feel Hungry in the First Place
For many of us, we have a routine. For me, it’s a beer while watching football. I’m pretty much the equivalent to those Pavlovian dogs. The game comes on and my mouth starts salivating. It’s just been a part of my routine for so long that it’s just part of the experience.
So we need to ask ourselves if our experience is truly leading us to the health we want to achieve.
Are we looking for the snack because we are legitimately hungry or are we doing it because it’s just something we do.
If you’re legitimately hungry, then we’ll need to address that but if not then grabbing a glass of water or engaging more with the activity may be a better answer. We can ask ourselves does the popcorn with the movie actually make the movie better? Probably not.
But some of us actually think it does.
That’s the other investigation we could do is to ask ourselves... "why?"
Why do we think the popcorn or chips during the game make it better? Maybe the combination of chips and the game or popcorn and the movie reminds you of a great experience you had. The food somehow allows you to relive it in a small way. It’s the experience that you’re after and we can get that positive feeling through a call with an old friend and really engaging with your partner.
The more we can reflect and notice our why behind our actions, the more productive we’ll be in our pursuit towards our health goals.
Nourish Yourself During the Day
The biggest surprise I continually come across is that people don’t eat enough food. I love food. I feel like I am constantly eating all day, but after a certain time of night I know I’m done because I feel nourished and my body naturally wants to take it easy for the rest of the night.
We continually discuss the importance of breakfast and for most of us, lunch should actually be the largest meal of the day. Then dinner rounds out the necessary nutrients we should be consuming today. If we don’t get those necessary nutrients then yes, later on that night we'll get hungry. This means having a healthy portion of proteins, vegetables, carbs, and fats. Choose meals that will provide you with the nutrients that will leave you satiated and more times than not, that means whole, minimally processed foods.
Just Go to Bed
Did you know that if we stay up late enough, our brain will think we need another meal? It does this because we run off energy and when we are awake we need more energy than we do when we are asleep. So if we extend our wake window until later in the night, our brain will signal that we’ll need more food just to maintain this wakeful state.
However, if we just go to bed our brain will just relax and ignore this signal. It’ll just stay in dreamland.
Many times when we're snacking late at night, we could be sleeping. Sleep is a powerful tool in the health arsenal as it allows us to recover and feel equipped for the next day. When we rob our body of this recovery, we are continually running behind. When we're running behind, we eat more to catch up.
Late night snacking every once in a while won’t ruin your health goals. However, if this is a common occurrence then looking into the why behind it is helpful. It’ll help you understand what could be the best next step in our health journey. Adding in one more protein or healthy fat into your lunch or going to bed one hour earlier could have huge benefits down the road. You’ll only recognize this as your next best step if we have more awareness around our actions and why we do them.
Good luck on curbing those late night snacks