Midnight Snack Cravings

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Question of the Month:

I’m having a hard time with nighttime eating.  Any tips, hints, or other advice to help me curb this seemingly routine habit?

Answer:

Nighttime is generally devoted to slowing down and relaxing.  Our busy lives are filled with stress and we require downtime to prepare for the next day.  Generally speaking, evenings are the only time when we can get away from all the stresses of life and just relax. We often engage in mundane activities that become habitual.  We tend to plop down on the couch to watch our favorite television show and get comfortable.  This level of comfort easily lends itself to snacking.

There are two basic influences that cause us to eat.  Appetite and hunger drive this desire.  Many people believe that appetite and hunger are synonymous.  This is not true.  Appetite is psychologically driven, while hunger is controlled by physiological need.  Our appetite for food is influenced by our senses, emotions, environment, and habits.  A great example of this is indulging in dessert after dinner.  Do you truly need dessert?  You have just finished a great meal.  Are you still hungry?  Probably not! More than likely, your appetite has been aroused by the sight and smell of the dessert.  Effectively, your eyes have played a trick on you, and they have become bigger than your stomach.  On the other hand, hunger is controlled by our body’s physical need for food.  Our stomachs tell us when we are hungry by panging and growling.  Generally speaking you should only eat when you are hungry. 

In order to insure that your nighttime eating is not a habit or counterproductive, you must be keenly aware of what your body is telling you.  Are you truly hungry?  Did you eat an early or small dinner and your hunger is catching up with you?  There is usually a logical reason for your hunger.  Try drinking a glass of water and waiting a few minutes.  If you are still hungry eat something light like a piece of fruit or yogurt.  

If you find that your nighttime eating is not due to hunger, try to determine if there is an evening habit that can be attributed to it and change the habit.  For instance: if you regularly sit on the couch and watch television, try going for a walk or having family game nights to break up the monotony.  You can also try rewarding yourself with a larger breakfast the next morning if you go without an evening snack.  More than likely, the evening cravings will no longer be with you in the morning.

Anthony G. Barnes is the club owner at Anytime Fitness in Chester and holds a degree in Sports Medicine and Exercise Science.  To submit a question for future articles, please contact the author at anthony.barnes@anytimefitness.com

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