Are you enjoying the longer days of summer? I sure am! But for some people, more daylight means more time to eat before bedtime! Have you ever thought about WHY nighttime snacking is a thing? See if any of my top 5 Why We Snack sound like you, and how to make some easy changes to look and feel better!
Ahh, summer days and nights! Dinner is done, the dishes are put away, and there is still plenty of time to relax before you turn in. But the next thing you know, you’re standing in front of your pantry or fridge or freezer, pulling out cookies or pretzels or ice cream! And you might even find yourself there again at a few hours later! Does this happen to you? Are you really hungry? Or is something else going on? Nighttime snacking is one of the biggest challenges and culprits of weight gain and stomach distress. When you eat within a few hours of sleeping, your body stores the food as fat. Your body also has to work hard overnight to digest it, so you wake up not feeling rested. And late-night eating can cause acid reflux, which can make you feel bloated during the night and/or queasy in the morning.
There are a lot of reasons people indulge in nighttime snacking — habits, hormones, emotions, nutrition deficiencies, sleep deprivation – even the influence of television!
What are some other reasons we snack?
- TV triggers. When you’re watching your favorite shows, you’re the target of commercials for fast food, sweets and salty snacks. These ads work, as they were designed to, and trigger the urge to snack. Companies spend millions of dollars to create those cravings. Take back your power by fast-forwarding through your recordings or watching commercial-free shows at night!
- Hormone health. Your body produces hormones to help regulate your appetite – insulin, leptin and ghrelin are just a few. If these hormones are out of balance, you might feel as if you can’t control your hunger, because your brain is not acknowledging that you’re full. For example, why do we crave something sweet right after a big meal? Your body produces insulin after you eat in order to process the carbohydrates (sugar). Making just small changes in when and what you eat can help keep your hormones in check. And that can make it easier for you to kick your cravings and maintain or lose weight.
- Emotional eating. You know those scenes in a movie where a jilted girlfriend tries to soothe her broken heart with a pint of ice cream? That’s just one example of emotional eating. But emotions that make you want to snack are not always that clear or dramatic. Everyday stress, anxiety, frustration, loneliness, and boredom are just a few of the feelings that cause many people to “comfort eat.” You may not even be aware of those feelings! The evening hours can magnify them and send you to the kitchen. In my practice, I work with clients to help them understand their emotional triggers, change their relationship with food, and learn healthier habits. The first step is self-awareness. When you find yourself mindlessly snacking, write a few notes about how you’re feeling. Ask yourself a few questions:
- Am I really hungry or am I bored (or mad or lonely)? New clients often tell me that they snack because they’re bored. Does that ever happen to you? When and why does that happen? What could you do about your boredom besides eat?
- Am I stressed and snacking comforts me? Stress increases cortisol, which can increase your craving to snack. How about trying some healthier ways to relax? Alternatives include taking a walk, doing yoga stretches, soaking in a warm bath, or doing some deep breathing or meditation exercises. Check out the meditation app, Headspace. It’s easy, just 10 minutes at a time, and very calming.
Now that you know some of the “whys” behind nighttime snacking, it’s time to focus on the “whats” — what to do to kick your nighttime cravings! I’ll cover that in next week’s blog – stay tuned!