Overeating & Grazing At Night?
I can’t count on the fingers of my two hands the times I heard this: "I am good all day and then everything goes wrong, it just seems to go downhill when I come home back from work..." You come home from a long day and you go straight to the fridge, sounds familiar? "I start my day off with my best intention, I have my healthy breakfast at home, I pack my lunch from home, I'm able to get through the 3pm sugar crash and just when I think this day is going so well I get back home snacking on something before I even had the chance to drop my bag. I overate at dinner and then I have ice cream, chocolate and crisps. Completely mindlessly. I promise myself tomorrow will be better but then I keep repeating the same behaviour." So you feel bad and think something is wrong with you. You might even think you need to go on a diet or on a 'better' diet if you're already on one. You don't need better willpower or a strict diet. You need to shift your mindset around food... Nothing is wrong with you, there are reasons for why you're doing it and all you need to do is address it instead of trying to willpower through it.
Here are some reasons and steps you can take to breakdown this cycle:
1. Do you skip meals during the day or you limit your food intake? If so there is a good reason why your body is ravenous by the time you get home. Eat regularly during the day, make sure you are satisfying your hunger and not restricting your portions due to external diet rules. Finish your meals feeling satisfied. Make sure to have a proper afternoon snack: grain + fat/protein, for example: bread + peanut butter, yogurt + granola, crackers + hummus/avocado - to all these options you can add veg or fruit of you fancy.
2. Are you negating and ignoring your cravings? If you are depriving yourself during the day you most likely end up binging at night. Your body will keep sending you hunger signals until you satisfy your cravings. For example: you are craving chocolate but instead you decide to eat a banana. Big chance that you won't be satisfied by the banana because it's not what you were craving for, so you'll keep eating waiting for that satisfaction moment to come. If you've listened to your body, you probably would have been satisfied with few squares of chocolate.
3. Are you attaching judgment to food choices? If you see food as good or bad you are most likely going to feel guilty when choosing 'bad food', and what started with one innocent bowl of ice cream ends up being the whole tub. It's the guilt that drives you to eat more, usually because you're thinking tomorrow I'll start again... it's that feeling of having your Last Supper before going on a diet again.
4. Are not getting enough variety of foods during the day and at dinner? Are you avoiding eating certain food groups? Fats? Carbs? If so that's why you end up craving everything at night... If you are not eating enough carbohydrates in your meals your body will crave something sweet because it needs those carbohydrates to help with recovery.
The four reasons above all boil down to - your diet (even if you're not officially on one, but you've answered yes to one of the questions above) is failing you. Start focusing on health and habits - not weight loss and restriction.
If all above doesn't apply on you, keep reading - I'm breaking down some lifestyle behaviours that might help you!
5. Are getting enough good quality sleep? When you're tired, your body releases more of the hormones that make you feel hungry, and slows down the release of the hormone that make you feel satisfied. And generally we tend to make poorer choices when we are tired. Make sure you are getting enough quality sleep. Read about how to improve the quality of your sleep HERE.
6. Are you carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? You come back home after a long day and all you want is to relax... Getting 'stuffed' forces your body to feel heavy and deeply relaxed. Create a ‘coming home ritual’. It doesn’t have to be big, even 5-10 min will do. This will allow you to have a moment to transition from the day. Just as you take time in the morning to set up the pace and intention for the day you want to take a moment to tune in in the evening. Here are some ideas – take a hot shower or a bath (with some lavender!), change to comfy clothes, lit up some candles, put on your favourite music, get some stretches, go for a walk, make yourself a cup of tea with a nice book. If you are a parent and you need to attend to your family create something together as family, perhaps you can go for a walk together or do something creative?
7. Are you feeling bored or lonely at nights? Is food playing a rule of comfort and uncomfortable feeling? Don't get me wrong, food can sometimes be a nice comfort, but do you want it to be your only coping tool? Probably not... It's good to address the different roles that food might play for you. Which needs does food soothe? Ask yourself these questions and you might find out that you are eating to reward yourself, to comfort yourself, to distract yourself, to manage stress or to avoid dealing with difficult emotions. By discovering what role food plays you would be able to look for different ways to fulfil your emotional needs.
You might be eating out of boredom because you don’t really know what to do with your evenings. Make a list of ideas for things you can do with your evenings and plan some in advance. When you make the list think about what would be fun and nourishing for you - meeting friends? learning something new? reading a book? going to a yoga class? booking a massage? Once you have a list start planing them into your calendar.
Sometimes having a movie night with some of your favourite snacks is just what you need! You'll enjoy it when it's not an autopilot behaviour.
This is where the most common fear comes up - "I am afraid that if I'll allow myself to have certain foods I won't be able to stop" - breaking down the diet mentality means giving yourself full permission to eat all the foods whenever you want. You won’t feel the need to eat everything all the time because you can have it tomorrow and the day after and the day after. It takes food off the pedestal, and so it looses its power over you. And think about it - if all you had is ice cream for a week or two, do you honestly think that you would want to eat like this for the rest of your life? Eating ice cream is fun when it's appropriate but too much of it will make you feel like crap. Eating too much of any food is not good, your body needs variety!
Hope this was helpful!
Please share your thought with me, I'd love to hear from you!