Hi I’m Monique. And I’m a chronic late night over eater. That’s right, every night I find myself in the kitchen cupboards searching for something to eat; and I’m not talking about just a small sized snack, but more like a full blown meal. In fact, I wait until I’m practically starving so that I can have a larger portion.
Of course this whole habit of mine started when I wasn’t eating enough during the day. Does that ever happen to you? You know the whole I’m going on a diet this week reasoning that leads to a complete 180 in the opposite direction. Or perhaps you don’t eat enough at dinner just so you can save room for that giant slice of cake or for loading up on extra frozen yogurt toppings. Whatever the reason, I’m right there with you.
For a while, I made adjustments in my diet so I could accommodate the late night eating. So that I would never have to go to bed hungry or wanting something more, but most definitely so I could have my last meal right before bed. Yep, I was that obsessed. I had even forgotten what a true breakfast felt like, probably because I was still full from my midnight meal the night before. Another factor? Evening exercise. Oh yes, that 4-mile run during the late afternoons or evenings caused hunger to creep like no other. A meal right after I ran seemed fine, until it wasn’t two hours later. Because remember I never ate breakfast, therefore my after-run meal was often the first or second of the day. And those meals seemed like they were never enough.
So I ate at 11PM. And then I ate some more. And the next day I would wonder why I could never lose weight even though I always exercised or why I was always so exhausted in the morning. The answer? My habit of late night overeating. I overcompensated with calories. I ate because I felt like I hadn’t eaten in days. I wouldn’t call it a binge, because it wasn’t; I’ve had episodes of binge eating before. This was more like a large restaurant style meal and a dessert type of thing. And I knew that breaking up with my habit was going to be a bitch.
I wish I could write that it was an easy habit to break. But it was really fucking hard. I once read that people either eat because they are hungry, or they eat because it’s a habit; but I’m telling you that it felt like I was battling a full blown addiction. And okay fine, perhaps food is my addiction. I’m okay with that. But how do you sober up from food? With willpower, hard work and making mindful choices. It’s taken me quite some time to be in a comfortable place with it. Even more time for me to actually write about it.
Before I tell you what’s helped me, I want to say that I think it’s perfectly okay to have a snack at night. I know that I can’t go to bed hungry because of how active I am. I also realize that I can have a snack and be satisfied enough. More on that below. Anyway, here’s how I broke up with my late night overeating habit:
1. Having enough throughout the day. If I was eating less than 1400 calories during the day, I was going to be hungry. Especially since I exercise. So first step was to make sure I was eating frequently enough so that I had nutrients and food throughout the day. I ate breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner and a snack again before bed. Of course, I made healthy choices but I also didn’t make compromises when it came to my food. I didn’t save all of my delicious foods for late at night. I enjoyed the things I wanted throughout the day. The message was simple: No matter what time of day you eat the food, you are still consuming the food and the calories. I noticed that when I ate chocolate during the day, I didn’t have an absurd craving for it late at night.
2. Eat a good dinner and drink lots of water. I used to make a lot of simple meals for myself because I live alone and it’s easy to just whip up some eggs and toast at night. But where does that lame meal get me? Yep you guessed it, with my head in the fridge poking around at midnight because I’m so freaking hungry. So in an effort to curve my cravings, I made a commitment to either make dinner ahead of time for the week or spend time cooking it. As soon as I started incorporating more vegetables and healthy carbs into my diet, I was satisfied until bed. Oh and water. A big glass of water filled me up too.
3. Ask yourself if it’s worth it. Like I said, quitting overeating was difficult. There were many times where I found myself staring into the fridge at midnight after I had just eaten a banana and peanut butter. One evening I decided to try something different. I sat myself down, took deep breaths and waited 10 minutes. The entire time I was debating if I should enjoy some toast, ice cream or some other delicious snack hiding in my cupboards. But in the end the question that kept me from eating anymore was: Is this worth it? Will those calories be worth all of your hard work at the gym? How would that bowl of ice cream make you feel tomorrow? The answer was an obvious no. So I scooted out and headed straight to bed. Now I find myself using this technique nearly once a week. My hard work at the gym is important to me and I’m not willing to just to let it all go in the same day.
4. Have a healthy late night treat. I always feel the need to have something a little sweet at night. Most of the time this leads to me going overboard on the quest bars (two quest bars = too many), ice cream, or any chocolate. Of course, you know I’m an avid healthy baker so I started making my black bean avocado brownies weekly. I enjoy one before bed spread with a little peanut butter. I’m happy because I know that they’re healthy but also the fats from the avocado and fiber and protein from the beans fill me up to the point where I’m not hungry at all.
5. Stop using food for emotional reasons. Food only helps you feel good for so long. Sometimes I know that I’m overeating because I’m stuffing down my feelings. If there’s something bothering me, I can always tell since I seem to have an uncontrollable desire to eat more. Identifying the reasoning behind your eating habits will help you along your journey. Journaling is wonderful for when you feel like you are want to eat or even browsing inspirational Pinterest messages; I do it all the time!
6. Tell someone else. This was the best thing I did! I told Tony that I really wanted to quit eating so much late at night. I actually think he was disappointed a bit because he’s also a late night eater, but telling him really helped me to be accountable to myself. I made a choice to eat more at dinner since I knew I would only be having one snack before bedtime. In fact, I’ve felt like we’re both making healthier choices when we do snack because we are mindful of one another.
So far, I feel like things have been going really well for me for the last month or two. I’m feeling great and enjoying big breakfasts once again! I’m curious, are any of you late-night eaters? What are some of your favorite healthy late-night snacks?