Many dieters call nighttime “the danger time.” People are typically very good at following their diet until about 6pm, when the food monster comes. First, he puts the thought of Oreos in your head. Or maybe it’s chips and salsa. Amazingly, he’s got your number and everyone else’s. He knows exactly what you want most. So how can you make this littler bugger shove off without downing a bag of candy and wake up the next morning feeling sorry for yourself?
Eat snacks with protein
Protein is the most satisfying of the 3 macronutrients, and the most fat burning. In fact, many folks don’t realize that not all calories are created equal. Compared to fats or carbohydrates, more calories eaten from protein are wasted as heat, never absorbed by the body, as much as 30% (this is known as the thermic effect of food). Some great snack ideas include a slice or two of cheese, a handful of nuts, some cottage cheese, a protein and berry smoothie, plain yogurt with flax seeds, or lettuce wraps with nitrate free ham and cheese.
Anticipate you’re going to get hungry
Don’t wait for the cravings to come. Eat before that happens. Look at it this way. If you wind up staring down the carton of Ben & Jerry’s (I know I’m not the only one), you’ve just blown up your belly with over 1,000 calories. Instead, if you know you’re heading for temptation lane and have some nuts and cheese, you’re out at most 300 calories. And don’t forget the quality of the high protein snack means much less fat gain than if you had eaten a caloric equivalent of ice cream.
Exercise at night
Exercise reduces appetite for several hours afterward, and studies have shown you tend to eat better on the days you worked out. It goes back to that feeling that since you’ve gone to the trouble to move your body, you should follow up on this good vibe by not blowing your diet. So move a little at night after work. Go to the gym before picking up the kids if you can. Or see if your spouse can get dinner started. Or do it afterwards while the kids are doing their homework. Work working out into your life.
Go to bed
While writing my book, The New Diabetes Prescription, I found study after study that showed the less you slept, the more you ate, and the worse the diet tended to be. Don’t be part of that statistic. A large part of tonight’s appetite has to do with how well you slept the night before. If you want to not be hungry tomorrow, get to bed tonight.
Throw out that junk food
You’re not sane when cutting calories. You’re a cookie addict looking for their next fix. Alcoholics don’t keep beer in their home when trying to get sober and you should not keep tempting junk food in your house when trying to lose weight. Think about it. You’re the most susceptible to junk food at night, even more so than while at work (but that can also be a danger time). So what sense does it make to have temptation sitting on the kitchen counter? If you want a treat to keep yourself from going crazy, you’re going to have to want it bad enough to drive somewhere and get a single serving. One serving once a week when trying to lose weight, no more.
The big theme to stop eating at night is creating a lifestyle that doesn’t create cravings in the first place. You can’t diet so hard that you live in a state of constant deprivation – that is the easiest way to create cravings. Rather, eat well, make healthy meals you look forward to, exercise, sleep, and your cravings will find a new person to torment.
- Aaron Snyder