How To Stop Late Night Snacking

By David CameronGoogle+

Does your refrigerator call out to you at night?

Are you sitting there on your sofa, minding your own business when you hear it call out your name and remind you that there is leftover pizza or ice cream? Okay, that's a little over the top but for some people; the hours between dinner and bedtime are the worst time of the day for impulse eating.

Now, eating at night itself is not the only contributing factor to why this is a "bad habit". Your body processes food at the same rate at 10:00PM as it does at 6:00PM. The problem is that you are not doing anything to burn-off the calories that you are consuming so it goes right to where your body stores fat. For some, their behavior during this time can reach the point of resembling an addiction. Many of these people feel powerless to stop the habit of adding this "fourth meal" at the end of the day. They know that what they are doing is wrong but they have no idea of how to stop.

The good news is that this behavior is a habit, not an addiction so, with simple behavior modification techniques, you can stop late night snacking once and for all. Results and the length of time that it will take to stop the habit will vary from person to person but if you are really committed, you should be able to stop in one to four weeks.

Step One:

Admit to yourself and the people around you that you have a problem. Tell everyone around you what you are about to do and get them to support you. If you don't have the support of the people that you live with, don't worry, you can still get end the behavior but it may be a little more difficult if others are snacking around you.

Next, understand that over time you have created a habit and you need to change things in order to break this habit. Try to identify what you do at night that triggers your impulse to eat. If you can figure that out, you are halfway on your way to breaking the habit.

How to identify your eating triggers:

If you are unsure about what is triggering your nocturnal eating patterns, try experimenting to determine what is triggering you to snack at night. For example, if you usually watch TV at night, try changing your activity for an evening. If you don't feel the urge to eat, then TV may be a trigger. This doesn't mean that you can never watch TV again, but you should probably avoid watching TV at night until you have your late night snacking under control.

Here are a few common triggers:
1) Watching TV
2) Hunger (really!)
3) Boredom
4) Nervousness/agitation

How to avoid the triggers:

Knowing what your triggers are is the most important part in breaking the late night snacking habit. This may sound overly simple but avoiding your trigger(s) is really quite easy. By understanding what triggers your impulse to eat, you can take steps to avoid the triggers in the first place. Once you know what your triggers are - just don't do that... Sorry, but it's that simple. So breaking the habit should actually quite simple if you just know when to do something other than your trigger. For most of us, it is usually a combination of triggers that lead to snacking so make sure that you tackle them all. Don't worry, most people can go back to enjoying their "trigger activities" as soon as the connection between it and eating has been broken.

For the common triggers listed above, here are some suggested alternatives:

1) Watching TV - Instead of watching TV, take a walk, go dancing, swimming or bowling, take a night school class, go out with friends.

2) Hunger - This is a very common trigger. Eat a satisfying diner at a time that is not too early. Food high in protein will make you feel fuller, longer. Eat slowly so that you can make sure that you are full but not overstuffed. Try to keep a regular routine of eating at the same time every night.

3) Boredom - This is a tough one because your reasons for being bored are entirely personal and unique to you. You must keep yourself engaged in some activity that will prevent you from thinking about food.

4) Nervousness/Agitation - Try avoiding caffeine after supper. Relaxation exercises can work wonders. The Internet is a great resource for relaxation exercises.

Is a trigger an impulse?

There is a difference between triggers and impulses! Impulses are what you feel as a result of a trigger. If you avoid the triggers, you will have fewer and less intense impulses to eat. If triggered, you will still experience the impulse to eat. These will go away over time so don't give up! It will take a few weeks to "retrain" your body and brain to not crave food in the evenings. When you do experience a craving or impulse to eat, there are some many things other people have found useful to dampen the urge to eat.

1) Brush your teeth - this really works! It tricks your brain into thinking that you've just finished eating. Plus as an added bonus, your dental health will improve too.

2) Chew gum or eat sugar-free hard candies or mints.

3) Drink herbal (non-caffeinated herbal tea) - you don't want to be up all night.

4) Drink water - this will fill you up and trick your stomach into thinking that you have eaten.

5) Get up and do something physical - Walk, swim or even clean the house - just do something!

Reward yourself

Don't forget that it okay to reward yourself once in a while - but at the appropriate time (this too could be a trigger). When you feel that you have a little more control over your situation, you can slowly add some of your trigger activities back into your life (if you still feel like doing them). It is important to remember to keep healthy snack on hand for those times when you just can't control yourself. Fruit is an excellent choice (but it's full of sugar) , a handful of nuts like almonds is a great easy snack - just don't eat the whole bag!

Good luck - you can do it!

Start tonight!

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