Beating Late-Night Eating

Tips that helped save late-night nibblers from the siren song of the fridge or snack drawer.
Woman Eating

For some, eating right goes well all day... until the after-dinner snacking starts and a perfect healthy diet is ruined by a bowl of ice cream or too many handfuls of chips.

"Individuals who are struggling with weight control often describe it as their biggest problem," says Regan Jones, a registered dietitian in Birmingham, AL.

Luckily, Jones has concerete advice on how to head off the munchies before they set in. "Realize your motivation and then determine the best strategy for either changing your motivation or dealing with it."

Reasons for evening eating
Jones says there are three common culprits of nighttime snack attacks:

Boredom
You may be bored or dealing with another emotion like stress, and use this time to preoccupy or anesthetize yourself with food.

Restriction
You have restricted your calories too much during the day and truly are hungry.

Off-limits thinking
The psychological nature of "dieting" prompts you to feel that late-night eating is taboo, which in turn creates "off limits" thinking. Sometimes when we tell ourselves we can't have something, we end up wanting it all the more.

Late-night survival strategies
To combat those cravings, here are some real-life survival tips for beating the refrigerator battle.
  • When you feel the tug to comfort yourself with late-night snacks, investigate other things you consider comforting, like reading a good book or even going to bed early.

  • One Community user admits that late-night nibbling became a problem when she got older, needed to be up later, and used snacks as a reward. After losing the weight, she keeps herself busy at night (usually writing on WeightWatchers.com's message boards, she says, which keeps her hands moving and inspires her, too). She also prepares herself one snack that's low in PointsPlus® values to eat during the evening.

  • "I just look at my PointsPlus Tracker and review the day to see if I have any PointsPlus values left," says another Community user. "In those few minutes, the feeling passes and I go back to bed." When it doesn't pass, hot chocolate fills her up. "But I always write down the PointsPlus values."

  • Picking low-fat snacks is a good idea: graham crackers, yogurt, fat-free pretzels. But many note that it's important to take out the portion and close the container before eating. Other ways to monitor behavior include "closing" the kitchen and not walking back in or brushing your teeth.

  • Jones also offers this tip to make sure you're eating enough throughout the day: "Evaluate your level of hunger when you wake up. After an eight-hour stretch, you should be moderately hungry within 30 minutes of waking up. If you're not, you probably ate too much the night before." Of course, if you're starving, then maybe a well-planned, healthy snack soon after dinner is just what the refrigerator ordered.

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