Do you feel like snacking too much in the evening is one of your biggest challenges?
Speaking as a person who truly loves and adores my sweet and salty evening snack sessions (smeared chocolate on the sofa and all). I’ve pondered the meaning of my evening snack-attacks too… especially when I first started intuitive eating.
What is going on?
Am I eating too much?
Am I actually hungry?
Is this a habit?
Is this emotional eating?
Am I bored?
I had more questions than your average 8-year old (Mum? Mum?). And that’s saying something.
But rather than leaving you in a pile of couch-based cookie crumbs, pondering your own snack habit, I’ve put together a quick guide so you can check-in on what’s happening with your sofa-shenanigans. Is it completely A-OK? Or a habit to knock on the head?
Question 1 – Are you physically hungry?
Yes it’s that old goodie – lesson 101 from intuitive eating. Are you feeling physically hungry?
Do you feel a rumblin’ in your tummy? A gnawing in your throat? Or a nagging headache that’s not caused by the kids’ screaming too loud in the house?
If the answer is yes to one or more of those, well my friend, you have a hunger that needs to be filled. So ditch the guilt, the worry and anything else.
Eating in the evening – when you’re hungry – is not an issue at all. It’s just a natural cue that needs to be responded to.
Ask what would truly satisfy that hunger and go get it (forget the clock, intuitive eating is about eating to your appetite, not the clock).
But that may leave you wondering – how did I “eat well” all day, and then suddenly become a ravenous lion in the evening? I’m not going to Hakuna Matata you, and tell you not to worry.
Instead I’ve got a couple more questions for you to ponder;
Question 2 – Did you eat enough during the day?
Sometimes that ole diet mentality can sneak through, leading you to skimp on the food during the day, just eating to the point where you extinguish the hunger pangs, but not enough to actually make you “full”.
You can’t out-trick your body. It knows what it needs. And it’ll call your bluff at the end of the day and demand the extra food you’ve been skimping on all day.
Do yourself a favour and eat until you’re comfortably full during the day – so you don’t end up ravenous at night.
Then see what happens with your evening snack habit.
Question 3 – Did you eat enough dinner?
Same gist as question 2 really. If you didn’t eat until the point of comfortable fullness, then of course you might need to eat again sooner than expected after dinner.
Question 4 – What time did you eat dinner?
Speaking as a mum of youngsters, who finds herself eating dinner far too early for my liking (like 5.30pm or so) in order to cater for bath and bed schedules, I definitely need a snack a couple of hours after dinner.
This isn’t a problem. It’s just life and family schedules.
Ideally I’d eat dinner later, but my kids can’t last that long.
Do you have options? Are you eating dinner when you’re hungry? Or before you get hungry?
The idea is to eat a main-sized meal when you’re main-sized hungry. But if you need to compromise for your household’s sake, then snacking later is a perfectly good compromise.
Snacking later might also just be how your body needs to meet it’s energy needs.
Question 5 – Did you eat filling foods at dinner?
Some foods are more sustaining than others… we know, for example, that high protein and high fat foods are super-filling. So a dinner laden with salmon and avocado is likely to be much more filling than a chicken salad with no sides.
Try experimenting with different combos of foods to see what is more filling, if you feel like you’re getting hungry too soon after dinner.
Question 6 – Are you eating for emotional reasons?
If you’re definitely not hungry – but you still feel the desire to eat, then we call that “eating for non-hunger reasons”.
That’s a fancy way of saying “emotional eating”. But somehow, it sounds a lot less loaded and derogatory.
When it comes to emotional eating – there are solutions. The point first, is to recognise that you are eating in the absence of hunger.
So stop tonight when you feel that snack urge coming on – ask yourself, “am I actually hungry?”
If you’re not hungry – then check in on what emotion you’re feeling, take a look at this emotions wheel for some possible inspiration (we gotta lotta emotions).
Question 7 – Are you eating out of habit?
If you’re not actually hungry, ask yourself this: If you were out with friends for the evening, rather than sitting on the couch, would you be snacking?
If the answer is yes, then chances are snacking on the sofa has just become a habit.
Keep in mind – it’s not really the end of the world. It’s not like you’re burning down orphanages Sharon, just eating extra snacks, right?
But if you’d rather not waste money buying and eating snacks your body doesn’t need, then try this….
Cos it’s hard to drop a habit right?
Instead of trying to DROP the habit. Aim to REPLACE the habit.
You need to give yourself something else to do, instead of snacking, when the habit hits you.
Now this is not some diet advice like, “drink two glasses of ice cold water and hope your hunger goes away.”
If you’re physically hungry – I want you to eat.
If you’re eating for emotional reasons – I want you to identify the emotion. And if you still feel like eating, go ahead and do it. At the very least though, identify the emotion.
But if all you’re doing is reenacting last night’s habit of walking to the pantry and grabbing snacks to eat, because you’re on the sofa watching television… well then, it’s worth trying to crack that old habit and make a new one.
The question is – what is your new habit? Crafting, knitting, doing 5 press-ups? not sitting on the sofa and watching tv every night?
I don’t have all the answer – I’d love to know what your suggestion is, just comment below