September 16, 2011

Evening snacking

Ever since I can remember, evening snacking has been a problem for me. I like the feeling of getting cozy on the couch in front of the TV after the kids are in bed, and snacking--usually something sweet. Personally, I don't think there is anything wrong with eating in the evening--I did it throughout my entire weight loss, and had no problems losing weight that way.

I was reading through my old blog yesterday, and came across an entry I wrote in 2007 after an experiment I had done. For 30 days, I didn't eat after 7:00 pm. I initially did the experiment to see if I would lose more weight that way, even when consuming the same number of calories as when I ate at night. In the end, the weight loss was pretty much the same. But I learned a lot about myself in those 30 days. Here are the results (copied from my old entry):

1) Knowing that I had to get in all my points before 7 PM changed my food-mindset. Prior to the experiment, I would eat much more lightly at breakfast and lunch, so that I'd have a lot of food for dinner and then snacks at night. I went hungry though out the day often because I was "saving" points for later. If you're a compulsive/binge eater, you know that hunger can set you up for bingeing! So while doing the experiment, I knew that I had to eat all my points before 7 PM, and therefore, I ate a higher point breakfast and lunch, and almost the rest of my points at dinner (saving a few for dessert to immediately follow dinner, rather than for TV time at night).

2) I stopped thinking about my night-time snack. During the day prior to the experiment, I was constantly thinking about what I was going to indulge in later that night after the kids went to bed (even if it was within my points range). Once I knew that I couldn't eat after 7 PM, I quit thinking about it!

3) I stopped emotional eating. This was a huge difference I noticed!! My eating at night was completely an emotional thing--I liked to curl up on the couch with my favorite TV shows on and something sweet and indulgent to eat. It made me feel cozy and comfortable. While doing the experiment, I started by switching to green tea for that same effect, but after about 2 weeks I even quit having that. I didn't feel like I needed anything at night!

4) Food lost that "good food/bad food" title. This was very weird to me, and somewhat hard to explain. I always used to think of certain foods as "good" or "bad"--ice cream was "bad" and broccoli was "good". Those are two extremes, but all foods pretty much had a label like that. Before doing the experiment, I tended to save the "bad" foods for nighttime snacking. During the experiment, I just chose to eat what I wanted, when I wanted. If I wanted ice cream, for example, instead of waiting until the kids went to bed, I would eat it after lunch. What's the big deal? It stopped feeling like a "bad" food to me, because I wasn't eating it at night.

So, after reading that in my old entry, I was feeling inspired to try it again. Starting today, my husband and I are going to stop eating after 7:00 pm. Calorie-free beverages are allowed, but that's all. And while I'm at it, I'm going to *try* to go 30 28 days without sweets (the wedding I'm in is in 30 days, so I'll do this challenge for 28 days). I feel like I've been eating them waaaay too often lately, and I feel like I need to "reset" my taste buds/sweet acuity. I'm going to try to get creative and still have dessert every day--I'll just have to experiment with desserts that aren't sweets.

I know what you're thinking: "Really, Katie? You suck at finishing your challenges."

Totally valid point. I am notorious for starting challenges for myself and not finishing them. But if I consider how many times I attempted to lose weight vs. how many times I was successful, well... it doesn't hurt to keep trying!

So anyways, I've been battling with a cold for about a week now, and it's driving me crazy. This morning, I felt like I was swallowing razorblades. I watched a movie, drank a few cups of tea, and then felt so guilty about skipping my scheduled easy 3-miler, that I decided to just go run. I ran really easy, and now I have two days off of running, so hopefully I'll be feeling better before Monday's long run (9 miles). 

Now, I think I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon lying on the couch (to treat this cold, of course).

Do you find night time snacking to be a problem for you? Have you ever tried to give yourself a cut-off time?


  1. Nighttime snacking was always a problem for me, particularly because my kids were always scrambling for dinner by 5:30! When you eat dinner at 5:30, you get real hungry by the time 9 comes around. Then in 2007, I took a week-long trip to NYC and stayed in a hostel. Two things happened there. 1) I tended to eat all my meals later in the day, and 2) the hostel didn't allow any food in the rooms, so I couldn't have a nighttime snack even if I wanted to. Within a week, the craving to have that snack went away.

    This year, when I decided to get serious about weight loss, I changed my meal schedule around so that I had two afternoon snacks, around 2 and 4:30, and then I wouldn't eat dinner until 6:30 or 7. The kids can handle eating at 6:30 now, so that worked out well for us. I also said no nighttime snacks allowed. It's worked out really well for me and I feel so much more in control, and I sleep better.

  2. Nighttime snacking periodically gets problematic for me. I don't know what sets it off. I usually have a little something in the evening because I am hungry as we eat an earlier dinner. I don't eat much, though, because I don't like to be full at bedtime.

  3. Totally night time snacking was my number one downfall. I do have a eating curfew now and make sure i get all my calories in before 7pm at the latest though usually I'm done eating by 6pm since my mom works nights and we have dinner ready around 5pm when she wakes up in time for her 'breakfast' before she heads out the door at 6:30.

    I haven't really compared it weightloss wise, but I can definitely see the difference in the types of foods i choose to eat at different times of the day and feel like its less of a struggle at night if I know there are no choices to make at all! :)

  4. I need to work on the night time snacking, I can go for a month or two without doing it at all then if I do it once - It's all downhill.

    PS, I love your line about your "easy 3-miler", gosh lady... you are AWESOME! :)

  5. You and I must be on some sort of 'shared-brain' thing. As SOON as I pulled up your blog to read it, a comment from you came into my email. Reading this post I immediately thought that it could have been written by me. Night snacker? Me. Saving up points for the evening and starving myself for breakfast and lunch? Totally me. Indulging in front of the tv? Still a habit that I cannot seem to break, even after all these years. I really appreciate you writing about this, Katie. It feels good to know that I'm not the only one who has spent a good deal of time doing it; it's almost like a dirty secret of mine because I am fully aware that it wasn't the healthiest way of losing weight. Learning to fight hunger throughout the day so I could eat more at night just wasn't good for my body at all. Luckily, I can't do it anymore because my blood sugar gets out of whack and I become a raving bitch when I don't eat on time! lol
    Great idea to pick up the habit of knocking off before 7. I'll be interested in seeing how it goes for you - good luck :)

  6. I can be SOOOOO good ALLL day long. But the second the kids are in bed and the bf is off to work, I snack. The couch + tv = snacks. And it doesn't have to be ice cream. I can make anything a snack. 6 string cheeses = snack. Apples and sliced cheese = snack. 2 bowls of Honey Nut Cheerios = snack. I am HORRIBLE at night-snacking :( I need to get better 'cuz that's when all of my "cheating" happens :(

  7. I read Bob Greene's book 'Make the Connection: 10 Steps to a Better Body and Life' years ago (you can get it at the library) and the first step for weight loss was to stop eating 3 hours before bedtime. This was actually one of the biggest factors to help my battle because I almost always overate at night. Once the kids and the husband went to bed (Charlie used to deliver for Newsday and he was out the door by 1am) it was a free-for-all with food. It was like "If no one SEES me eating it, then it didn't happen." I was fooling no one. By setting a curfew on the kitchen, I stopped eating quite a lot of calories. And like you said, I would eat my ice cream, but I would have it earlier in the day. It was like the food lost it's power when eaten in daylight!

    Unfortunately, I have been slacking in this department, and even though I am within my alotted calories (most times), I am still eating for no reason. Mindless eating in front of the tv is the worst. I should remember what Richard Simmons always suggested- BRUSH AND FLOSS YOUR TEETH and then you won't want to eat after that.

  8. Nighttime, and now the time between when I get home from work and dinner, has always been an issue. I've gotten a lot better, but it is definitely the hardest time.

    Katie, I give you credit for always challenging yourself, even if you do not always finish. You still are doing SOMETHING right!

  9. I almost always have one snack in the evening, and like you I think about it all day and plan what I'm going to have. Sometimes I try to get through without one. Tonite, I'm going to have a brownie, maybe a little scoop of fat free ice cream on top (70 calories in 1/2 cup), and a little low cal chocolate syrup on top of that. It'll probably come in at about 250 calories. It's too much, but I had a salad for lunch, (Friday, hubby & I always go out for lunch--we went to a Mexican place--Carlos O'Kelley's--and I only ate two chips with salsa, and a couple spoonfuls of rice from hubby's enchilada combination plate in addition to my grilled chicken salad, which wasn't very good. I substituted low fat ranch dressing for the low fat raspberry vinaigrette it was supposed to come with, next time I'm not getting the ranch, it sucked!), didn't snack all afternoon, except for some radishes, and do those count at less than 1 cal. per radish? I don't think they should. I've quit tracking my food on Spark, I know it's a BAD thing, but it just got so tiresome. I think I'm doing okay, the scale read 143 this morning--I'll take that. I also walked/ran 3.4 miles this morning right before we went to lunch. That oughta cover the brownie sundae, right???

  10. If you like tomatoes, I heard on the today show tomato based products increase white blood cells & help you get better faster. Also sugar suppresses the immune system-so it's best to avoid when sick!

    I really love your insight on evening snacking. Seriously I find as a mom I just want to be ALONE with some darn food and therefore eat after they are in bed.

  11. LoveAnAnimalSeptember 16, 2011

    Yes and yes! I have a major issue with snacking late at night! It is 100% emotional eating and it's horrible! I have tried the no eating after 7 pm and the only nights I was successful was when I made myself go to bed, and I woke up starving the next morning. (Though I have read that you should wake up feeling hungry.) And if I practiced the three-hour rule of no eating three hours before bed, well, I would have to force myself to stay away until after midnight.

    I'm going to copy you and set a goal of 28 days of no eating after 7 pm. (Though I won't be in a wedding party in 30 days, I'm not feeling heroism to set the goal any longer than 28 days.) Though, I will wussy out and not do the time without sweets. If I did both goals at the same time, well, let's just say that things could get pretty dang ugly around my house.

    Get plenty of rest and ramp up the garlic and hopefully your cold will come to and end soon. It's horrible feeling under the weather. I try to never take my health for granted. Oh, if the garlic doesn't help, well, apologize to Jerry for me.

  12. I guess I'm kind of lucky. With my job I usually eat three times during the day, with the times being 4pm, 10pm, and then 230am. By the time I get home I'm too exhausted to eat (and I'm too busy at work). I found when I was in school and not working I tended to want to "nibble" a bit. Oddly enough though, it was cheese. I've always suspected that I'm part mouse.

  13. I don't usually have a problem with snacking. The only time I really eat after dinner is when I'm low on calories or a particular nutrient for the day. I tend to be an all-day snacker, though. I try to be smart about the things I choose to snack on, but sometimes it's harder than others.

  14. OMG this is like reading a page from my own diary.
    Evening snacking snuggled on the sofa is something I think about all day and I tend to not eat much during the day so I don't feel so bad eating at night!
    I'm trying to change those habits via slimming world and trying to change the snacks I eat at night (for some reason mellerlight yoghurt and pineapple pieces hits the sugar crave).

    I read your running page too. i thought I was the only one that loathed running yet still put myself through it. It's weird and hard to explain but I hate running and hate the thought of it but I sooooo want to complete those runs.
    I'd considered giving up as I figured it's not normal to not like it but hey I'm not the only one who feels like that Yay!!

    Thank you. again!


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