“If it wasn’t for the evenings and weekends, I’d be lean already!”
Does this sound like it applies to you? Relaxing on a couch in front of the tv in the evening is where extra food sneaks in for many of us, and let’s face it… a fresh chopped salad isn’t usually what’s on my mind after 7:00pm.
Hyperpalatable, calorie-dense, processed foods can often come and go quickly, leaving a massive dent in the great work we’ve put in throughout a day. How difficult it can be not to finish our snacks at the cinema before the film actually starts is a great example of how quickly certain foods can vanish. 500 calories in the form of chocolate or crisps can disappear in a flash taking what may have been a solid day with a sustainable 300 calorie deficit and putting us instead in a 200 calorie surplus. What a buzz kill.
It’s important to mention there is no food I’d consider to be “bad”. Even what we might call junk food isn’t “bad”, it’s just food. However, when it comes to optimal health and weight management, the ratio of highly processed calorie-dense foods (chocolate, ice cream, chips) in relation to nutrient-dense whole foods (fruits, vegetables, lean protein) needs to be taken into consideration.
My goal here is to give you some steps to take if you’re finding yourself snacking in the evening when you really don’t want to be. Choosing to eat something you enjoy is one thing while feeling compelled or driven to it is different. You might already know exactly what I mean. Sitting at dinner with friends, looking over the dessert menu and thinking “That classic apple pie and ice cream combo is my all-time favourite! I’m going to order a piece.” is very different to feeling compelled to walk to the corner shop and come back with a bag of sugary or fried salty snacks that we’ll probably end up regretting within an hour.
If you’re going to eat something, eat it on purpose. Choose it, enjoy it, take in the experience rather than experience *snaccidents. What I’m going to provide you with now are a few steps to take to reduce the frequency of unwanted regrettable snaccidents.
1. Take steps to reduce stress during the day
Even on our best days, clean eating takes a degree of purposeful action. Burning ourselves out during the day leaves us with little capacity for great decision making when the day is done. Decision fatigue exists, as does emotional eating, so taking steps to effectively manage our daily workload can be a game-changer when it comes to having a better relationship with food in the evenings. What are you expecting from yourself daily? Where do these expectations come from? Are they yours, or do they come from someone else? Are they realistic? Is the work they require sustainable? What can be done to begin creating a few small changes that would take pressure off you during the day? Is there anything that’s draining you of time and energy that isn’t actually essential or worth your time? Questions like these are important to ask.
2. Make breakfast and lunch worth sitting down for
“Marcus, I don’t have time for that.”. I hear you. There was a time when I lived on smoothies from morning until dinner, but it didn’t go so well. There’s nothing wrong with well-made smoothies, but habits like that speak volumes in regards to stress levels and sustainable workload. I might gently request at this point we consider step 1 and look at ways to reduce stress and workload during your day so that sitting down for breakfast and lunch more often than not is normal. We’re always going to have the occasional crazy day, but we want our normal day to involve sitting down to balanced meals that we take time to chew and enjoy. What we do in the morning nutritionally is usually an indicator of what our evening will be like. Breakfast isn’t mandatory if you’re just not hungry at that time of day, but if that’s the case go for a relaxed nutritious lunch with plenty of colourful vegetables and lean protein.
3. Clean your teeth straight after dinner
This is a very simple one, and for many people, it works wonders! Cleaning teeth straight after dinner in preparation for bed can often discourage unwanted evening snacking. Simple, yet effective. Especially when used in conjunction with the other steps on this list.
4. Swap some evening TV time for reading time
Not all of it! I just had to get that in quickly before anyone skips this idea completely. TV in the evening is relaxing and super enjoyable, it’s also a massive snacking trigger for many of us. After one or two episodes of your favourite show, grab a book and start to wind down before bed. This will shrink the TV snacking trigger window, and also contribute to a great night's sleep by reducing screen time in the evening.
5. Don’t sleep in too late in the morning
Night owls might find this challenging, but hear me out; are crips and chocolate more likely to happen at 9:00am, or 9:00pm? Most of us don’t struggle with morning snacking, we struggle with evening snacking. So let's lengthen the morning and shorten the evening.
There’s a lot of noise out there about the body storing calories as fat if we eat before bed, and to be honest, I’m sceptical of those claims. You know what though? As a Nutrition Coach, I don't really care that much. Why? Because there’s a simpler answer that’s a lot less debatable. It’s more likely that we’re going to eat a block of chocolate in the evening in front of the TV, than in the morning with a cup of tea as we’re getting prepared for our day.
Put some of these into practice and get in touch to let me know how you go! What do you struggle with the most in regards to food? What questions do you have? Let me know and I’ll address them over the coming weeks.
*Snaccident: Eating an entire bag, block, or packet of something by accident before telling yourself “I’ll be good tomorrow.”