Do you struggle with nighttime snacking?
If yes, you’re not alone.
Late-night snacking is a challenge many people wrestle with. Unfortunately, it often leads to overconsumption, blood-sugar imbalances, digestive woes, crappy sleep, morning sugar cravings, food hangovers and more.
What Are You Really Hungry For?
We rarely snack at night because we’re physically hungry. There are, however, always exquisitely good reasons for eating. Although it may not seem like it, nighttime snacking is a way of taking care of ourselves.
More often than not, we’re trying to feed an emotional or spiritual hunger. Rather than chocolate, ice cream, cookies or chips (let’s face it, very few of us snack on an apple or carrots at 9 p.m.), what we’re really hungry for is:
- Pleasure: Food, especially sweets, provides a quick hit of pleasure, something we crave when we don’t experience enough pleasure during our daytime hours (e.g., unfulfilling work).
- Relief: Most of us move through our days pretty wound up. Eating offers a temporary respite from the stressors of our daily lives. Creamy foods, in particular, ease anxiety, which is one reason why ice cream is such a popular nighttime treat.
- Grounding: Our busy lives can leave us feeling overextended and overwhelmed. The act of eating is very grounding; it's a way to center ourselves when we feel scattered.
- Companionship: Although we’re more connected than ever before thanks to technology, many of us feel quite lonely. When loneliness creeps in at night, we can always rely on food to hang out with us and distract us from uncomfortable feelings.
- Energy: Because we operate in overdrive throughout our day, most of us are completely wiped out and depleted come nightfall. Food, especially sugar, is an instant solution for boosting our energy.
- Self-Care: Whether at work or home, many of us spend our days taking care of other people’s needs. Enjoying a nighttime snack, once everyone else is tucked in or logged off, is something special we do just for ourselves.
If you want to ditch late-night noshing, understanding why you do what you do is the first step. With compassionate curiosity, ask yourself what need you’re trying to meet and how you might better fulfill this need.
For example, say you reach for chocolate because you’re pleasure deficient. How can you bring more pleasure into your life? Is it as small as reading a good book or taking a post-dinner walk with a pal or as big as changing careers?
Or, perhaps you raid the cookie jar because you feel overtaxed and burned out. How can you simplify your life? Can you hire a house cleaner, set work boundaries like not checking email after 6 p.m., or say “no” to others and opportunities more often? (Remember, saying “no” often means saying “yes” to yourself.)
Maybe you’ve identified that you’re seeking an energy boost, something to alleviate your depleted state. If this is the case, you don’t need food, you need sleep. Often, nighttime cravings simply mean you just need to go to bed.