Do You Struggle with Nighttime Snacking?

Do you struggle with nighttime snacking?

If yes, you’re not alone. 

Many people find themselves rummaging through their fridge or cupboards an hour or two after dinner in search of something to nosh on.

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating at any time of day or night, it’s helpful to pause and check your intentions so you can ensure your needs are truly being met.

What Are You Really Hungry For?
We rarely snack at night because we’re physically hungry. If you are, by all means, eat whatever your body needs!

There are 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 nourish a psychological or emotional 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.), here are some things we might really be hungry for:

  • 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 our 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 a fast and easy way to boost our energy.

  • Satisfaction: When we don’t get much satisfaction from our meals, perhaps because we’ve eliminated foods we enjoy, eat while multitasking, or rush through a meal, we will naturally seek more food later in an attempt to satisfy our taste buds.  

  • Me Time: 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.

What Will Truly Meet Your Needs?
If you want to bring more mindfulness to your late-night noshing habits, understanding why you do what you do is the first step.

With compassion and curiosity, ask yourself:

What need am I trying to meet with this food?

Will this food truly meet this need?

If not, how might I better fulfill this need?

For example, say you reach for chocolate throughout the night 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 dive into a bag of chips because you feel overtaxed and burned out. How can you simplify your life? Can you hire a housecleaner, 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’ll likely benefit more from hitting the hay than raiding the cookie jar.

Deprivation Backlash
If your day includes depriving yourself of what you really want to eat (e.g., ordering a light salad instead of a hearty sandwich) and/or restricting the amount and type of food you eat (e.g., counting calories, cutting carbs), your urge to snack all night is not due to a lack of willpower or discipline.

It’s a compensatory reaction; your body’s natural response to physical and psychological deprivation. The more you ignore your body’s needs and desires, the bigger the backlash and binge.

When you allow yourself to eat what and however much you want throughout your day, you’ll likely feel less compelled to snack the night away.

Please Keep in Mind…
It’s perfectly okay to eat when you’re not hungry, including for emotional reasons. Sometimes, a bowl of ice cream is exactly what you need.

5 Tips for Managing Your Afternoon Slump (Without Candy or Coffee)

Do you struggle with afternoon sugar cravings?

Many of my clients do.

Around 2:00-3:00 p.m., their eyelids grow heavy, their concentration nosedives, and cookies start calling to them.

Sugar is often their instant solution for boosting their energy. Yet, as most of us have discovered, this short-term fix quickly causes us to crash and crave more sugar.

Caving into your 3:00 p.m. cravings has nothing to do with a lack of willpower.

It’s completely natural to feel sleepy in the afternoon. And it’s completely understandable to seek a quick pick-me-up in the form of sugar—or caffeine, or both.

Programmed for Sleepiness
Your internal body clock produces circadian rhythms, including your sleep/wake cycle. This cycle rises and dips over a 24-hour period, with the strongest sleep drives occurring between 2:00-4:00 a.m. and 1:00-3:00 p.m.*

While there are many reasons why you might crave sugar in the afternoon (e.g., boredom, salt intake), this natural energy dip is certainly one of them.

How to Manage Your Slump
Here are five ways to manage your low energy and recharge without reaching for the candy bowl, cookie jar, cola can or coffee machine.

  1. Get enough sleep. When you’re sleep deprived, you will experience bigger swings of sleepiness and wakefulness—and bigger sugar and carb cravings.
     
  2. Take a catnap. A siesta is the best way to honor your body’s natural rhythm, so take a 15- to 20-minute nap if possible. Research shows that doing so can reduce stress, improve alertness and productivity, decrease blood pressure, and more.
     
  3. Eat a protein-rich lunch. If I eat a carb-heavy lunch (e.g., bread, pasta), I might as well take a sleeping pill.

    I perform best when my midday meal is composed of lean protein, healthy fats and unrefined fiber (e.g., wild salmon with avocado and veggies).

    Like me, you may find this combo gives you steady blood sugar levels, sharper mental focus, a stable mood and longer lasting energy. Experiment to discover what ratio works best for you.
     
  4. Get off your rump. Sitting and staring at a screen for hours on end is a surefire way to exacerbate your afternoon slump.

    To perk up, head outside for a 15-minute walk. The movement, sunshine and fresh air will help restore your energy.
    If a walk outdoors isn’t feasible, cruise around your office building, stand while talking on the phone, or do some stretches, jumping jacks or push-ups.
     
  5. Drink up. Your afternoon slump will feel more intense if you’re dehydrated. Instead of turning to an energy drink, go for a rejuvenating glass of water. 

Despite all these tips, sometimes a bit of sugar or hit of caffeine will be exactly what you need.

What's most important is that you listen to and honor your body's wisdom. Ask yourself: In this moment, what does my body truly need to feel restored at the deepest level?

*Source: National Sleep Foundation

What to Eat When You're Feeling Scattered, Gloomy or Moody

My client Julie once arrived at her session feeling very unsettled and overwhelmed due to her recent apartment move. I sent her away with a seemingly unconventional prescription for sweet potatoes. She ate some that night and immediately felt more grounded.
 
More Than Fuel
Food is far more than just fuel. We tend to think of it in terms of nutrients, calories, good or bad. How often do you consider its energetic quality?
 
All food has unique energetic properties that affect your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. When, where and how it's grown, raised, produced or prepared determines its essential character and the energy it imparts.
 
By understanding food energetics, you can prepare balance-restoring meals based on the energy particular foods create in your body.
 
Let's take a look at vegetables.
 
Plant Prescriptions
The direction a vegetable grows can impart the same qualities in you when consuming it. Here are a few plant prescriptions for when you're feeling...
 
Scattered or Overstimulated
Root Vegetables: Because they grow in the ground, root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips and beets have a strong downward energy. Eating these hearty vegetables can help you feel more focused, anchored and grounded.
 
Gloomy or Tense
Dark Leafy Greens: Kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens and other dark leafy greens grow upward collecting energy from the sun. Eating these chlorophyll-rich foods infuses your blood with oxygen, ultimately boosting your mood and spirits.

Light and cleansing, they also supply your body with flexible energy and remove physical and emotional toxins literally helping you lighten up.
 
Moody or Erratic Energy
Squashes and Gourds: To maintain an even keel, eat veggies that grow at ground level like butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkin and edible gourds. These can help steady your mood and energy level.
 
You Are What You Eat
A food's life force directly impacts your quality of life. By selecting foods based on their energetic qualities, you can better nourish not only your body but also your soul.