Last week, I talked about some questions you can ask yourself if you struggle with evening snacks. As part of it, I mentioned that I’d started adding a little more to my daytime eating, so I wouldn’t be as hungry at night.
But even though I wasn’t as hungry, I found that I still wanted to snack. Hmm.
I had to think about it a bit to figure out what was going on, and I thought it might be helpful if I shared what I discovered.
Habit is very powerful
Once you’ve been doing something long enough, it just becomes ingrained. This can be good, like brushing your teeth or looking both ways when you cross the street. But it can also backfire if you don’t want to keep that particular habit.
The first step is simply to recognize that habit might be a driving force in evening snacks. Like me, you might find yourself looking at the clock to see if “it’s time” for your snack – instead of checking if your body is hungry.
And then if it is “time to eat,” you can convince yourself you’re hungry even if you’re not. Or you go straight to eating without checking hunger at all because you’re on automatic pilot.
It can help to mix up your evening routine the first few nights you’re trying to make a change. This could simply be sitting in a different place, or keeping busy during your usual snack time. And pay close attention to hunger cues. If you do get hungry later, you can still eat.
Taking a break
I realized I’d been using evening snacks as a break. I don’t think it started that way, but that’s what it evolved into.
If you do this, too, you may think about if you’re trying to do too much and feeling overwhelmed, which could make you want a break. Or maybe you have this image in your head that everyone else is just relaxing in the evening, while here you are working away – in my case, doing some side part-time work.
In my case, it was a combination of these things. But I realized this wasn’t a great approach.
For one thing, if you have a lot of things to do, putting it off by eating food you don’t need really doesn’t help. Quite the opposite. It would be better to make a realistic plan of meeting your goals. A plan that includes other kinds of down time.
And it can help to remember how ineffective it is to feel resentful of other people’s relaxation – especially since it’s not necessarily true.
After all, lots of people work in the evenings, or parent, or volunteer. Yes, some folks do just kick back come evening, but it’s far from everyone.
Plus, comparison is just generally not helpful. You don’t have someone else’s life, you only have your own. And if you did somehow end up in someone’s situation, you’d find that they have their own issues. None of us is completely carefree.
Food secrecy issues
Or maybe you’ve considered bringing snacks with you if you’re going to an evening meeting of some kind, in case you get hungry. Except – that means maybe be the only one eating. And having people watch you eat makes you uncomfortable at the best of times, but especially if you’re drawing attention to yourself with food.
I realized that’s part of what I was facing, even though it’s been a long time since I deliberately ate in secret. But since I live alone, I often eat by myself, and it’s easy to convince myself that it would be awkward eating in front of others like that.
If you run into that, here are a couple of things to remember (that I had to remind myself of):
You don’t actually know if you’ll need the snack
Probably no one else really cares – unless you’re eating something with a strong smell, like garlic, and then they might care about that
In fact, you’re probably the only one feeling awkward about it. But you can shift that, too, by reminding yourself that you’re doing what you need to take care of yourself.
And who knows? Maybe doing this will give others confidence to do the same instead of sitting there with a growling stomach.
How much you “should” be eating
It’s also very, very easy to look at a light dinner and say, “I should be eating more. That can’t possibly be enough to get me through the next 10-12 hours (give or take).”
Without intending to, you can set up a scarcity mindset, of thinking you haven’t had enough. all without actually waiting to see if it isenough. And again, you can convince yourself you’re hungry this way, even if your body isn’t telling you that.
It helps to remember your stomach is small and doesn’t need much food to be satisfied. And that it’s better to have a mindset of, “I’m giving my body what it needs now, and if it needs more later, I’ll have more then.”
Remember to stay curious
These are just the things that came up for me. You might have these, too, or completely different issues. The important part is to stay curious, and non-judgmental, and that it’s not about restricting. It’s just about paying attention and trying to find that sweet spot of eating enough to satisfy you without being uncomfortable with overeating.
If you’ve noticed any evening snack issues for yourself, I’d be interested to hear about them. And if you need any help figuring out a different approach, please reach out – I’m here to help.