Many of us find ourselves eating late at night, even when we aren’t hungry. I find that my ‘go to’ food tends to be chocolate, especially when it’s that time of the month. It seems to be quite a common pattern for people struggling at dinnertime to stop themselves from overindulging, feeling guilty over what happens in the evening hours with a lot of confusion about ‘where did my will power go?”
Did you know that scientists have actually made a syndrome out of this and called it ‘Night time eating syndrome’ ? They found that night eaters consumed more than 50% of their daily calories between 8 pm. and 6 am.
There could be a number of reasons why people overeat in the evenings. Maybe they’ve had a busy day and didn’t take a lunch break so now they’re starving. They find that at home they have the time and freedom to eat whatever and whenever they want.
Watching TV whilst eating is another one that could be a factor in overindulging at dinner. Harvard health mention that distracted eating, like watching TV can lead to weight gain due to not actually being aware of exactly what and how much you have been eating . If you aren’t mindful of what’s going into your mouth, you don’t process that information. That means it doesn’t get stored in your memory bank. Without a memory of having eaten, we are more likely to eat again sooner than if we had been eating slowly and more mindfully.
This shows that hunger isn’t the only factor that influences how much we eat. Attention and memory also play vital roles. Did you know that it takes 20 minutes or so before the brain begins to start sending out “I’m full” or “I’m not hungry anymore” signals that turn off appetite? If you are hurrying or not paying attention, it’s easy to take in a lot more food than we need.
Another angle to look at when it comes to reasons why we over eat at dinnertime is a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Research was carried out on several known risk factors for overeating at dinner, including negative feelings, stress and hunger. In short, the results showed that factors related to overeating at dinner were due to stress .
Whether its stress, distracted eating, negative feelings or just plan hunger, we are overindulging at the worst time of day when our digestion is slower and therefore less likely to digest the volume of food we are consuming in a speedy manner. Peak digestion is at lunch when our metabolism is the fastest and it slows more and more throughout the rest of the afternoon due to our natural circadian rhythms. This is one reason why we tend to have an afternoon 3pm lull.
I have created 10 ways you can combat the overeating dinnertime ritual, all tried and tested by yours truly and I hope you find some beneficial.
- Plan out dinner so you are less likely to over eat, as you know exactly what you have for dinner, and no more.
- Eat more in the day – ever heard the saying “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper”?
- Fit in an afternoon workout. Exercise staves off hunger and will in turn reduce your appetite to not eat much for dinner.
- Try Intermittent fasting – if you know you’re most hungry at dinner, why fight it? Not eating throughout the entire day then having a big meal in the evening could suit your body and as you have not consumed any calories in the day it is highly unlikely you will consume your daily calories in one evening meal. More info on the benefits of intermittent fasting link to XXX
- Brush your teeth – funny one I know but it works. Ever tried eating food after just brushing your teeth, not an enjoyable taste.
- Fill up on good fats. Fats are very satisfying and prevent you from overeating.
- Healthy treats. Watermelon or cucumber slices with stevia. Both very low in calories, sweet enough to aid that craving and they’ll hydrate you too.
- Down a pint of water before dinner, see how much food you can fit in now. Research shows that drinking a glass of water 30mins before every meal can help with weight loss .
- Eat more slowly and mindfully so your brain has time to process that it is eating and how much. Use the 20min rule.
- Eat dinner at the table with family. Sociable eating rather than watching TV will aid in stopping you overeating. Plus it’s a chance for you to spend quality time with your families.
All of the above are all well and good but if the underlying reason why you are overeating at dinnertime is ultimately to do with stress and negative feelings then none of the above can help combat that. If you feel you are experiencing such emotions then why not get in touch today. As a life coach I work with a number of people on their health and overall wellbeing. People deep down know what foods they should be eating and how much exercise they should be doing however there are underlying reasons why they choose not to make those decisions. Limiting beliefs, stress, anxiety, low moods and energy can all factor into our decisions.
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