I have a few unspoken rules for myself when it comes to how I eat. I don’t forbid any foods in my diet, because that is just a recipe for binging to me (it’s amazing how fast I can swing from no chocolate allowed to ALL THE CHOCOLATE RIGHT NOW). Now, I am to the point where I can live a healthy life that still includes Nutty Bars and french fries (just not in the quantity that I used to!), but bedtime is not the time for either of those foods!
One thing that has been very important to me in the past year or so is breaking any dependence I have on any particular foods.
- I don’t drink coffee more than a few times a week, because I don’t want to depend on that burst of caffeine to get me through the day.
- I don’t let myself eat donuts at church, because I know that if I start that habit, it will become my Sunday morning “norm” instead of a treat.
- When I open a bag of wild berry LifeSavers Gummies (one of my very favorite treats), I count out a serving size and put the bag away immediately or I will down all 5 servings without even realizing it.
A huge part of maintaining my 100-pound weight loss has been knowing myself and my tendencies so that I can make sure to create an environment for myself where I can still enjoy the foods I love, but not in a let-me-fill-the-bottomless-pit-of-this-craving kind of way.
One of the ways I do that is to keep an eye on my patterns.
Occasional treats don’t concern me, but if I am making unhealthy indulgences a part of my daily routine, I need to put a stop to that…and that’s exactly what was starting to happen.
I have been snacking at bedtime recently, the very worst time of day you can possibly snack. Not because you gain more calories by eating at night, but because the foods you reach for late at night are rarely wholesome and nutritious. Your willpower has been used up over the course of the day, so your cravings can easily run rampant!
It started out small for me. I grabbed a few almonds at bedtime one night when my stomach was grumbling. Harmless, right? The next night, I reached for a handful of trail mix. The third night, I brought the whole bag of trail mix to bed with me (*warning! warning! warning!*) while I read my book. Quite honestly, I have no idea how many servings I ate, but I can assure you it was far too many. It wasn’t a full-blown binge, but it was a lot of mindless (and needless) calories.
And just in a few days, I had unintentionally trained my body to expect a bedtime snack.
That, my friends, is unhealthy dependence on food.
I wasn’t eating because I was hungry. I wasn’t reaching for an apple or carrot sticks to satisfy myself. It was the sweets that were calling my name. By the fourth night of this, I was leaving the nuts behind and picking out the dried fruit and yogurt chips.
This isn’t the first time nighttime snacking has been a problem for me, and I am sure it won’t be the last. When I was obese, that was my prime eating time, so it’s always going to be an easy habit for me to sink back into. The difference now is that I can identify it as a problem before it gets completely out of control and I have tools to break myself of the habit and get back on track. It just takes a little bit of willpower and rewiring and I’m back to healthier habits in no time!
Here are a few things that I do to break the habit of nighttime snacking:
- I read 1 Corinthians 10:13. No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. I have this verse written on a notecard and every time I see that food is starting to gain power over me, I pull it out and fill my thoughts with Truth instead of believing the lie that I need to snack (because I don’t.). God always provides a way out, it’s just my choice to walk that path.
- I brush my teeth (and use mouthwash). That minty flavor in a mouthful of freshly cleaned teeth makes those fruit snacks sound a lot less appealing!
- I move the tempting snacks to a place that’s difficult to reach. Out of sight, out of mind helps, but out of sight isn’t usually quite enough to dissuade me, so I make them really difficult to reach. Sometimes that means moving them to the cabinet on top of the fridge the requires me to get a step stool just to reach it and then hiding them behind all of the glass vases that I would have to pull out one-by-one to be able to reach a Nutty Bar. And, of course, keeping them out of the house entirely is always an option!
- I replace snacking with an activity I love. It doesn’t always work to just start banning activities and foods from your life. It helps to replace them with something else. TV doesn’t work for me here, because watching television at night just seems to invite snacking. Maybe it’s a bubble bath, reading a book, or stretching, just find something to do to distract your mind from dwelling on your cravings. Check in with yourself. Are you bored? Lonely? Angry? Sad? Stressed? Find something that can actually address those areas – call a friend, get a massage, journal, or dance to your favorite happy song.
- Test your hunger. On occasion (like the night I ate just a few almonds), my stomach was grumbling and I really was hungry. If you are legitimately hungry then by all means, eat! Just don’t reach for the temping junk food to fulfill that hunger. Have a few healthy options that you can grab like an apple, some Greek yogurt, or a slice of whole wheat toast with a little bit of peanut butter. Also, if you are regularly hungry at bedtime, look at your daytime eating schedule – make sure you are eating foods that will fill you up (lots of lean proteins & veggies!) often enough throughout the day.
- Drink a glass of water. If you are thirsty, your body can send you signals making you think you are hungry when really all you need is some water. Have a glass, wait a few minutes, and see if H20 was all you really needed. This one can be a little bit dangerous to do so close to bedtime (I am not a fan of interrupting sleep for bathroom breaks), which is why I make it a priority to stay hydrated all day long.
I am on night 3 of breaking my nighttime eating habit and it gets easier every single night. The first evening is always the hardest, but if you can break through those first few days, it really does get easier.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
-2 Corinthians 12:9
We all have weakness, but that’s not the end of your story. You also have the power of Christ. Your flaws don’t prevent Him from moving in your life. In fact, God’s glory can shine most brilliantly in your weakness when you seek Him to fill in all of the strength you lack!
If food is starting to gain power over you (or maybe it has had that power for a long time), take it back. Invite God in. Ask for strength. He cares deeply about the details of your life, including this one.