Do you ever find yourself feeling a bit antsy in the evening for no particular reason? Perhaps you are a bit anxious, bored, or lonely. What you do know is that you must have a snack, ASAP. You may feel hungry, even though you just had dinner and before you know it, that bag of tortilla chips is empty. One thing's for sure, nighttime cravings are confusing and frustrating. What do you do? How do you squelch your "hunger"?
I often find that when I help people change their behaviors and shift into healthier eating patterns, the hardest time for them (and for me too—nobody is perfect) to stay on track is the evening, when the emotional hunger cravings come on. Is this true for you too? Perhaps you can be on track during the day, but in the evening, everything seems to fall apart?
If this is true for you, there are four things you can do to avoid the evening munchies.
1. Eat small meals and snacks.
You may benefit from eating five to six small meals a day to keep your blood sugar levels stable. This includes having a planned healthy snack in the evening—a win-win.
2. Whip out the old journal.
Not a food diary, we're talking about your journal. More often than not, the body isn't hungry, but it is anxious and yearns to be calmed. Many people use food for comfort, and when they are feeling anxious, the brain signals to go get food. When you feel these cravings coming on, you may want to meditate, go for a walk, read a good book, or take a relaxing bath to calm down the stress response and bring you back into a more relaxed state.
Addressing why you may be anxious is also crucial to avoiding future cravings, because if you don't get to the root of the issue it will continue to surface. You can do this on your own by journaling, which helps release any tension you may be holding on to.
3. Eat fiber and healthy fats.
At dinner especially, though you can do this at any meal, add more fiber like black beans, lentils, artichokes, peas, almonds, chia seeds, and quinoa, which take longer to digest and will keep you feeling full. It's also great to add healthy fats like avocado, which help keep you feeling fuller longer.
4. Make eating a meditation.
Most people eat so fast, the body doesn't register that it's eating until you're done with a meal. When you eat slowly, you will find yourself feeling more full and enjoying your food more. You may notice that it calms your nerves, as the practice of mindfulness is actually a meditation practice. Next time you have your healthy evening snack, try eating it mindfully. Appreciate that you are fueling your mind, body, and spirit. Appreciate that someone toiled the soil to bring you this fruit, vegetable, nut, or grain. Appreciate the colors, smells, textures, or tastes. Appreciate how lucky you are to be able to nourish yourself.
By addressing the physical, emotional, and spiritual components of cravings at once, you maximize the support system—one of the most compassionate things you can do for your body.