Do you head straight to the fridge to graze when you get in, even before you take off your coat and shoes, or evening food and snacks feel like a well-deserved treat and it’s making you feel guilty and disappointed?
The truth is that we only have a certain amount of willpower through the day and as the day advances it can become difficult to dismiss urges and cravings. But what if the cravings were not there in the first place?
Many people falsely think that in order to stop overeating in the evening or stop binging they have to muscle through the cravings and urges and use their willpower to get through challenging situations. Often it is what you do in the first half of the day that really matters and can either set you up for a good day or feel like a “set up” to overeat and binge.
Check out some of the most common reasons why people may overeat or binge in the evening and see what can be done to prevent it.
1. Start the day with no breakfast
The common mistake that many people make is skipping breakfast or even worse– having a coffee to start the day. And I commonly hear the reason for that as “I’m not hungry” or “I need a coffee to start the day”. And not surprisingly, this can happen if overeating happens in the evening. That way you may go to bed uncomfortably full, the body doesn’t have a chance to process the food properly and you may experience fatigue and fullness in the morning.
In turn, skipping breakfast may lead to slower metabolism and more difficult hunger and fullness signal control, as the hunger may come up unexpectedly. Coupled with stress and sugary snacks in the day, it’s bound to make you overeat later in the day.
Solution: have breakfast! That’s the only way to break the loop. And even if you are not hungry at the time, within 2-3 weeks of having breakfast, your body will respond and send you hunger signals. This also is a good sign, as it means your metabolism is working more efficiently.
2. No breaks during the working day
If your work is stressful or you have a lot on your to-do list, most likely you may not stop at all through the day or be tempted to power through, however that can increase your stress levels and put you into a fight or flight mode for hours. A common sign of this is if you suddenly have overwhelming hunger and cravings for sweets the moment you finish work, feel “hangry” or are ready to raid the fridge the moment you get in from work.
Levels of stress also increase levels of ghrelin, appetite stimulating hormone, which also is found to be higher in the evenings, rather than the morning. Meaning, it can get more tricky to manage hunger, especially if stress levels are working against you.
Solution: regular breaks through the day may not only help with reducing stress and managing mental health, but also help you regulate hunger and give you signs when it’s time to have a snack and that way prevent overeating later. The brain burns more than ⅓ of your daily calorie intake, especially if it needs to work hard!
3. Skipping meals
A notion that if you skip meals you lose weight is a very outdated one, especially if you are experiencing a lot of daily stress. In fact, skipping meals if stress is high can create more weight gain, as stress hormone cortisol can contribute towards the body holding onto more energy.
Additionally, skipping meals can create blood sugar imbalances and therefore create strong cravings for sweets or processed foods, as well as drive the overeating or binging in the evening. The body likes balance and regularity and that is especially the case if you experience overeating.
Solution: aim to have a balanced breakfast, lunch, dinner and an afternoon snack if you experience the 3-4 pm slump or on particularly busy and stressful days. This will reduce urges and help with portion control.
4. Stress and strong emotions
Of course, strong emotions can also play a role in eating habits and routines and the evening often can be a more vulnerable time, depending on the situation. Eating out of boredom, stress, deprivation or dissatisfaction are a few situations that may cause overeating, binging and extra urges.
It is key to make sure that your blood sugar is balanced through the day and it is not necessarily a nutritional imbalance, as nutritional imbalances can somewhat mimic certain emotions, such as anxiety and low feelings.
Solution: provided you are nutritionally balanced, aim to do some relaxing and soothing activities in the evening and plan for some “me time”, even if it is just 10 min in the evening. Ask yourself “what is it that I REALLY need this time?”
If you struggle with overeating, emotional eating and binging and are finally ready to leave that in 2020, you may want to know that Food Peace Hub will be opening its doors for the last time in 2020.
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I am not a doctor, medical professional or a dietician. The information I provide is based on my professional experience as a Nutritional Therapist, studies provided and on my personal experience. Any recommendations I may make about diet changes, nutrition, supplements or lifestyle, or information provided to you on this website should be discussed between you a medical or healthcare professional. The information you receive in these blogs does not take the place of professional medical advice.