Senior Nation: Beat the Nighttime Eating Habit

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Beat the Nighttime Eating Habit: Five Washington Post staffers reported, in a recent tabloid section, how they embarked on a 30-day diet by cutting back on their late nighttime eating habits.

They found that timing itself is a major issue. Our bodies metabolize foods differently at different times of the day. Eating more calories at night, as opposed to earlier in the day, is linked t obesity, increased inflammation and great risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The good news is that the Post staffers also found that the late night eating is a habit one has the power to change.

Here are some strategies they used to reset their eating patterns:

Eat Regular Meals: Not eating enough throughout the day sets the stage for nighttime binging. Give yourself a fighting chance for success after sundown by eating regular meals and snacks throughout the day. Also planning and even preparing them ahead helps so that you are not caught scrambling when you are busy. You don’t have to go with three square meals. It can be two or three meals and a couple of snacks or several small meals. The idea is to find a pattern that works for you and fits into your schedule.

Pick a Cutoff Time: Draw a line in the sand, picking a cutoff time to stop eating in the evening. About 8 or 9 p.m. seems to work for most people, but you can choose what works best for you. Ideally, it should be about three hours before your bedtime, giving enough time to digest your dinner, but not so long that you are likely to get hungry again before going to sleep.

Wait and Reevaluate: If you are craving food at night, instead of impulsively raiding the refrigerator take a 15-minute break. Check in with how you are feeling and ask yourself whether you are really hungry or whether, perhaps there is another way to find satisfaction. Perhaps a relaxing bath, brisk walk or a cup of tea might do the trick if it’s stress that is driving you to eat. In that 5-minute window, the craving might just pass, you might find yourself happily distracted by another activity or you might ultimately decide to eat something after all. Regardless, waiting a bit and reevaluating how you feel will allow for a mindful decision.

Planning an Evening Snack: If you tend to eat dinner early or your evening meal is on the light side and you regularly find yourself hungry at night, plan a small, healthy snack to eat between dinner and bedtime – some fruit and yogurt, a cup of soup or avocado toast, for example. The idea is to strategically snack to manage your hungry rather than let your appetite leave you vulnerable to random munching.

Set Some Ground Rules: It’s practically a national pastime – eating out of a bag or carton while sitting on the sofa watching TV — but it’s scene that creates a perfect storm for mindless overeating. To break that unhealthy habit, set some new ground rules. When you choose to eat something, any time of day but especially at night, put a portion into a bowl or onto a plate and put the rest away. Sit at a table away from the television and fully enjoy your food. When you are done, you can return to your regularly scheduled programming, better off than before.

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