Midnight Munchies

It's 11pm and you're hungry. The negotiating begins: "You're trying to lose weight; why not just go to bed without eating?" "But I've followed my diet all day; I deserve a treat." "I can't sleep if I'm hungry." "Everyone needs a bedtime snack, and besides, I choose only fat-free, healthy foods." What's a person to do?

Eating late at night is a common habit. Most of the time, we eat out of stress or to fill emotional needs, not hunger. Use this checklist to determine your reasons for eating and choose the most appropriate action (and it's not always eating!):

  1. Ask yourself what you really are feeling, then follow through with an action that satisfies that need. If you're tired, go to bed. If you're feeling lonely, call a friend or find activities to help fill the evening hours. You can't get to the bottom of your emotions or your eating habits without asking yourself how you feel.
  2. Only allow yourself to snack when sitting at the dining room or kitchen table, using dishes that must be washed before you go to bed. This simple guideline helps cut back significantly on traveling snacks -- you know, the one cookie while I talk on the phone, two crackers while I watch TV, a glass of juice while I read the paper syndrome. Don't do anything else while you eat except eat, and focus on your eating. No TV, no reading; just eating.
  3. Eating late at night keeps us from feeling hungry in the morning, leading to the habit of skipping breakfast and starting off the day on the wrong foot. Keep the portions of any midnight munchies small, so you can wake up ready to start the day. It's a snack, not a meal.
  4. Figure out exactly what you are hungry for. Are you craving something salty and crunchy? Try pretzels or fat-free popcorn. (Remember that an entire bag of microwave popcorn is NOT a serving!) Maybe you're just thirsty. Always start with an 8 to 10 ounce glass of water and make sure to wait 15 minutes before you reassess your hunger level. If you want something cold and creamy, try yogurt. Look for snacks that add nutritional value to your day, not just empty calories.
  5. Add evening exercise to your routine. Take a walk after dinner, join an evening aerobics or water exercise class, or try yoga and other stretching exercises. You'll feel so great, you won't want or need to eat!
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