If you’re like me, you’ve probably sat down with a snack without really being hungry for it. You’ve likely mindlessly ate your way through a bag of chips or box of cookies.
And, hey, this happens to us all at some point!
But, doing this over and over again can be a weight loss killer. You tell yourself you’ll be “good” tonight (because the last 3 nights you weren’t), but it’s 8 PM and you’re chowing down on chocolate again.
It may seem hopeless to overcome these urges to eat, but with a few simple strategies, you can actually begin to get back control over late-night eating.
A Little Story About Peanut Butter
Let me share a quick story about my own experience with this. Now, this may not relate to you at all, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it does!
Years ago, I swapped out standard peanut butter for all-natural peanut butter. I wasn’t ever a huge peanut butter fan so the occasional time I’d have toast and PB, it was enough.
Then, my husband bought standard crunchy peanut butter.
And, I forget why, but I tried some and decided it was the best thing ever.
So, for the past few years, when I get snacky after dinner, I start eating his crunchy peanut butter right out of the jar. It’s the actual peanuts that get me, I think…it’s something about the texture.
Anyway, knowing how bad that stuff was for me, I knew I had to stop. It wasn’t just the calories; it was all the bad additives in the stuff.
So, I put myself through the intuitive eating ideas I’m going to share.
I waited to see if I was actually, physically hungry when the urge hit to dig into that PB. I wasn’t.
And, when I did feel hungry, I really paid attention to how I felt after I ate it.
What Is Your Body Telling You?
The AFTER part was especially eye-opening for me.
I realized I felt bloated, tired and had a really bad taste in my mouth afterwards.
And, I realized that when I stopped and decided I wasn’t actually hungry after dinner, I had a way better sleep that night.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a spoonful of that crunchy PB…and felt instantly a bit sick to my stomach.
I could actually taste the additives in it, which totally turned me off.
The truth is sometimes I still want to eat that PB – emotionally, anyway. And I’m not saying I’ll never eat another any again.
But it’s just not worth how it makes me feel now. So, it’s becoming a matter of training myself to ignore it sitting in the pantry, by remembering how it makes me feel after I eat them.
Pay Attention to Your Body
And that’s not the worst thing, is it?
It’s valuable to pay attention to the cues your body gives you in the hours and days after you eat.
You might notice that some foods make you feel bloated or tired, while others give you even more energy.
Paying attention to your body and KNOWING which foods make you feel good and which ones DON’T is one of the most valuable aspects of intuitive eating.
Do you get bloated after you have a glass of milk?
Do you get tired after you have a bagel?
Do you get itchy after you have too much sugar?
What foods make you feel great? What foods don’t?
This is why my 40 or Less Method clients keep a detailed food and symptom journal. It helps both them and me dig into which foods work for their bodies and which ones don’t. So that we can adjust their diets and keep them on the path to weight loss success.
What is Emotional Eating?
We’ve all had those bad days…
Work was especially horrendous and all you want to do is go home. On your commute back to your house, all you can think about is how awesome it’ll be to finally sit on your couch with a bag or bowl of your favorite snack.
Ever been there? (I totally have.)
Emotional eating is a real “thing” for a lot of us. It only makes sense, because since the day we were born, we’ve used food for more than just our physical nourishment.
Food is an important part of our holidays and celebrations. It can help define our family heritage. And it obviously comforts and nurtures us.
So it makes sense that we use it to soothe our emotions when we’re feeling down. (Or even “up.”)
Being aware of all of that is a big part of intuitive eating.
When you observe your patterns and habits, you can be more intentional in your choices instead of falling back into bad habits and old patterns.
You can actually have control over what you eat, vs. it controlling you.
Why do we eat when we feel down?
This is a complicated topic, but negative feelings can leave you feeling empty or disconnected – as if there’s a big hole or void. It’s uncomfortable.
So we can eat to try to fill it.
Here are some hallmarks of emotional hunger:
- The hunger comes on quickly.
- You are only craving certain kinds of foods.
- You don’t feel full, even if you’ve eaten a lot.
- You feel guilty or have regret later.
Over time, emotional eating can turn into a pattern or habit, so you don’t even know you’re doing it.
Practice Intuitive Eating to Take Back Control
If you want to get a handle on your emotional eating, here are some tips:
- When you feel like eating, ask yourself WHY. Are you truly hungry, or are you feeling stressed, bored, sad, lonely, or angry?
- If you’re not physically hungry, shift your mindset. Take a break and do something different: go for a walk, journal, take a bath, reach out to a friend or supportive family member (maybe even make a phone call!), or do something creative.
- Be gentle with yourself – congratulate yourself on noticing your patterns!
Remember – this is not about “bad” or “good.” It’s about embracing health and listening to your body’s true needs