How to stop evening snacking when you’re not hungry

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“I eat well all day but in the evenings my eating goes to pot”

This is one of the specific eating behaviours identified in Appetite Retraining as contributing to overweight and it is endorsed by many people.

Evening is a time of day when many of us eat for reasons other than because we feel hungry. If we have already had our evening meal but are still wanting to eat, that is unlikely to reflect feeling even slightly hungry.

Something else is going on. We may eat because we want something pleasurable or stimulating, or perhaps in order to numb unpleasant feelings.

At the end of the day willpower tends to be at its lowest, particularly after a demanding day. If we feel tired, it is unlikely that we will do something which demands much effort so we are likely just to go ahead and eat. But even if you are tired, it is possible to change this pattern as clients who have used Appetite Retraining have done.

Your evening eating habits may need to change

So if you are someone who eats when you’re not hungry in the evening and you are wanting to lose weight, making changes to your evening habits will allow you to lose weight. Once you have changed these habits and replaced them with other habits, the weight will stay off.

The keys to habit change are

  • to change one thing at a time in manageable steps
  • to work out what the first step will be and to repeat this one change as often as you get the opportunity. Habits are formed by repetition.

Everyone is different, so you need to discover what is driving your evening eating. If you are eating in order to numb unpleasant feelings, then you may need to learn to deal with those feelings as you make these changes. If you want help with this, personally tailored to you, you can book an individual consultation with me via the “work with me” page.

 

Practical tips for changing the unhelpful habits

  1. When you are ready to start changing the evening eating habit, you will need to find something else to do when you would normally reach for food. This can be anything you enjoy or find interesting or even a chore that needs doing. The activity needs to be something that will take you away from food and distract you from thinking about eating and it helps if it lasts 20 minutes or so. By the time 20 minutes has elapsed you will probably find that the urge to eat has lessened and you can return to what you were doing before. If you find yourself having further thoughts of eating, again engage in the distracting activity.
  2. If you find yourself feeling agitated or anxious whilst you start distracting yourself, use one of the anxiety reduction techniques provided in the free download here. Anxiety or agitation are normal reactions to changing an established pattern, particularly if that old pattern has offered a degree of calming or relaxation. You won’t need to keep doing the relaxation technique indefinitely, but it is useful whilst you are starting to make changes.The other important point about using a relaxation technique is that it will address any feelings of anxiety/ agitation effectively. Although food can make you feel calmed or soothed, it is only partly effective and you may find that you need to eat more to regain the soothing effect.Of course, techniques which deal with anxiety directly have the added advantage of not gaining weight.
  3. Another very simple tip is to clean your teeth after your evening meal so that any food will be less appealing.
  4. One more point to be aware of is that if you watch commercial TV in the evenings, you will have thoughts of food stimulated often during commercial breaks. Food advertising especially for rich and sweet foods is common at that time of day. As the advertisers are all too well aware, this may set up a desire to eat that wasn’t there before. If you notice doing this, it may help to watch non-commercial programmes or record what you want to watch and skip the adverts.

 

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