Ask Jenny: How Do I Stop Overeating in the Evening?
This question actually came to me via one of my Comprehensive Wellness Analysis patients at Russak Dermatology in NYC - she was incredible successful at sticking to her nutrition plan during the day, but was sabotaging her progress at by overeating at night. Below are the six strategies I recommended to help her stay on track:
1) Make sure you are eating enough during the day: evening hunger can often be due to not eating enough during the day, resulting in low blood sugar. This will mean that your body will want to restore the balance as quickly and as easily as possible, making you crave high carb, high sugar and high fat food. To prevent this try upping your portion sizes during the day, with the hierarchy of first adding more veggies, then more protein, then more fat, then more low GI carbs.
2) Have a mini meal in the afternoon: I recommend a minimum of 3 hours and a maximum of 4-5 hours between meals and snacks. This gives enough time for effective digestion, and for our bodies to utilize any carbohydrates within the meal so we switch over to fat burning mode, but not too much time that our blood sugar drops too low, which results in high cortisol (our stress hormone) and cravings for high carb foods (aka getting ‘hangry’). Quite often I find my clients going 7-8 hours between lunch and dinner, making them understandably ravenous at dinner time!
To prevent this add in a healthy snack (or as I prefer to call them a ‘mini meal’ - snacking has connotations of chips, cookies, candy, etc), such as hummus and veggie sticks, an apple and nut butter, a small smoothie, some jerky, or a real protein bar such as those from Epic, Bulletproof or Primal Kitchen Foods.
3) Enjoy Fibre Based Appetizers: I often do this whilst I am cooking or before a meal, and not only does it help up nutrient and fibre intake, but helps control my portion sizes during the meal too. Cut up some carrots, celery, peppers, jicama, tomatoes, etc, and have these on hand to snack on either whilst cooking, or before the meal, and I also love to add some Flackers, a flaxseed cracker that tastes great and helps to fill you up whilst still being low in calories. Having a big glass of water with these appetizers will help the fibre expand in the stomach, reducing appetite and benefiting your digestion. A light vegetable based soup will also have the same effect.
4) Add a daily Green Veggie Smoothie: this has been one of my tools for my weight loss and detox clients for years, and is something I implement if I find I am nowhere near my PRIME Principle of 8-9 servings of veggies and low GI fruit a day. Simply blend together 2 handfuls of spinach or kale, 1/2 zucchini, a little avocado, 1/2 peeled lemon or lime and 1/2 an apple if you need some sweetness, with 2 cups of chilled water. This will boost your nutrient and fibre intake for the day, and help to balance hunger hormones and curb your appetite.
5) Serve in the kitchen, take to the table: this is one of those practical solutions that is so easy, but that we never think of! If food is in front of us, we are wired to eat - its a biological response for survival. Simply by serving yourself in the kitchen with one plate of food and then taking that to your dinner table you will automatically reduce the amount that you are eating, remove temptation, and make it easier to monitor portion sizes.
6) Wait at least 20 minutes before having more: it can take at least 20 minutes for the brain to register that you have eaten, so don’t rush back to the kitchen for more the second you finishing your first serving! We can also disrupt the satiety signals to the brain if we do not chew our food properly, or if we are distracted whilst eating (put down your phones whilst eating please), so practice only eating whilst sitting down (ideally not at your desk), not using your phone whilst eating, and putting your knife and fork down between bites.
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