Sunday, October 2, 2016

Emotional Eating and Nighttime Snacking



Its 1:30 am and I can't get to sleep. I"ll turn on my TV and maybe I can find a boring show to fall asleep to. Ooooh... that chocolate cake in that commercial looks SO good. I'm hungry and no one is up to see what I'm eating! Hmmm... 

That's how it starts for many people. The nighttime binging. It doesn't have to be a lot of food, but even a small amount of the wrong food can set a bad pace. Eating emotionally to comfort ourselves, fill a void, or because we are bored is never a good habit. There are times that we may feel we can't control the cravings. It may be due to stress.  High levels of stress cause the body to produce more cortisol, which increases food cravings. It could be hormonal changes brought on by PMS, pregnancy, or menopause. Fluctuation in hormone levels can cause women to crave sweets.
People who are dealing with depression, anxiety, or have health issues that cause chemical imbalances in their blood, may experience low levels of feel-good chemicals, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, or dopamine. This may cause cravings for "comfort foods" which will raise these levels. However, most comfort foods tend to be junk food, processed food, or foods high in fats and sugar. These are unhealthy choices. 

We have moments when we feel we must have something to soothe ourselves because our day was just horrible. Or, we have moments when we feel that our days were so great that we need to reward ourselves for a job well done. We have all have had these moments at some point, but what we do about it is what counts. First, don't beat yourself up about it. Doing so will only perpetuate the cycle. Be strong and decide to take control. Cravings are usually your body's way of letting you know something just isn't right, either hormonally, emotionally, neurochemically, or perhaps spiritually. Pray. Ask God for strength to deal with the craving without overindulging. Take control and know that you can make a change. Listen to your body and heart to find out what it is that may be imbalanced. If you need to see your doctor to have blood work done to check for hormonal or neurochemical imbalances, do so. Then, try taking control of some of the stresses by doing something other than eating. Exercise, take a walk, call a friend, listen to music, or get up and dance. Just get busy doing something to take your mind off the craving. It will release some of the stress, thus reducing the craving.

One of the most obvious helpers for emotional eating is learning to eat healthier snacks. Fruit, nuts, and whole grain snacks are always good choices. Whole grain cereals are what I go to when I can't find anything else. They are good for cravings at any hour, dry or with your milk alternative of choice. Eating light complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber help you to feel full longer, which can also help control appetites. Drinking plenty of water will help control your appetite by keeping you full and hydrated. Another little trick I read somewhere is to brush your teeth with minty toothpaste or rinse with minty mouthwash. Something about the mint helps to curb your appetite. I tried it and it works for me!

If you find that you just can't resist that favorite food or not-so-healthy snack, use portion control! Do not eat straight out of the package (that never works for self-control). Find a small cup, container, or plate to put a small amount in and put the rest of the food away. As for the small 90 and 100 calorie packs of healthy snack foods, you’re supposed to eat only one! They are that size for a reason. Skipping a healthy meal so you can have five 100-calorie packs of cookies is unacceptable!

Which brings me to my last point... don't skip meals! Skipping meals causes your body to hold on to fat for energy. Eating three well-balanced meals and one or two healthy snacks is a very good way to help control extra cravings. High fiber foods with each meal and snack can help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you feeling full longer.

When I started writing this I was hungry, but I chose to have some mini whole wheat crackers and a big glass of lemon water. The lemon water is gone, but I never even finished the crackers. Guess I wasn't as hungry as I thought! I hope this information helped you. Watch those nighttime cravings!

Off to bed I go…