Goodnight Moon, Hello Snack.
So, the question was, how did I break the habit of late night eating?
I’m not going to offer you a pile of excuses, but I am going to tell you about me so you have a perspective on where the battle started.
- I love food.
- I can always eat. Always.
- I am an insomniac.
- I hate breakfast, and don’t require (by definition of hunger) a meal until at least noon.
So, my breakfast is at most people's lunchtime and my lunchtime is around most people’s dinnertime. That leaves my dinner…you guessed it, close to midnight.
I always ate whole grains, low-fat, unfried foods. I didn’t have dessert except for special occasions. I had given up caffeine after 2:00 p.m. I mean, I was TRYING. But, was I smart? Nope.
I knew I had to lay off the late-night meals, so I gave up my PBJ and glass of milk. This meant no crazy sugar boosts from the milk, peanut butter AND the preserves. The whole grain slices of toast also worked against me, in the sugar/carb department. What I thought was the lesser of many evils was flat out dopey.
I downgraded to a banana. Still packed with sugar, but filling. I drank my water. I watched the clock. I read more Buzzfeed articles than I care to admit. That’s my version of sitting on my hands.
I lost a little weight, but nothing to scream about. I knew I had to control the sugar, which equals an imbalance for me.
Sometimes the plain fact is, when you get the same advice from all sources it's because it’s true. The issue isn’t fighting the hunger as much as it’s fighting the response. I can’t help that I crave a meal late at night. What I can do is help the response to my midnight munchies. I know that it isn’t good for me, and the only person that can help me is me.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. How I loathe that saying. I am simply NOT hungry in the morning, but this is beyond hunger, and I finally faced reality. I realized I had to start to change my body’s metabolism, so kickstarting my day with proper fuel was the way to go.
I was a kid that hated cereal and I still don’t eat it. I don’t do eggs often, and felt they belonged in the “4:00 a.m. On the Way Home” category. I wasn’t going to use that as an excuse, though. No one said I had to only eat classic breakfast foods. It was time I worked towards success instead of fighting all the things I felt were forced upon me. I was acting like a pissed off seven year old, and was having lousy results. Enough.
From then on, I balanced fruit with a protein and only occasionally with a grain. Favorites?
- Lean protein like cottage cheese with berries, topped with flax seed is a favorite of mine.
- Mashed up avocado on a single slice of multigrain toast is a once a week breakfast. I mash mine with the juice of a lime, and smack on a bit of Louisiana Hot Sauce. Not for everyone but totally me - creamy, chunky and a bit spicy.
- I have half a banana with my peanut butter mini-wrap in the morning. It’s to-go and it’s good.
- Almond Butter on Melba Toast with Strawberries (see above).
- Roasted Red Pepper Hummus in half a bell pepper. Not boring at all.
None of these are too heavy. I trained myself into having breakfast with the promise of coffee when I finished. THAT worked. When in doubt, dangle the carrot of your choice.
I moved my lunch time to no later than 1:00 p.m. I still ate my salads but really bulked them up with more veggies, beans and lean protein. My habit is to have no less than a double protein per meal. I found it easy to shoot for three! An example of this is black beans, shredded chicken, and avocado. I love adding walnuts or almonds and fruit to my cheddar and mixed greens. I don’t eat loads of meat, so I rely on other protein staples most days. My Quinoa Veggie salads are a weekly lunch, too. Recipes for that are here, and here.
Now came the challenge…dinner. Due to work hours and commuting time, my family isn’t looking at dinner until at least 7:30 p.m. I dumped starchy carbs from this meal entirely. No rice. No pasta. No bread, or a very rare and small amount. I go light on starchy veggies but a few tablespoons work for me. I go big on the protein, which really is filling for me. The plate is split between veggies and fish, many nights. A spicy curry makes me happy, too.
I ate my filling dinner which leaves me full. I have a cup of tea or decaf coffee (which I flavor so it’s satisfying) around 10:00 p.m. I’m honestly not hungry at that point, so now we wait.
In a shocking upset, 11:30 came and went and no rip-your-eyes-out cravings for a sandwich. I wasn’t “starving”. If I want something sweet, and that can only mean chocolate, I reach for a no sugar added Fudgesicle. If I want something salty, or piquant, I go for one of my home-made pickles (my recipes here). If I’m really hungry, which I rarely am, I eat some leftover dinner, or a few almonds (slowly) with a glass or two of water.
You can't always get what you want but if you try sometime, you find, you get what you need.
That’s how I changed how I process food. That’s how I beat my late-night food fight. Sometimes I still lean towards the old habits. I’m just a human gal, especially when I’m out.
I stick to my new meal times, even when I travel. Funny, that seems to be when the rest of the world had their morning meal, too. I’m in good company, my more regulated life is paying off.