Let’s set the scene:

You’ve had a great day. You got up early to hit the gym before work. All day long at the office, you said no to break room treats and avoiding the vending machine. When you got invited out to lunch with colleagues, you made smart decisions by picking a high protein, low carb meal from the menu.

After work, you don’t have dinner prepared so you go to the grocery store and pick up salmon and some fresh vegetables for a stir-fry.

Next thing you know, it’s 8:30 p.m. and your standing in front of your pantry, searching for something, anything to address the hardcore carb craving you’re experiencing.

What gives?

The truth is, carb cravings are totally normal and a lot of people report experiencing them in the evening, even after they’ve made good health decisions all day long. While it might totally confuse you, we actually have a pretty clear picture of what is going on. Here’s what you need to know about late night cravings and what you can do about it.

Stress and Carb Cravings

Stress has a huge impact on the way our body functions. When you experience a stressful circumstance, your body responds by producing more cortisol. This hormone does a lot of things, but one thing we know about cortisol is that it can trigger cravings, causing you to overeat.

To manage the effect of stress, be proactive about adopting new coping skills. Learn to take a break and go for a walk, jot down a list of what is overwhelming you, or practice deep breathing when you feel your stress level rising.

Decision Fatigue and Overeating

Another thing that could be to blame for late-night carb binges is decision fatigue. While the ability to make good decisions all day is commendable, it can actually lead to poor decisions later on. Decision fatigue is a real thing and feeling forced to exhibit self-control over and over again has actually been found to make it harder to practice self-control over the long term.

To avoid self-control or decision fatigue, make fewer decisions! Meal prep on Sunday night to eliminate in-the-moment decisions about lunch and dinner. Say no to lunch out to avoid staring down a menu. These small changes might make it easier to make good decisions late in the day.

Under-eating and Late Night Snacks

A good diet isn’t about how little you can eat. While this might seem obvious to some, too many people equate a “good eating day” with skipping meals or eating way less than they should. If you can’t say no to overeating at night, consider the fact that you simply may be hungry.

Adjust your diet to include satisfying meals all day long, including healthy fats and lean proteins that will help keep hunger at bay. Explore new flavors, better recipes, and more creativity if you’re simply bored with a too-restrictive diet.

Routines and Overeating

Have you ever heard ex-smokers talk about how they had to stop drinking their morning coffee on their front porch because it reminded them of how much they wanted to smoke? Overeating habits can work like that, too.

If you’ve built a daily routine that ends with Netflix and a snack, your entire evening may need an overhaul to stop late night overeating. Find a new routine you will truly enjoy. Go for a walk. Skip TV and head to bed with a book. Take a bath. This are habits that will fill you up emotionally, without filling your body with unhealthy snacks.

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