A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Weight Loss Wednesday: Challenging Times of Day

on October 30, 2013

At my Weight Watchers meeting last Saturday, the official topic of discussion was “Beating Late Night Eating.” When our leader asked how many of us had trouble with late night eating, almost everyone (including me) raised their hand. However, when she went through and asked how much trouble it was on a scale of 1-5, it became clear that while late night eating was something we could identify as a problem, just as many people, if not more, considered the 3-5 pm afternoon period as their hardest time. (Part of that may be affected by the fact that it is a 7 am meeting – clearly not a bunch of super late night people)

I found it really interesting to listen to people to discuss when their hard times came and what they thought could be the triggers, because it is clear that almost all of us had a “red flag” time period during our days where it was really hard to stay on track. It was also clear that the reasoning for that trigger time was remarkably similar, even when the time of day was not. Many of us talked about stress, either during the work/home transition time (with errands, school pickups, etc) or at night after the chores were done and  a thousand worries have space to percolate to the top of your mind (definitely my issue!). Many also talked about emotional associations with food and certain times of day, from “cookies and milk” or other after school snacks from childhood to a ritual dessert or snack while watching TV at night. There are clearly lots of ties between certain routines in our lives and mental triggers for eating dysfunctionally during that time.

I’ve had trouble with both night time (as discussed previously here and here) and afternoon transition-time eating (here).  Just yesterday, I had to go down to a reception at work at 2 pm, complete with cake and punch. This was stressful for me because it was somewhere I was expected to socialize and network and that is honestly something I just suck at. I get so paralyzed with social anxiety and just want to stuff my face so I have something to do with my hands and my mouth other than meet people. In this case, I didn’t stuff my face – I just ran back to my office with the excuse of work I needed to finish. I did stop to get myself a drink before heading up to my office and was faced with my old 3 pm friend:

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Countless afternoons have spent shoving coins to this machine, oh so optimistically labelled with its “healthy choices”. The problem is that the healthy choices sit next to the chocolate. Chocolate always wins in the middle of the afternoon.

So if this is a problem so many of us share, how can we fix it? Finding different ways to deal with the stressors that predispose us to overeat during those times can be really helpful. A journal or food diary can help you track what you’re eating and what you’re feeling during whatever your “red flag time” might be and may help identify patterns, especially if you’re not sure exactly when it is that your day goes off the rails. Things that also help me are changing my environment, by getting out of the room with the food or out of my house, especially if I can get out for a walk or a run. Sometimes just closing the door between me and the kitchen is symbolic enough to help. It also helps me to find something healthier to do with my hands, whether it is writing or cleaning or making a cup of tea or coffee. *Side note: Just tried the chocolate glazed donut coffee from Dunkin Donuts and it feels like dessert! Seriously yum!

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Another thing that came up in the meeting is that many people are so rigidly controlled with their calories/points early in the day that they haven’t eaten enough by the time mid-afternoon or evening or whenever their trigger time is hits. This honestly is not something I’ve noticed as a problem for me, but it may have been at the beginning. I do know that if I eat something particularly carby for dinner, that late night period is a lot harder for me. WW and others would say that is because the carbs provide less long term filling than something with protein and to a certain extent, I think that is true for me. If my after dinner snack is Greek yogurt, I’m less likely to go off the rails than if I have a cookie (even if they are the same points/calories). Of course, it may also be that cookies are something my brain associates with countless prior binges in my pre-weight loss days. Greek yogurt has zero associations with my pre-weight loss days as I could never imagine enjoying it in the past!

Lots of people also mentioned the idea of rewarding themselves for surviving a tough day of work/parenthood/existence and we so often associate rewards with food that I could definitely see this as an issue. Coming up with non-food rewards is crucial not just for surviving late night temptation, but also for forging a healthier lifelong relationship with food. So many of our celebrations in life center on food (particularly appropriate comment during Halloween week!) and it can be a difficult shift in mindset to build new traditions and new celebrations. I don’t think it is something we as a society can (or necessarily should – I love to feed people!) completely avoid, so learning how to handle those rewards is also really important. I try to have a couple of planned reward / celebration type foods throughout the week so it is easier to put off that urge for cookies or cakes or whatever when it hits at night. If I get through a bad day, I can tell myself that Free Pie day is only “x” days away or I have my latte waiting for me on Saturday morning and that helps a lot. It is a lot easier to say “not right now” than “never” – trying to say “never” when you feel like rewarding yourself is almost guaranteed to backfire.

Do you have a certain time of day that is harder to get through? How do  you deal with it?

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8 responses to “Weight Loss Wednesday: Challenging Times of Day

  1. Jaime says:

    my issue is while im making dinner. its like i get too hungry and want to stuff my face.

    • I had a lot of trouble with that when I first started trying to lose weight. I got in the habit of turning on the oven as soon as I got home and tossing in some precut veggies to roast (I don’t like raw veggies!). By the time I was done getting the dog out, kid settled, etc and ready to start dinner, it was done and I had something healthy to snack on while I cooked. It is so hard not to snack while cooking!

  2. katyhancock says:

    It is so hard for me not to over eat and binge at night but I try to drink tea or sugar free hot chocolate to fill myself up and distract myself from my cravings

    • I do that too! Something about having something warm and something to do with my hands helps. This time of year, I stock up on sugar free apple cider which helps a ton.

      • katyhancock says:

        Oh my goodness sugar free apple cider sounds delightful! I’ll definitely look into that 🙂

      • Zero point too, unlike the sugar free cocoa if you’re doing Weight Watchers. 🙂 I think it’s less than 20 calories, if I remember correctly. Definitely worth seeking out and I found it at my regular grocery store with the hot cocoa and cider mixes.

  3. Renee says:

    Weight Watchers meetings are great for insight like that. I’m one of those people who just want to snack snack snack when I get home after work and before dinner. To try and prevent this trigger from causing me to snack on the bad stuff, I try and make sure I either work out as SOON as I get home, or do some other work, like blog stuff, beachbody stuff, or just clean up the kitchen/house.

    • Working out is really helpful too! Anything to keep busy. I really like my 7 am Saturday meeting. When I’ve gone to other meetings, there hasn’t been as much discussion so it really doesn’t feel as useful. I can definitely see where your leader & your group would seriously affect how valuable the WW meetings themselves are. I’m very grateful for our early morning crew.

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