I realize that I have fallen into a trap lately of grazing, particularly before bed. Now, we don't have anything particularly "bad" in our cabinets in my home, but even too many handfuls of GoLean cereal, or nuts and nut butters, or rice cakes...or whatever...add up. So I realized I'm starting to re-develop my grazing problem. Grazing is what I call eating between meals, a spoonful here, a handful there - you know, eating that is usually just to pass time and doesn't really serve any other purpose.
I've had this habit since I was a kid, I can't tell you how it started, but I liked to eat dinner, perhaps have a light dessert, and then around 9:00, continue eating. I'm not sure when the habit started, maybe High School when I was up late doing homework, but even today I have struggles if I'm up late on the computer, watching TV, etc., with not raiding the cabinets! It's unnecessary calories and as you know, I've suggested to all of you how good it is to stop eating within 2-3 hours of going to bed. Additionally, this is eating for the sake of eating, or sometimes even worse - emotional eating.
The Kitchen's Closed
I heard Chalene and Jenelle say this before. You have to institute a policy with your family about a certain time of night that the kitchen is closed, say 9:00 p.m. This seems kind of like a silly solution, but think about it - if you put a sign that says "Kitchen closes at 9:00 p.m." and then you turn off the lights and aren't allowed to open any cabinets or the fridge after 9:00, could you keep that tradition going? As humans, sometimes we need to set our own boundaries, and naming it is often half the battle! So I dare you to try it!
Eat Enough During the Day
Thinking back on some of the recent times I've fallen into the grazing trap, a lot of it has to do with not enough during the day. I've started up a new round of Insanity, and man you burn a lot of calories doing Insanity! I'm realizing what I was eating when I was less focused with my workouts needs to be a little more now, and that takes planning! So I'm talking about thinking of 5 meals a day again, whether you think of it as 5 even meals, or 3 meals at normal times in the day and 2 planned substantial snacks. There are plenty of studied benefits of eating 5 smaller meals a day particularly because your body avoids large caloric deficits and surpluses throughout the day. Forget about those studies for right now - focusing on grazing, if you fuel your body effectively throughout the day, it makes it less likely you will be calling for energy right before bed!
A Fit Asylum Family member brought a great article to my attention about the dangers of eating 5 meals a day, but it called this style of eating "grazing." I think it needs to be said - if you don't plan, you are in trouble. If you read somewhere eating small portions during the day will "rev your metabolism" and you take that as not planning any meals and just eating dry cereal, tortilla chips, american cheese, pieces of bread, and spoonfuls of almond butter at will, you are doomed! Any "smart" eating plan takes planning ahead!
Have a Shake Before Bed
A great protein shake to have before bed is a glass of milk with casein protein powder. Casein is the "other" part of milk besides whey that can be isolated as protein, and it has the property of being digested and absorbed very slowly! Especially if you are doing strength training workouts, this is a way to continue to fuel you muscles overnight, because it can literally take 8 hours before all the protein is absorbed in your body. If you have a routine of taking a shake before bed, hopefully you can hold off grazing and just count on that one shake component and call it a day!
Think Like a Kid
When we were kids, we most likely had lots of boundaries and limitations in our lifestyle (sorry, I sound like Cesar Milan). We had to ask permission to leave the table, were told when it was bedtime, and it wasn't acceptable to eat late at night. If you have kids, set simple rules, like the "no eating after 9:00" one and then follow it yourself. At the same time, you are teaching your kids rules for their adult life!
If you are living with your spouse and don't have kids, have your spouse be the kitchen police! Give them permission to tell you "Hey - sit back down and get out of the kitchen!!" Roomates are great for this too!
If you are living alone, find a friend and ask them for help. Accountability partners aren't just about working out together, they are about checking in on each other's diet as well. Make a rule, for two weeks you have to facebook message your friend and say "I am going to bed, and tonight I didn't eat anything after 9:00." I don't make a good accountability partner, I am busy checking in on everybody! So find a friend, someone else struggling and make them do this with you!
Don't Watch TV or use the Computer at Night - Read
Instead of watching TV or going on the computer, make a tradition of reading 30 minutes before going to sleep. This way, after dinner and clean-up, you head right to bed and pop open your book and go for it! This is probably better for your health in other ways, and will lead to more hours of sound sleep as well.