If there is one area of eating (or nibbling) that I could eradicate in all of us, it’s the mindless snacking we all seem to do in the evening. Mind you, I do meet the rare person who doesn’t have the urge to nibble while watching TV or reading a book. I’ve talked about my own struggles with this before, but it bears repeating. We all know that eating at this time is rarely out of hunger, it’s simply the desire to eat. The major issue, as you all know, is that these are extra calories (usually in the carbohydrate class) that we simply do not need. Our metabolisms are low, and we just store these mindless (usually high-carb) calories as fat.

The normal excuse I hear is, “It’s my down time and I’m tired.” For sure we may be mentally tired, but most of us aren’t physically tired, especially if we’ve been sitting in front of a computer all day.

As I’m typing this, I look outside and it’s still light even though it’s 8:00 at night. We need distractions to take our mind off those things in the cupboard or fridge. For me, I decided to write this article at this time using my cell phone, to keep my fingers busy. Like everyone else I was mentally drifting to the freezer which has some left over ice cream from Canada Day. However, the more I click away here, the less the urge to eat something. I’m often asked, “What causes this urge to eat at a time we aren’t even truly hungry?” A simple answer is boredom, but a more physiological reason is likely serotonin in the brain (or dopamine) which has been habitually satisfied over the years by having something at this time.

Since we can’t yet alter those chemical urges, then we have to break the habit. If this is a danger time for you, then the first thing is to remove yourself from the room that you associate with snacking. Read a book in another room; send an e-mail to a few of your friends; walk around the block; clean something or pull 5 weeds in the garden; anything that will distract you. We must do something other than respond to that inner voice calling for something sweet or salty. Or, make a cup of tea, or have a glass of water.

Somehow if we can force ourselves to be satisfied with the supper we ate, or the healthy snack we had, long enough to make it to bedtime without more food, well, we’ve done a great job. The more we achieve this, the less the habit of mindless snacking occurs. Ultimately, we stop even considering extra food from supper to bedtime.

I make all of this sound easy, and I know it’s not. It takes daily work. Each of us must find what works for us as individuals. What I do may not work for the next person.

Work on your evening snacks. Can you go one day, two days, maybe even three days without giving in to a carb/sugar craving? Challenge yourself. If it doesn’t work, at least you tried. You can always try again tomorrow.

The most important thing is to never give up on yourself. You can do it. It takes work and lots of practice. But, by continually trying again and again, you WILL ultimately succeed.

Dr. Doug