Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How (Perennially) Fat People Diet: Part 5: Night Snacking

In part 1, I described how lots of (perpetually) overweight people approach (perpetual) dieting. In part 2, part 2a, part 3, and part 4, we've been going down the list and finding the mistakes. Now we're up to this:
Night Snacking
Strangely unsatisfied by their virtuous huge carby dinner, they snack all night. They generally don't binge on especially unhealthy snacks (though sometimes they do, when cravings get the best of them). On good nights, they merely ingest lots and lots of relatively low-calorie carby stuff. But even if they scarf a bag of chips or a slice of frozen pizza, they figure they can get away with it, given their low overall daily calorie count. After a day of fasting, and a fatless, meatless dinner, a bit of pleasure seems justified!
Night snacking stems from bad day eating. A huge carb-heavy dinner is usually a high glycemic dinner, and highly glycemic foods are akin to sweets. Given that mounds of rice (even brown rice) or potatoes are akin to mounds of sugar, it's understandable that you'd feel crash-ish cravings afterwards.

But even if you're eating a reasonably well-balanced dinner, if you've been skipping meals - i.e. starving - all day, your body will be at wit's end trying to make sense of it all. It goes bonkers and has you bingeing into the wee hours, chasing after contentment that never arrives!

This is key: what you eat at any one meal has repercussions which play many hours forward. It's true because of blood sugar issues, and because, yet again, your system constantly readjusts to try to accommodate whatever dietary pattern you present it with. Snack three nights in a row, and your body will eagerly request snacking the fourth. Your huge dinner and night snacks are throwing off your morning and afternoon eating, and perpetuating a cycle.

The long trail of night snacking means hours and hours of eating. But your body needs meals, not snacks. And digestion doesn't work best late at night and during sleep. And the goal is to establish healthy metabolic patterns around the hearty ingestion of healthful food and resultant feeling of energization (rather than a "drip" digestion, resulting in perpetually denied satisfaction). So the night snacking has got to go.

The first step is to follow the suggestions in the previous entries. This will drastically curtail your night snacking urge. Establish patterns of good, balanced, healthy meals, make sure you get enough calories, enough fat, and enough protein. Give your body the three days it needs to get the message (and don't confuse the signals during that time!). And try shifting two things:

1. As you get used to eating balanced lunches (even if you're sure you're not "a lunch eater"), you'll find yourself starting to get hungry at midday. Encourage that. Gently increase portion size of your midday meal. The mantra should be "bigger lunch, smaller supper". If your calorie count requires it (and it probably will, if you're eating the right stuff), you can add a small meal in the late afternoon.

2. No food after 8pm. Try your best. You'll find that your ability to easily follow that rule has everything to do with how balanced your lunch and dinners were. Put care into those meals, and your nights will be more sane if you can establish a pattern for just a few days. If you must meet friends for an 8pm dinner once in a while, so be it. Just make such nights the exception rather than the rule!

Continue to Part 6

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