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The Plan for Those Who Raid the Fridge at Night

The Plan for Those Who Raid the Fridge at Night

It's like a scene from a horror movie. You're reading a book late in the evening, or maybe you're watching TV, or even worse, maybe you're already snuggled in bed and are traveling through dreamland, when something awful and sinister invades your body, taking it over and turning you into a lunatic.

You jump up and head for the kitchen. Nothing can stop you. You're going for the fridge and you're going to eat its contents like a zombie eats brains!


It's Night of the Fridge Raiders. Coming to a theater near you.


It can be like this! It's as if you're possessed. You stand in front of the fridge eating whatever you can find. If the refrigerator doesn't have anything that looks good, you check through all the cupboards and the pantry. FOOD!


One sure way to mess up an otherwise healthy, balanced and reasonable diet is to be a fridge raider. And the worst thing is, you know you shouldn't do it, but you seriously have trouble not doing it.


Studies have shown that people who snack late at night (or participate in late night eating binges) eat more calories overall than people who quit eating after dinner. This is because the snacking and binging is in addition to dinner, it's not as if you're just eating your normal dinner later in the evening.


Stop beating yourself up over it. Yes, you really do need to change this harmful habit, but if you're driving yourself crazy with guilt, it won't help anything. You need to find a sane approach to an unhealthy behavior.


What you need to do is find realistic ways to undo eating late at night.


How to Eat 


If you’re maintaining a reasonable diet during the day, meaning that you aren’t consuming too much fat or too many calories, and you're eating sensible meals and snacks, good for you! You only need to address this one situation of nighttime fridge raiding.


If you're not eating healthy during the day, then you have multiple situations to address.


The first thing you should consider is breakfast. Are you eating it? If so, that's great. If not, it's time to start. Believe it or not, the most common reason people get the munchies at night is that they didn't eat enough early in the day.


Your body and brain work on a clock that sort of monitors your eating. If you miss out on breakfast, even if you ate lunch and dinner, your brain is going to send out the “I'm hungry” signal about 12 hours after your missed meal.


If you're not having a good breakfast, somewhere late in the evening, your brain's going to decide it's time to eat. What should a healthy breakfast consist of?


·         A serving of grains (cereal, toast, half a bagel)

·         Some protein (peanut butter, nuts, meat or eggs)

·         Fruit or vegetables (orange juice, a small apple, a few tomato slices)


This is the proper way to start your day nutritionally. Skip the sugary cereals and glazed doughnuts. Keep it healthy and watch your portion sizes.


Many people do what's commonly called “emotional eating” later in the evening. As the day winds down and you begin to relax, all of a sudden you're thinking about things that bother you - your crappy job, your kid's bad grade in science class, your huge hips, your rude neighbors, or an overdraft at the bank.


Worry, fear, anger and hurt feelings can lead to eating for the sake of making yourself feel better - if only for the time that you're eating. Before you start eating at night, ask yourself what's really going on, and deal with that problem constructively, rather than drowning it in food.


Speaking of drowning, limit your evening cocktails to one or none. Drinking alcohol will lower your inhibitions about eating. Also, alcohol can disturb sleep patterns and cause you to wake up in the middle of the night. If this happens, will you head for the fridge?


If midnight fridge raids are going to happen, and they still may on occasion, make sure you've stocked your kitchen with healthy snack foods. Don’t have your kitchen filled with ice cream, potato chips, cookies and doughnuts. Yes, they're fun to eat, but they also attach themselves firmly to your body in the form of fat very quickly.


Do the right thing and shop wisely. Low-fat cheese and crackers, yogurt, fruit, healthy cereal and skim or 1% milk, or whole wheat toast and natural peanut butter make better choices if you must eat late at night.


And don't eat in front of the refrigerator or at the kitchen counter. Put your food on a plate, sit down at the table and think about what you're doing.


Another strategy that might also help is for you to eat your dinners a bit later in the evening. Contrary to popular notion, it won't make you gain weight to eat a late dinner. It's the after-dinner snacking that will get you because it adds on new calories. If you usually eat at 6 PM, push dinner to 7:30 PM and see if that helps.


Sip water through the evening and keep a glass of water on your nightstand, so if you wake up, you can have a drink. And if you do wake in the middle of the night, instead of heading for the kitchen to eat, read a book or magazine. Or write your feelings in a journal. Or do something creative, like needlework or work on a puzzle.


Fighting the urge to binge at night might be difficult at times, but if you put these ideas to work for you, you'll notice that the desire for late-night snacking eventually subsides. As the urge starts to go away, so will those extra pounds.


Exercise Tips


Everyone, whether they’re trying to lose weight or not, needs to get exercise every day. Most experts recommend a minimum of 30 minutes five times a week. This is for basic health, but it will also help you lose weight, especially if you haven't been exercising regularly for a while.


So, you know you need exercise, preferably by combining strength training and cardio. You can accomplish this in a number of ways. Any activity that gets you moving is going to give your heart a work out, so taking your puppy out for a good walk every day is good cardio exercise, unless you're just strolling along – you want to make your heart beat faster.


Taking a dance class and riding a stationary bike while you're watching the news in the morning are also good. And strength training can take place at the gym, with weight machines or in the comfort of your family room, with a set of dumbbells, resistance bands, or a couple of cans of tomato sauce.


If you need ideas on how to get started with exercise, check some workout DVDs out from your local library, or see if your local gym offers a free pass for a week (many offer specials like this to get you interested). Ask a friend or your spouse to walk with you every day.


Exercise can help you with your nighttime fridge raiding. Regular exercise helps you sleep better, so if you're the type of person who wakes up in the middle of the night and wanders into the kitchen for a midnight meal, exercise can help you sleep through that temptation.


For some, exercising in the evening helps to induce sleep. For others, it's better to exercise earlier in the day. This is because exercise will initially elevate stress hormones in your bloodstream, with those hormones eventually tapering off, leading to a relaxed feeling later.


If you’re extra sensitive to stress hormones, late exercise might interfere with sleep. But if you aren’t, late exercise will help tire you out and help you stay asleep. If you're not sure, try exercising later in the day for a couple of weeks and see how you sleep.


Then, exercise early in the day and see if your sleep patterns change. You'll be able to decide which time is best for you. Regardless, exercise will help you get a better, more restful night's sleep and will help fend of nightly binges. 


Mindset Motivation


Where is your mindset at when you're trying to quit binging at night? You have to answer that question by first understanding why you're eating past dinner and into the night.  Is it because you're stressed out?


If stress is causing you to eat late at night before bed or to get up after going to bed and eat, it will help you to use some stress relief methods and to work on developing a nighttime routine that helps you get to sleep and stay asleep.


Stress is a fact of life.


We live in a very fast-past world and there are a thousand and one things that can stress any of us out at any given time. Since stress happens, and is sometimes completely unavoidable, we need ways to handle it so that it doesn't overwhelm us and cause us to indulge in unhealthy habits for a quick fix.


You may want to work on building your own repertoire of stress relieving methods that you use each day on a regular basis. This can include:


·         Writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal

·         Practicing yoga, tai chi, or general stretching exercises

·         Getting daily exercise

·         Practicing deep breathing techniques. These are easy to learn and help you slow down and relax by providing much needed oxygen to your brain.

·         Meditation

·         Guided imagery

·         Massage therapy

·         Laughing - laughter releases endorphins in your body, making you feel happier and more relaxed. Watch a funny movie, read the comics, or watch your favorite sitcom reruns to get more laughter in your life.


Another very effective way to relieve stress in the evening and help you ward off feelings of false hunger is to establish an calm evening routine that gets you ready for sleep and helps you relax enough to sleep peacefully through the night.


Your nighttime routine might go something like this:


1.    Clear the dinner dishes - clean and close the kitchen

2.    Take a pleasant thirty minute walk

3.    Prepare for next day – pack lunch, choose clothes, etc

4.    Brush teeth (when your teeth are freshly brushed, you're less likely to eat again)

5.    Help kids with homework

6.    Tuck kids in to bed

7.    Curl up with a good book and cup of herbal (without caffeine) tea

8.    Head to bed when sleepy


If you've had breakfast, lunch, possibly an afternoon snack and a healthy dinner, you don't need a nightly snack, and you certainly don't need to raid the fridge late in the evening or in the middle of the night.


Take some time to explore what’s compelling you to do this, and find better, more productive ways of dealing with the problem of late-night eating.


A mindset of committing to reduce stress in your life and establish healthier daytime eating habits will help you kick the midnight fridge-raiding habit and enhance your weight loss efforts.


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