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QUESTION: I eat so well during the day, egg whites for breakfast, salads for lunch with fat-free dressings, and a sensible dinner. Why do I have these out of control cravings every night? I’ve eaten the right things, I exercise regularly and still, I can’t budge the last ten pounds. I don’t want to go out or put on my attractive clothing, because I just don’t feel great about myself.
You get home from work, prepare dinner and then the trouble begins. The dishes are done, you relax for the first time today and then the cravings hit. You plan on being “good” and measure out a proper serving of fat-free ice cream or take exactly four cookies out of the package. You sit down, happy with your proportioned selection and begin to enjoy your well-deserved dessert. Then it happens. You can’t stop eating. It’s the after dinner food craze.
It’s a common issue for women, one I often see in my practice. And one I’ve experienced myself (hey, I’m human too!) We have complete control of our diets and lifestyle from 9am to 5pm. We have fine-tuned the art of self-control, we have a system down, and we have it all together. We take care of everyone around us, from elderly parents to kids and husbands, and even lovers. So why is this ONE part of my day, so out of control?? Let’s take a look and see if we can begin to understand.
Having dessert isn’t the problem. Nor is it really what you’re having for dessert. It’s the quantity of the food we eat and the emotional upheaval of punishing ourselves for overindulging that wreaks havoc.
For most women, after dinner is the first time they’ve slow downed. The first time of the day we can take a little time for ourselves. We’ve eaten the “right” foods all day long and worked extremely hard – whether we are the CEO of a corporation, CEO of the home, or both. It’s going to be very difficult to counter the strong pull of “I deserve something special tonight,” because guess what, you do. However, filling up on sweets and goodies after dinner may not be what you’re really looking for.
Being on the go and living life at a hectic pace leaves little room for our true self-nourishment. You see, women need much more than just food that comes on a plate to feel satisfied. We need to consider how we live our lives as one cause-and-effect of our cravings. If there is an unmet need in our relationships, career, spirituality and even the type of physical activity we do (or lack there of), it can increase or decrease our food cravings. All these things feed us. We just don’t put it in our mouths. How many times have you had a bad day or argument with a friend, and turned to the fridge or chocolate for consolation?
What would happen if you set up your evening with non-food rewards for your hard work? Talking with a best friend, taking a bath, taking an evening class, spending time with your husband, exchanging a two minute shoulder massage, reading a delicious novel… you get the idea. Yes, do have your dessert; just also add some of the above to your dessert list.
Of course, we have to consider the food we eat during the day. Taking away the very thing you crave does not work. Instead, you might want to try bringing your other meals during the day, back into balance. For example, making sure you’re eating enough food during the day so that you aren’t ravenous when it comes to dinnertime. Eating a real food snack vs. junk food before heading home for dinner really helps – carrots and humus, a couple pieces of whole fruit and peanut butter or homemade trail mix.
Another important food aspect to consider is consuming enough high-quality fats. Did I say fat??? That’s right, the forbidden word. Our bodies need adequate fats to keep our organs cushioned and protected, keep us warm in the winter, regulate our elimination processes, reduce PMS symptoms, keep our hair and nails strong and beautiful, our skin glowing, and much more. Fat is also responsible for satiety. Could your fat-free eating all day long have you craving higher fat foods in the evenings? Remember, fat-free does not mean calorie free. Manufactures have to replace the fat with something… sugar, sugar and more sugar. Yikes!
What are some good fats? Fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oils and flax seed oils.
What about eating the same thing, day-in and day-out? Are you stuck in diet-food limbo? Egg whites, fat-free foods and other “safe” foods, let’s face it, aren’t much fun. Do you sit down to eat and appreciate simply looking at your food? Does it appeal to you? Is it colorful and rich in aroma? Or is your food bland and all one color? Think of how special you feel when someone gives you a birthday gift and takes the time to wrap it beautifully and in your favorite colors. It’s the same idea with food. Eat a muffin, you feel like a muffin. Eat something with lots of vegetables and textures; you might just feel as good as it looks. It’s a simple concept, but a powerful one.
The after dinner craze is multifactoral. If eating were only about food, then we could figure this out in no time. However, food and our eating patterns are related to a much bigger whole, our life. Try out some of the ideas above. From incorporating good fats into your meals, having your food be visually satisfying, to even nourishing ourselves with non-food activities. Having more information about food is not going to make ourselves healthy, it’s actually doing it. There is hope, and you can regain control of your diet. Take it one step at a time.