Nixing the late night nosh

Published: January, 2014

Now and then many of us enjoy eating at night, but drifting through the kitchen to snack after dinner can add unnecessary calories to your day. Here are some ways to cut back.

  • If possible, close the kitchen every night after dinner to curb eating at night. If that's too difficult, start with one or two nights a week. Or work backward hour by hour from your bedtime — that is, close the kitchen by 10 p.m. if you go to bed at 11. Add another night, or cut back another hour per night, every week.
  • When you finish clearing up after dinner, go brush your teeth to signal your body that you're done eating for the night. If you have a kitchen door, shut it. Some people go further by taping it shut (or run a strip of tape across an open doorway). Any physical barrier that you need to remove will do — a heavy chair, for example.
  • If you find yourself ready to break the tape or toss aside the chair because you can't stop eating at night, slow yourself down with this four-step process taught at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine:
  1. Stop: Consciously call a time-out.
  2. Breathe: Take a few deep breaths to help relieve burgeoning tension.
  3. Reflect: Ask some questions. Why did I want to close the kitchen at night? Why do I feel the urge to eat right now?
  4. Choose: Decide how to handle your urge. Could you satisfy it in another way? For example, take the dog for a walk, do push-ups till you're tired, curl up in bed to read a book, call friends, hop in the shower, get caught up in a TV show, or try a stress relief technique like a body scan.

For more strategies on living a healthier, more satisfying life, read Simple Changes, Big Rewards, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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