Eat breakfast like a queen*, lunch like a princess*, and dinner like a pauper.
*With apologies to Adelle Davis
Recent studies have shown that eating the lioness’s share of your daily calories early in the day is a sound strategy for weight loss and weight loss maintenance. Turns out that the body’s circadian rhythms (the biological processes that the body follows over a 24-hour period) influence hormone release, which has implications for fat burning, fat storage and perceived hunger levels.
Not only do big breakfast eaters have an easier time losing and maintaining their weight, they also exhibit lower levels of insulin, glucose, and fat in their blood, which may help reduce their risk of diabetes and heart disease.
I’m a strong advocate of this ‘inverted’ approach to meals and often suggest it to weight-loss clients whose food journals reveal that they typically consume most of their calories after 5 pm.
Their biggest challenge in making the switch? Evening food cravings and the feeling that they’re going to bed hungry.
Tips for taming evening food cravings and the after-dinner munchies
1. Spend a day or two tracking your food. Compare your total caloric intake to your goal (remembering that cutting calories by more than 500 per day below maintenance can, counterintuitively, undermine weight loss). If you’re not eating enough, you’ll be hungry in the evening, regardless of when, during the day, you’re consuming the bulk of your calories. Add those extra calories in at breakfast and lunch.
2. Increase your protein intake. Because protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, a few ounces of roast chicken breast will satisfy you longer than a cup of rice or sweet potatoes. In addition, protein has less of an effect on your body’s blood sugar levels, thereby reducing the likelihood that you’ll crave starchy carbs later in the evening. Pretend you’re a lucky pauper who’s just come across a chicken in the road.
3. Drink more water. Sometimes our brains mix up our body’s hydration and hunger signals. Try increasing your water intake throughout the day. Don’t wait until the after-dinner munchies strike to grab an extra glass or two; chances are your sleep will be interrupted by a middle-of-the-night trip to the loo.
4. Make TV-time, veggie-time. It’s easy to fall into the mindless eating trap when you’re marathoning through Game of Thrones. Swap cold, crunchy, raw veggies for your usual TV snack. In addition to helping you increase your daily water intake, the fibre they provide will fill you up without adding extra calories.
5. Sip on flavoured, decaffeinated tea. Sometimes all we’re really craving is flavour. I keep a stash of flavoured herbal teas on hand to satisfy flavour cravings and give my hands something to do when I’m not really hungry, but thinking about food, none-the-less (knitting helps with this too). My current favourite? A black, decaf chocolate mint tea; particularly helpful with PMS chocolate cravings!
6. Go to bed earlier. If you eat dinner at 6, but don’t go to bed until midnight, chances are you’ll end up hungry before bed. Six hours is a long time to go without eating. Try hitting the sack an hour or two earlier. Not only will it prevent you from heading to the pantry, studies have shown that chronic, short-duration sleep is linked to sugar cravings and middle-of-the-body fat deposition. If you can’t possibly go to sleep any earlier, consider shifting your dinner hour closer to bedtime.
What’s your favourite tip for taming the after-dinner munchies?