When starting a healthy eating plan to lose weight, the morning is the easiest time to stay dedicated.  As the day progresses, various factors start to weigh in and ditching the diet becomes more likely.  Food cravings and binge eating occur most commonly between the time after work and before bed.  All it takes is one midnight feeding of junk food to ruin your progress from your morning workout.  Here are some of my favorite strategies to deal with these cravings and prevent them from getting the best of you.

midnight-snack1 Weight Loss Tips: 9 Strategies for Dealing with Nighttime Cravings

Try out our tips to control your midnight snack cravings.

1. Occupy yourself – There is a reason that most weight loss diets fail at night.  That is when the majority of Americans get off of work and head home.  Once at home, there is not much to do outside of the television.  The commercial breaks are timed perfectly for you to grab food from the kitchen to munch on.  Hunger is not always the primary cause of eating in these situations.  Nighttime feedings can come from our boredom, which kicks in leaving food as a good distraction.  To fix this, find a hobby to engage in at home or don’t head home right after work to an empty house.  Hanging out with friends, going out for a walk, studying in the school library or playing with the dogs are good ways to take your mind off of the kitchen.

2. Store food out of sight – If food is constantly visible, it will also be on your mind.  If you’re not hungry and food is sitting there waiting for you, it becomes hard to resist picking it up.  Put all food away in cabinets so you do not have to constantly be reminded that it is there.  As they say, out of sight and out of mind.

3. Replace junk foods with low calorie foods – As a competitive bodybuilder, being on a strict diet is something that I have to do during various times of the year.  One of my strategies for dealing with times of hunger is replacing bad foods with low calorie foods.  Spinach is the perfect example.  If you have to eat something, at least make it healthy.  A whole bag of potato chips can have up to 1500 calories!  A whole bag of spinach usually doesn’t have more than 100.  Other low calorie foods to keep in mind include low calorie Jell-o or puffed rice.

4. Brush your teeth – People usually laugh when I mention this one.  Think about this: Have you ever tried to eat right after brushing your teeth?  The food doesn’t taste very good, does it?  If you feel cravings coming on, brush your teeth early.  Keep a toothbrush in the kitchen if you have to.

5. Hang up Posters – This can be a copy of your latest workout, a picture of a trainer/workout partner, a magazine cover or even an old picture of you.  The trick is to hang them up in all the places you would go to get food at night.  When seeing motivational cues, you are less likely to go crazy in the kitchen.

6. Calculate the Activity – Make it a rule to calculate the activity involved with nighttime food.  Figure a mile for every 70 calories or 7-10 minutes of hard exercise.  If you’re thinking of going through a couple cookies, it could take you 100 minutes to burn them off!  Calculations like this can take away some of the appeal of those feedings and remember, if you eat one cookie late at night, you’re more than likely to eat 2 followed by 3 and 4.

7. Ice and water – Trick your stomach by giving it something that is calorie free: water and ice.  I am notorious for sucking on ice.  It is a habit I picked up when I used to lifeguard.   By filling up on water or sucking on ice, you can trick your stomach into thinking it is full.

8. Re-evaluate the Meal Schedule – If you find yourself constantly hungry at night, look at the times that you are eating.  If your last meal or snack is 6 hours before bedtime, then some changes should be made.  The standard recommendation of 3 small meals and 2-3 small snacks in a day works perfectly. They just need to be spread out correctly for your personal healthy lifestyle.  It is good to eat every 3-4 hours (9:00am, 12:00pm, 3:00pm, 6:00pm and 9:00pm is one example).  By keeping blood sugar levels at a consistent level, cravings can be minimized.  This is done by spacing out meals and snacks equally.

9. Find a Support Group – There are support groups that meet for all kinds of addictions including overeating, under eating, alcoholism, etc.  If food cravings or binge eating has become a serious issue for you, a support group could help you greatly.  Look for ones that meet in your community; they are not hard to find. Or, consider joining a fitness retreat for adults, like Shane Diet Resorts, where we follow a philosophy of healthy eating and exercise for weight loss. We will help you to control your cravings and realize that you do not need to overeat to feel full!

Do you have any unique strategies for dealing with food cravings or a plan that you use to keep food portions at a reasonable size?  We would love to hear them!