Saturday, May 31, 2014

Escaping the After Work Binge

Image credit to Hans at

Feeling ravenous, you do all you can to avoid speeding on your way home. When you finally arrive, you turn on the tv, kick off your shoes and start digging through the fridge. You grab whatever you are able to make edible in the shortest amount of time. Once that food has been consumed you feel magnetically drawn back to the pantry and the night continues with the same pattern. You end up feeling gross, angry at yourself for such little willpower and tired because somehow it is difficult to get yourself in bed despite the low energy night. Sound familiar?

Whether you are trying to lose weight or not, binging is not helpful. I personally believe the occasional celebratory feast enriches life, but there is nothing beneficial about being alone and semi-consciously devastating your calorie count. This may not be a positive habit but it is certainly one of which I am quite familiar. Honestly, sometimes I still fall in this trap, but the frequency and intensity has been reduced significantly. I’ll run through 8 tips and tricks that have helped me.

1 – Respect your hunger
If every day on your way home from work your hunger reaches a 10 on a 1 to 10 scale, you are allowing yourself to get too hungry. Yes, there are people that are truly starving to death and I bet your hunger does not compare to that. That is a troubling reality in this world, but it does not mean that you should minimize your hunger. This extreme hunger on your personal hunger scale is what I call modern-day ravenous. It stems not from an inability to obtain food but rather from ignoring your personal hunger signals for too long usually because you are too busy or trying to diet.

How to respect your hunger: Plan a snack in the mid-afternoon. Depending on your target calorie intake, you may want to plan on a bigger snack than one of those numerous 100 calorie options. Use as many different food groups as possible, e.g. crackers and cheese with a little meat. The more whole-grains and less processed the better.

2 – Plan your meals
As you plan your meal, make sure that it includes an adequate amount of fat, protein and low calorie density foods like vegetables. While you probably aren’t going to get full from a bunch of lettuce, by eating that salad you stand a much better chance of feeling satisfied with a proper portion of the other food.

3 – Create visible and assessable healthy options 
Even if you had a snack at 3 o’clock, if you are anything like me, you will still be hungry when you get home, just not as hungry. Therefore you want to make your planned meal as attractive as possible. The trick is to open the darn bag and get the food ready for consumption. Chip clips and glass food storage dishes such as Pyrex and Tuberware are amazing tools for nutritious eating because they can seal whatever you prepared and it is easy to re-open. For instance, if I plan to eat salad, I’ll have a bag of greens (a salad mix, spinach or kale mix) and shredded carrots opened and sealed with a chip clip. Also I’ll have a Pyrex container with pre-chopped onions and another with pre-sliced strawberries. Now all I have to do is grab everything out of the fridge and throw it in a bowl and everything is easy to seal back up and put in the fridge. Also note that clear storage containers are the best because food is so much more tempting when you can actually see it.

4 – Disallow bites and nibbles
While it can be a good trick to satisfy your taste for fries by stealing one from a buddy, if you are by yourself one bite can turn into quite a few.

I am the worst at this. As much as I try to have my meal prepped when I get home, there is always going to be some prep time. Sometimes I am picking at whatever I am cooking, but sometimes I even start snacking on random things while waiting the couple minutes for my food to be ready. There are days I don’t track my calories and almost always it is related to the fact that I had nibbled too much that day and really was not so sure what all I ate or in what portions. Even if you can remember those details, if you count your calories, save yourself the time and just don’t eat it. You don’t have to track what you don’t eat.

5 – Practice mindfulness while eating
Sit down and turn that tv off girl! There is something very tempting about watching tv while eating, but you cannot fully focus on enjoying the tastes, textures and aroma of your food when you are simultaneously channel serving. There are so many reasons to be mindful. First, if you pay attention to what you are eating you won’t overeat without realizing it. Secondly, you are more likely to feel satisfied because you enjoyed your food. If you start eating something and the next thing you know it has mysteriously disappeared, you are going to feel jipped. Consequently it will be quite challenging to resist going back for more.

6 – Eat your veggies first
My taste has developed but I am far from craving vegetables. I imagine a lot of people can relate. If you start with your favorite part, you get tempted to just have more of that deliciousness instead of moving on to other food groups. However, if you start with the veggies, you are not tempted to skip them later. Also, food simply tastes better when you are hungry. Furthermore, after a low calorie density food intake, you won’t need to eat as much of your main course to feel satisfied.

7 – Commit to recording your calories
Not everyone needs to count calories but if you are someone who struggles with overeating, counting calories is like using bumpers. You may not roll a great shot, but you stay out of the gutter. Consistency is crucial for sustainable maintenance or weight loss, so no matter what you have eaten, acknowledge it. This is not to judge yourself or hate on yourself, it is just to keep yourself accountable. Be honest, do you sometimes feel like if you don’t track it, it doesn’t count? I do.

Another benefit is that if you always record your calorie intake and exercise, you can mathematically calculate how many pounds of fat you theoretically should have lost (provided your information is accurate and you have a feel for you <base metabolic rate.>) There are 3500 calories in a pound; when your net deficits equal 3500 calories, you mathematically should have lost one pound of fat. This could be really valuable information, especially if you do have a particular goal for which you have committed.

8 – Schedule something enjoyable for the evening.
While it may feel like you are too exhausted to do anything but veg on the couch, you will likely feel more energetic if you get your behind off the couch. If you normally have 4 hours in the evening before you start getting ready for bed, that is 4 hours where you are tempted to overeat. However, if you use a couple of those hours in a dance class, meeting with a small group at church or taking a night class in an interesting topic, there will be that much less time to indulge. The other benefit is of course whatever enjoyment you receive from your activity. Moment of truth: Do you feel better or worse after you watch tv all evening? If I watch more than 1 hour at once, the answer is usually worse.

Now you are equipped with 8 ideas to combat evening indulgence. Pick just 1 to implement this week. Which of these ideas do you want to try? Are you struggling with actually doing any of these? It is so much easier said than done. Keep me updated.


  1. Very relevant post!! I think everyone struggles with the "well I'm home now time to relax" mentality which leads to a little too much relaxation which leads to binge eating, no exercise and feeling terrible. It's funny because when I take a lot of snacks with me to work I often feel self-conscious, like why do I need so much food? Are people going to think I just can't stop eating? I think for me it's a struggle to remember that multiple snacks in the day keep you eating more reasonable portions and keeps your calorie budget in check. And ultimately, if I don't bring snacks to work I get so hungry that I have to resort to the vending machine sometimes which is definitely not where one goes to eat healthy. :)

    I also recently started drinking iced coffee when I get home to give me the boost I need to get up and going again. Whether I want to work out, do household chores or focus on tackling my to-do list it really has helped! Although I wouldn't suggest drinking coffee in the evening if I'm not going to exhaust myself afterwards otherwise I wouldn't be able to sleep!

  2. Glad you liked it. It can be sooo tough not to compare what you eat to others. But everyone's bodies are different and you have to do what is healthy for you.

    If all else fails, just run around your apartment a couple times to burn off the energy if you overdo on the coffee.