Ep #26: Eating in the Evening

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You’ve spent all day sticking to your food plan and following your weight loss protocol. Yet, when the sun is setting the urge to eat can be overwhelming. The highlight reel of your problems, your obstacles and challenges from the day begins to play in your mind, so you reach for the cookies. If only you had more willpower, you wouldn’t sabotage your path to a healthy body, right?

Wrong! Unhealthy eating at the end of your day isn’t because you lack willpower at all. It’s because you have formed a habit. You reach for food to solve problems like stress, anxiety, or boredom. Well, Perennials, you can use the strategies I outline in this episode to create new habits and curb your desire to eat in the evening. With three simple steps, you’ll be on your way to your right-sized body and a happier, healthier, you.

If you like what you heard today, please go to Apple Podcasts and leave a review. The more reviews we receive, the more women will learn about the podcast and learn from these lessons. If you know someone who is struggling with food, send them a link to the podcast and maybe they can find something here they haven’t heard before!

Listen to the Full Episode:

What You’ll Learn in this Episode:

  • Why we are perennials
  • Why you don’t need more will power.
  • Dopamine versus Serotonin effect on your brain.
  • The 3 steps to stop over-eating in the evenings.

Featured on the Show:·

Full Episode Transcript:

Full Episode Transcript

With Your Host

Pat Beaupre Becker

Welcome to It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight, a podcast for women approaching 60 who have been successful at everything but reaching their weight loss goals. Tune in each week for tools and strategies to help you lose weight, create a strong body, and support a healthy mind. Here's your host, certified weight and life coach, Pat Beaupre Becker.

Hello my dears. I recently was looking for a name for us, and I was not happy with seniors. Elders was, I kind of like that one, but it didn't have something that I was looking for. So I went online and I started searching, and it was older people, crones, we can't teach old dogs new tricks. Anyway it just went downhill from there in terms of how I wanted to refer to myself and to you in this time of our life.

Then I came across an interview in AARP's bulletin with Stanford's top aging expert, Laura Carstensen. She came up with the name Perennials. Perennials, I love it. She talked about considering her elders and noting how generous, thoughtful and emotionally complex they were because at this stage we are able to regulate our emotions way more than when we were younger. At least, I know that's true for me. And also that we are still blossoming again and again and again. So I love the vision of the perennials. I was talking to a friend recently, and she said that when she observes her perennial flowers, every year they come back stronger and stronger and more beautiful.

We're going to find Perennials who are more likely to say, "I've got stuff to do and I'm going to make a difference." So, Perennials, let's get started with today's podcast. I want to help you make a difference when it comes to your habit of overeating in the evenings. I know sometimes I think of it, or I used to think of it as the bewitching hour or the bewitching hours.

Let's say for many of us, we're able to start the day, and we can actually even get all the way through dinner eating planned healthy foods. Then we find ourselves overeating, even when you're telling yourself, "I don't want to overeat. I just want to eat my meals." Telling yourself you don't want to do it usually doesn't work because you're actually relying upon your willpower. Now, willpower is fantastic, especially for short term, but it's exactly what will not work to change a deeply ingrained and highly rewarded habit. And especially after a long day of making decisions and doing things for everybody else.

The most important thing I want you to realize and understand is that a habit is driven by your unconscious thoughts. In my experience working with hundreds of women who want to lose weight, willpower is the wrong tool to pull out when you're trying to get to your unconscious. How do we make a desired change so that we can get through a whole day and a whole night eating on plan, losing weight, and feeling better in our bodies and about ourselves? Well, I propose three steps. The first one, become aware. The second one is to ask powerful questions. The third one is to create a protocol.

Now, the whole idea is to begin to look at your evenings with wonder instead of beating yourself up or worrying. Let's get started on the three steps. The first one is awareness. You need to become aware of your cues and your thoughts and your feelings. Now the good news is that you are very familiar with what happens to you each weeknight. Even if you can't seem to control it, but in order to understand and change something, you have to have that awareness first. Now habits are driven by cues. Researchers have actually looked at the brain and studied the brain of heroin addicts, and they can see that there's excitement every time the addict thinks even of scoring the next hit. Each step along the way towards scoring provides the brain with that hit of dopamine, building in anticipation to that final reward. When you can identify the cues that are part of the habit of overeating in the evening, you can then see the cause and make adjustments.

The step that I want you to do in becoming aware is actually to document what happens to you. You start to become aware of yourself, of your feelings, or your thoughts during the course of the day. Let's just say you decide Monday I'm going to start taking notice. I'm going to take notes on what's going on for me in the day. You might discover that like three o'clock every afternoon you think, "Oh, I'm hungry. I'm tired," or something that happened, and you just maybe tuck it away in your brain. When do you first notice a feeling of anxiety? Is it in the car on the way home? Sometimes for people it's as soon as they open the door to their home or their apartment.

The other thing to ask and document is: Are you dramatizing your problems by endowing food with magical powers? Now in episode 23, I taught you about the mindset of math versus drama. This is where you can apply that teaching. Are you building up drama with your language? Oh, it's a monster waiting to get me. Or are you seeking the math? “I have an urge that I'm not used to allowing.” Right, so you just can see even the way you talk about it will have a big effect on the emotional impact on you.

You want to also document the negative thought patterns you have leading up to the evening. Now not surprising, it was my thoughts and emotions that were drivers to my evening overeating. For example, I did really well when I was scheduled during the day, but when I had free time, I was always wondering, am I doing enough? Is there something I'm supposed to be doing? That thought made me feel very anxious. On other evenings, I'd find myself mulling over a conversation that happened during the day and berating myself for it, saying the wrong thing. Why didn't I keep my mouth shut? How could I have said that to him? You're such an idiot.

Now these thoughts resulted in more emotions that fed into other habitual thoughts that I actually had been thinking about myself over the course of my lifetime. Don't expect to change, you poor fat ugly loser. Whoa. Where did that even come from, right? But my past would join in and really hijacked my evenings. But all of it unconsciously. What are your thoughts? Write about them and become aware of them. That is step one, become aware of the cues and your thoughts and your feelings.

Now step two is to ask powerful questions. In episode 24, I proposed that you ask yourself powerful open-ended questions to get your brain into solution mode. Here are some possible questions to get your evenings to be successful and on track. The first question you might ask is what does my ideal evening even look like? The second question, what emotions am I feeling as I imagine this ideal evening? The third question, what are the thoughts that I'm actually thinking and believing about myself and about the evening? Then finally, the fourth question, what actions can I take to get the results I want?

Now for me, an ideal evening includes finishing up my work for the day, preparing and cleaning up after dinner, having conversations with my husband, sitting and reading a book or watching TV, catching up on a magazine article. Then I like to take a quick review of my calendar, so that I know what my next morning is. Then if there's any preparation for breakfast or for lunch that I need to do, I like to get that done the night before. Sometimes I just want to check in with a friend and make a quick call to say hi. Then I want to get into bed and I have a book that I'm reading. I usually want to be in bed by 10 o'clock so that I could go to sleep and have a good night's sleep.

That is very simply an ideal evening for me. When you think of your ideal evening, what would you like it to look like? Now, if you still have kids at home, obviously it's going to be different. If you live alone, obviously it's going to be different. But for you, what would be the best evening that you can imagine? Then when you ask yourself, what emotions are you feeling when you imagine that ideal evening, when I ask myself what emotions I want to feel, they're accomplished, proud, and competent. Then when I look at what are the thoughts that I would believe to feel those things would be I've given my all today. I've done the best that I can. I've learned a thing or two, and I'm grateful for the opportunities I had today.

Now, I want to tell you there was a time when my evenings were spent in pursuit of eating yet another cookie. And in hiding, hiding the anxiety, hiding the eating and the shame of disappointment in myself for yet again not being able to change or to manage my emotions. Learning to feel what done feels like, right, knowing that I did enough for the day, and accepting the feeling of being accomplished, that took some practice. Because what I was doing was I was exchanging that dopamine hit that I was getting with not feeling great, but then eating that cookie, which was very confusing, but then I had to exchange that for a little bit of a slower discomfort in the sense that I still felt uncomfortable learning what accomplished felt like, and that a sense of well-being is not as intense. It's more like a lower dose of dopamine than that intense dose of sugar dopamine which hits my brain.

Another thing was that knowing my propensity to feel shame when I reviewed the day, I decided to teach myself that that feeling in the pit of my stomach, that tightness in my throat was just a vibration in my body and it didn't mean anything. Asking powerful questions and understanding what you want for your evening is really crucial for creating it.

And then step three is we're going to create a protocol. I've broken this up into several parts. The first part is a daily review of the day. You want to identify the cues that happened in the day. Maybe there was a difficult conversation you had. Maybe you had an argument with your spouse in the morning or with your child. Maybe there was a news article you read. Maybe you got upset during the day and you wanted to cry, but you couldn't cry because you were in a public place, so you had to put that emotion and park it somewhere. Maybe you just drive past the food market and every time you drive past it, you think of a certain food. Maybe you're fantasizing about how you're gonna feel better after you gorge yourself on some potato chips, worrying about how the evening will go.

Make a daily review of what actually happened. What are the possible obstacles that you're going to be facing that evening? Then you're going to create a written plan for the evening. I like the idea of changing up your first activity. If you generally go home and maybe you open up the refrigerator and get something to eat, maybe this time you go home and the first activity you do is you go for a walk. When you review your day, give yourself a new story about the day. Maybe challenging the fact that that conversation you had was a total disaster. Maybe you could see the opportunity in it. But tell yourself a new story about how the day was an opportunity to learn something new. How it's another opportunity to teach yourself a new skill.

I want you to remind yourself in your protocol, remind yourself that your problems are not going to be solved tonight. Now you could schedule time to work on each of your problems, but it is not going to be tonight. You can ask yourself, what will feel good in the long term to de-stress yourself from the day? Look at the difference between short term and long term. Maybe you want to read a good book. Just take yourself to the library and read a magazine. Look at some pictures. You can call a friend for a quick check-in. Maybe you want to subscribe to a new podcast and listen as you take a walk after work. Maybe you just want to grab some aromatherapy to change your brain state. These are things that you can do as you change up your activities so your brain knows that there's something different is going to happen.

Clean the bathrooms on the weekends. Maybe you can take two parts of that activity and do it in the evening after you finish dinner. But what you want to do is you want to change up your emotional and mental state. You want your brain to feel more comfort so that it also will start to seek to repeat these new behaviors that you're doing because what's happening is as you try and create a new habit, you want to substitute the negative habits for a positive habit. This is really applying neuroscience to your daily routine, as well as adding to that Perennial wisdom that you have. That will help you to start to love your brain, love your evenings.

I just want to summarize the three steps to helping you create a different kind of evening where you're not overeating. The first one is to become aware. Become aware of the cues. Become aware of your thinking and your feeling. Number two is to ask yourself some powerful questions. What do you want the evening to be like? How do you want to feel? Then you want to create a protocol to follow. This will give you some opportunities to take new action in the evening so that you're not overeating. I want you to practice these steps and then I'm telling you, you will learn to love your evening. I promise it's going to lead you back home to yourself, where you're going to find health, joy, and pride in a right size body.

Now I want to talk about my favorite things, very excited. It's actually a book. A friend of mine, Janet Archer, wrote a book called An Invitation to Pause. I'm very excited to say she's gonna be on an upcoming episode where we're going to discuss mindfulness. But reading her book today was just what the doctor ordered because I was making things very complicated in my brain about these opportunities and these options set out before me. I read the introduction and all of a sudden, I felt this release of serotonin in my brain, all is well. All is exactly as it should be. Oh my god, isn't it nice when a book feels like an anecdote and it's simply pointing out there really isn't anything ailing you after all. That's what I found today by reading An Invitation to Pause. You can grab a copy at Amazon. I highly recommend it.

Thank you once again for listening to It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight. I look forward to speaking with you again next week. Bye, bye.

Thanks for listening to this episode of It's Never Too Late to Lose Weight. If you liked what you heard and want more, head over to Never2Late, that's number two, dot information, forward slash guide, to download your quick start guide to jump start your weight loss plan and begin creating an amazing life you love.