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Evening Snacking

To Eat or Not to Eat

Is your night-time noshing sabotaging weight loss? Find out how to beat pre-bedtime binges.

By Judith J. Wurtman, Ph.D.
(Nutricise) — “What I hate about this diet,” complained a woman at a recent weight loss session, “Is that it leaves me with nothing to do at night.” She went on to explain that in pre-diet days, she would spend hours at night arguing with herself over whether to eat or not to eat.
Once her willpower lost the fight, she spent a good part of the evening making her treats. Obviously she had no intention of snacking on rice cakes. After her highly caloric indulgence had been eaten, she could use up what remained of the evening telling herself how bad she was.
“Now,” she said, “I don’t feel like eating after supper, but the evening stretches in front of me, and I don’t know how to fill the time without snacking. I am almost thinking of going off the diet so I will have something to do again.”
As it turned out, this woman was a talented singer and was convinced to join a semi-professional chorus. Her evenings were taken up with rehearsal time and performances. But her complaint is not uncommon. If eating fills up empty time, what do you do if you can no longer eat?
The answer is to find activities that are enjoyable, distracting and time consuming. Enjoyable is the key word here. You don’t have to finish or even start The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, clean out the attic or write letters to your cousins. And if you view exercise with the same joy as flossing your teeth, do it some other time. Don’t say that you don’t have time to have fun. If you had time to snack or even think about snacking, then you have time to do a non-eating activity that gives you pleasure without guilt.
Judith J. Wurtman, Ph.D., is a research scientist in the department of brain and cognitive science at MIT and the director of TRIAD, a weight-loss center associated with McLean Hospital in Boston.

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