Bread, cheese, cake, biscuits, chocolate...is there anything you'd like to add to the list of food that you crave in the late afternoon?
For me, it was always cheese. I'd stand in front of the fridge with the door open and cut off slice after slice...well, it would be rude to cut off a huge chunk all at once, although that's what I used to do when things got really bad.
So why, if we know we shouldn't, do we?
Before I get into that, I'll go into a bit of science... don't worry; it's interesting.
You have a brilliant body with an amazing nervous system, two in fact; the first takes you into a calm and relaxed state, and the other is your response system, the one that reacts to.... life. I'm sure you've heard of the fight or flight response? It's that one, and you need both to function correctly.
Your fight or flight system is in charge when you're stressed; you need energy and must act fast. Handy. However, it shuts down much of what it considers unnecessary so it can protect you. Not good, because this includes your immune system, fertility system, hormone system and metabolism. They all draw energy that your body can't do without and needs energy quickly. Think about it; why do you always get colds when you're so busy? Your immune system isn't working correctly...it's on a diet!
Even small things create stress. We get up in the morning; we check our messages, email, and social media. That might not feel like stress, but our bodies think it is because our heart rate increases. We worry about the children, our parents, and our partners. Add to that all the stuff we need to do, maybe bills, illness, work, and then more significant issues such as losing our jobs or our marriages... it's never-ending, but it's life, so we must deal with it.
If you're dealing with any of that, and if you're human, you will be; your body thinks you're under stress because it can't distinguish between a real threat and a threat to your life.
Now imagine you're other nervous system is your zen'd out system; it's like being on holiday. It listens to what it needs; it rests and goes slowly. The fabulous news is this is where you're burning calories from your fat reserves. Yes, it takes longer, but that's ok; there's no rush. In the stress state, however, you need calories fast....and this is where the snacking happens.
By late afternoon you've probably used up the majority of the calories that you've taken in during the day from food. That's when your brilliant body starts to stress and sends signals that it needs energy, and it needs it quickly.
I hope this makes you think, and to help you a little bit more, I'd like to share an example with you.
Meet Anna, 51 years old and suffering from low energy, poor digestion, and excess weight, especially around her middle. She also suffers from afternoon binge eating. A mother, wife and business owner, Anna also has ageing parents for whom she feels responsible. She's doing everything she knows to keep healthy, taking vitamins and following a gluten and sugar free diet. She also tried to exercise but didn't enjoy it much; she had no time.
What stuck out for me was that she was under a lot of stress. She didn't see it, but her days were filled with anxiety. She worked hard in a business she loved but wasn't making the money she wanted. She was an empath, concerned about her daughter, her parents and her husband. She wanted to be fit and healthy, but no amount of dieting and exercise seemed to work. She felt overweight and exhausted. She ate very little breakfast, had a salad for lunch and would come home really hungry, but she knew she MUSTN'T eat or she'd put on weight.
That thought alone was the tipping point. Her body was screaming hunger, it was stressed, and it needed the energy to carry on.....so as usual, Anna would cut herself a slice of bread, slather it with butter and not even breathe whilst she ate it within a few seconds. She'd then do it again and maybe again.
She would eat and eat until she felt bloated...and then... feel guilty. She believed she had no willpower.
So, what's the answer?
Anna started eating properly, noticing her trigger points and taking control over her day; that included preempting her low points. Not only did she start losing weight slowly, but she also felt a lot calmer.
If you're struggling with snacking in the afternoon, ensure you eat plenty of calories during the day, even with small regular bits, to keep your body from getting stressed. Keep a record. Do you get hungry at 4, 5, or 6? Once you notice a pattern, preempt it. Have something 20 minutes before you usually get hungry. Carry a green apple with you; if your body is stressed, this will give it what it craves.
Most women's instinct is to beat themselves up, believing they have no willpower. That's not true. It's not about willpower. Your body's self-preservation instinct is much more powerful than any diet you might be trying. Try and work with it rather than against it.
If you'd like some help with your eating habits, I'm always around. Click here to make an appointment and we can chat about how you might make a few changes