Evenings are the worst.
Maybe I’m not eating enough throughout the day – and I actually eat a lot – because my stomach turns into a bottomless pit at night. My lack of willpower is shameful, and I eat. A lot.
I’m not always hungry as I keep eating. I’m not really even thinking about it. I’m just shoveling the food into my mouth. It tastes soooo good! Before I know it, I’m wondering how I possibly just consumed all that food. The scary thing is that I rarely feel full. At least not that uncomfortable, unbotton-my-pants kind of full.
A couple weeks after giving birth to Lia my appetite sky-rocketed. Between breastfeeding and exercise, I can burn 800-1000 calories in a day. My body needs a lot of fuel to sustain that kind of output day after day. I also know that this isn’t a get out of jail free card that allows me to eat whatever I want, whenever I want, and how much I want. When the cravings hit, it’s easy to hit 1000 calories.
What’s hard is stopping.
I start each day off making pretty good choices. I usually eat oatmeal and a banana, which is quite filling. Maybe I’ll have a morning snack and I’ll generally make a good choice for that too. I usually eat a light lunch because once the kiddos are all down for their naps, I squeeze in a workout. After the workout, I eat again. Because I’m hungry and, well, let’s face it, because I can. I think of it as the second half of my lunch. At dinner I eat a normal portion and feel quite satisfied. By this point, it seems like I’ve been eating all day. At least I make it a point to eat my fruits and veggies. That usually isn’t an issue.
But, still, it starts.
I start thinking about how nice it will be to have the kids in bed so I can relax and actually enjoy my evening popcorn. Because I love popcorn the way a dog loves a bone. And I eat it every night. And that will not change.
I also get hit hard with cravings.
I used to hate chocolate. You couldn’t pay me to eat it. Someone once jokingly said that I’d be that pregnant lady who craved chocolate all the time. I thought they were absolutely nuts. Crave ice cream, sure. But chocolate? Never! This person definitely did NOT know me very well.
Well, the joke was on me. I now enjoy chocolate. A lot. I don’t typically like things made with chocolate flavor, like cake and ice cream and fudge and other similar treats, but chocolate itself is amazing. Especially dark chocolate. It is becoming my vice.
As I clean up from dinner, I sneak my hand into the freezer and pull out some chocolate chips. When we usher the kids up the stairs to bed, I grab a small handful of the M&Ms we use to reward them for using the potty. This happens almost daily.
If that’s not enough, I help myself to one or two of the baked treats on the counter or in the fridge, if there are any. They may be “healthy” treats but they’re called treats for a reason and the calories most certainly still count.
After a couple weeks of this I know to expect this behavior out of myself, so I try to prevent these things from happening. I make sure I stock up on fruits and veggies every week at the store. Grape tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, apples, bananas, and clementines are always prepped and ready to grab when a craving strikes. I plan it that way. And when I’m at the store, I walk right on by the cookies and Reese’s Pieces no matter how bad I want one.
But these moments of strength are inevitably followed by moments of weakness.
Here’s a good example.
Sure, I did pass up the cookies at the store. But I went home and made protein cookies from a Tastefully Simple mix that was given to us when Lia was born. The ingredients in those cookies were good. Oatmeal, flax, almonds, cranberries. Perhaps a lot of peanut butter and a lot of honey, but it could definitely be worse, right?
Come evening time I started eyeing those cookies. One little cookie won’t hurt anything. So I grabbed one when I filled the girls’ milk cups. When I made a cup of tea, I grabbed another. And just in case I forgot how good the first two were, I snagged another one on a drive-by as I cleaned up toys.
After one evening of this I chastised myself. I know better, yes I do. I promised myself it won’t happen again. There are ways to resist this kind of thing and I knew exactly what to do.
The next evening I ate four cookies. No joke. Mind you, this was after eating all day long and before the popcorn and peanuts that I knew I was going to eat in the next hour or so.
I consoled myself in the fact that the cookies were gone so I could not fall prey to them the next day.
Instead I ate a whole cup of peanuts. So much for all the veggies I cut up.
And this is me in real life. I struggle with making healthy choices just as much as anyone. No one has superhuman willpower all of the time.
I’m telling you this because I want you to know that I understand what it’s like to be controlled by cravings and how even the best intentions to make better choices aren’t enough to actually make you change. I also have the benefit of knowing that food is addictive, that my cravings are mostly mental, and that if these habits are left unchecked they can be destructive to my health.
I am forming new habits and putting some practical tips into practice to help me make better choices in this area. I know I’m not alone in this struggle, so over the next couple of weeks I’m going to share what I’ve learned with you. Hopefully you’ll find something that works for you too.
Talk to you next week!