The Tool That Helped Curb My Nighttime Eating
Last year I wrote a post called “The Power of Self-Monitoring,” and I’ve recently brought this tool back into my own life and thought, “wow, this really is powerful!”
I’m using it for two goals in my own life: Exercise and avoid night time overeating. I used to feel like I had time for exercise, but now between all the things I have going on with my life, not to mention having a young child, I’ve found making time for exercise really tough.
This year I decided I’d set the goal of exercising three times a week. It’s less than I would have been happy with in the past, but so, so doable now. If I’d set a bigger goal I may have gotten overwhelmed and just given up, and fewer days would have felt almost not worth it.
So where does self-monitoring come in? Simple: I write down my weekly goals in my planner, always including “exercise three times this week,” and then I put check marks next to it each time I exercise. I know I’m tracking it, so it becomes even more important to me to do it.
The other way I’m monitoring myself is a little bit more in-depth. Food has always been a tender spot for me; we’ve had a tumultuous relationship and I still sometimes find myself falling into a chocolate bar or eating too much after dinner if I’m…well, that’s what I wanted to figure out.
Enter the self-monitoring.
I don’t have trouble with food during the day. I eat breakfast, lunch, usually an afternoon snack, and things are fine. By dinner, though, I often find myself snacking before dinner or eating more than I need after dinner, or both.
I decided to just observe my behavior and write down information about it later rather than trying to change my behavior right away. If I overate, I’d note whether or not I’d had anything to drink that night, if I’d had any alone time during the day, if my husband was home by dinner (remember, I have a young kid and by dinner I often need backup), if I’d exercised, if I’d worked, that sort of thing.
Here is something I noticed right away: If I had easily available treats around dinner time, I’d eat them. For example, I’d made a pan of freezer fudge and put it in the freezer in the pan with a knife in it. It was way, way too easily available, and if I was tired or stressed, it was far too simple to cut myself off a piece and eat it. After I noticed this was a problem, I cut it into squares and put it in a bag. For some reason, making the conscious effort to wrap it up and “put it away” made it less tempting, and I became more conscious of when I was choosing to eat it.
The second thing I noticed immediately was that the simple act of monitoring myself, knowing I was going to write down, every single day, whether or not I’d overeaten and what factors contributed to doing it (or not), the overeating went way, way down. The action of being accountable to myself had an immediate positive impact.
Self-monitoring is straightforward and something you can start doing right now. You can make it as in-depth (or not) as you want. You can use paper and pen, your phone or tablet, or keep a spreadsheet on your computer. Do what works for you and see if self-monitoring can help you get where you want to go.
How stressed out do you feel today?