Eating after supper. Should you or shouldn’t you? What should you have? Does it make you gain weight? No food after 8 p.m. Or is it 7 p.m?
People ask me these questions almost daily. Honestly, I find all the food rules I hear exhausting. We need to take a step back from all these complicated rules and keep it simple. The science of nutrition can be very complex — eating food shouldn’t be.
So, should you or shouldn’t you eat after supper?
It comes down to one simple question: are you hungry? Yes? Eat! No? Step away from the fridge!
If only it were that simple, right? While in theory, it is. In real life, we have to acknowledge that we do not only eat in response to hunger. We also eat because we’re bored, because we’re busy, because we’re with friends, because we’re alone, because we had a good day or because we had a bad day. Food doesn’t just nourish us; it nurtures and comforts us as well.
Sometimes eating has very little to do with food. With that in mind, the key to changing our eating might be changing how we meet our needs.
For example, if we’re bored, we sometimes find ourselves staring into the fridge. Then the pantry. Then the fridge again. If we’re eating for something to do instead of in response to hunger, that can be problematic.
Once in a while is not a big deal, but if you’re finding it’s the rule rather than the exception, then you might want to brainstorm some solutions.
Even if your snack occupies you for a while, you’ll be bored again a short time later so eating is not an effective solution to boredom. Instead, do activities that make it more difficult to eat like knitting, sewing, playing an instrument, leaving the house, or playing sports.
Similarly, we sometimes eat because we’re tired. If it’s rest we desire, again, food will not be an effective way to meet this need. Instead, try having a 15-minute nap after work to get you through the evening or try heading to bed earlier.
Have you ever felt like you deserved to treat yourself because you had a hard day? For something to truly be a treat, it has to be out of the ordinary. If it’s happening most days of the week, then it might be time to make a change.
Consider calorie-free comforts like reading a book, buying yourself flowers, going for a walk, soaking your feet, or going fishing.
The next evening you find yourself staring blankly into the fridge, forget the “shouldn’t,” “can’t,” and “not supposed to.” Drop the food rules and ask yourself the simple question: “Am I hungry?” If you’re not, ask yourself what else it is that you’re craving and try to meet your needs more effectively.
Sometimes, it’s not what you’re eating, it’s what’s eating you.
For more information about healthy snacks, eating intuitively, or other food and nutrition questions, please visit www.eatrightontario.ca.
Ashley Hurley is a Registered Dietitian in Sudbury. Follow her on Facebook or visit www.ashleyhurley.com for more information about her services.