In the Organize Yourself Skinny Ecourse I dedicate a whole module to accountability, it’s one of my key strategies to eating healthy and losing weight. I talk about using a food journal, a calendar system, and even discussed the benefits of blogging and weight loss. You can read more about my ecourse here.
Another accountability strategy I use, but haven’t talked a lot about, is not eating past 7:00pm. Giving myself a cut-off time each day to stop eating has become my #1 habit to prevent late night snacking and to keep food under control.
5 Reasons I Like to Have a Cut off Time for Eating.
#1 Keeps my daily calories in check
When I’m done eating dinner my calories are usually spent for the day. Rarely, do I go into the 7:00pm hour with an extra 300 calories to use on ice cream or pretzels. I wish. So if I eat after dinner most likely I’m eating too much and will ruin my hard work for the day. Of course once in a while (some weeks more than others) I will splurge and not follow my own rule but…I know at that point I’m eating too much and should plan to expect the consequences that follow.
#2 Prevents mindless late-night snacking
I like to go into each day knowing the foods I’m going to eat. I wouldn’t say I’m OCD about it but I do try to have some structure. If not, I’m a loose eating canyon and will snack all day on everything, especially at night. Late-night snacking is an issue for many of us. We work hard all day and after dinner we want to relax in front of the boob tube with a bowl of popcorn or ice cream. I know it’s not just me.
Personally, nothing good happens when I watch TV and eat. Well besides pure bliss and relaxation but if my goal is to lose 20lb then I need to be more disciplined than that. I can find bliss in other things…like trying on a swimsuit without crying 🙂
When I stick to my 7:00pm “stop eating” rule my brain automatically accepts that no food will be entering my system. I’m not saying I always listen but for the most part I do. I’m programmed now to look at the clock and decide whether or not to have a snack. It’s a habit that has prevented many bowls of ice-cream, pretzels, and cookies from sabotaging all the hard work I did for the day or week.
If I must put something in my body then I will drink tea. I just started doing this and, even though I ‘m not a huge tea fan (my heart belongs to café mochas), I must say drinking a cup holds me over.
#3 I sleep better when my stomach is empty
Going to bed on a full stomach does nothing but keep me up tossing and turning. I feel full, bloated, and my stomach feels sour. All that does is remind me why I shouldn’t eat before bed. Then I feel guilty for eating late at night. I can honestly say I never ate a bowl of ice cream or bag of popcorn and said to myself laying in bed that night “wow I’m glad I ate that”. However, when I have the discipline to not eat past 7:00pm I feel great the next morning. I’ve never missed that bowl of ice-cream. Not one time.
#4 I wake up feeling lighter and less bloated
The first week or so you commit to not eating past 7:00pm you will feel hungry. But trust me, if you ate all your meals and snacks for the day, then you are not starving. You might feel like you are but you’re not. It takes time for your body to adjust to having less food in your system overnight.
I love the way I feel in the morning when I don’t eat past 7:00pm. I feel lighter and less bloated. My stomach feels and looks smaller. I wake up ready to eat a healthy breakfast.
#5 I manage my weight better
I exercise 4-5 times a week and do my best to track the food I eat. Those two things, when done consistently, work great to manage my weight. However, in my experience, when I stick with my 7:00pm “no eating” rule, on top of the other two strategies, I manage my weight better. The weight comes off easier and I notice results faster. Whenever I’m struggling with managing my weight I turn immediately to my 7pm rule to get my progress back on track.
Tips to Stop Eating Past 7:00pm
Plan dinner by 6:00pm
Obviously, it’s not always possible to eat dinner by 6:00pm. I get it. 2-3 nights a week we don’t even get home until 7:30pm or 8:00pm. However, on the nights I know we will be home I make sure dinner is planned by 6:00pm. On the nights we get home late we either eat immediately or I bring food with me. Regardless of the situation food prep is essential. It’s much easier to eat dinner at a certain time when ingredients and/or meals are prepped ahead of time.
Here are my best food prep posts.
Eat throughout the day
I do my best to eat 5 times a day (3 main meals and 2 snacks). By 7:00pm, when I stick to my eating plan, my body is nourished and satisfied. I don’t feel deprived by not eating past 7:00pm. Instead, I feel that I got in enough food and now I’m done eating for the day. If I skip a meal for whatever reason I will feel hungry after 7:00pm. Again, keep in mind, life happens and there are exceptions to every rule but when I follow this rule more often than not I see the results I want.
Have a cup of tea at 6:45
Like I said earlier when I do get hungry I have a cup of black tea. I’m try to make tea drinking a part of my nightly routine. That last cup of tea fills me up and sends triggers to my brain that it’s time to stop eating.
Brush your teeth
After I drink my tea I will immediately go brush my teeth. There’s nothing that prevents me from eating food than a fresh squeaky-clean mouth.
Set a reminder in your calendar
Every night at 6:45 I get a popup reminder from my calendar to stop eating. This reminder is great on days I’m really busy or getting off track. It’s hard to ignore a reminder that pops up on my phone that says “STOP EATING”. This reminder also sends a message to my email. I could not live without my calendar. I use it for much more than a place to keep track of doctors appointments.
Push through it
I’m not saying that my “no eating” past 7:00pm rule is easy. Like I said, the first week or so might be tough. However, it’s worth it. I feel amazing when I stick to it. If I’m struggling I will go upstairs and occupy my mind and time with other things. There’s always laundry and cleaning to be done. What I don’t do is sit on the couch, turn the TV on, and hope the cravings will subside. I won’t win that one. To push through it I need to remove the triggers and focus on something else.
If you lose the nighttime snacking battle and must eat something then keep it light and simple. Try an apple with peanut butter or cheese stick or maybe even a yogurt. The important thing is to keep intentional with the food you choose to eat. The last thing you want to do is ruin a whole day by one bad late-night food choice.
Of course, 7:00pm is a time that works for me but it might not necessarily work for you. My advice is to pick a time before bed that you can stop eating. I recommend at least 2-3 hours before bed. I go to bed by 10:00pm so 7:00pm is perfect for me.
The last thing I want to say is this. Life happens and it might not be possible to quit eating at the same time every single day. However, the goal would be to try make this a habit more often than not. Maybe take Saturdays off but stick with it during the week. Personally, I still experience the benefits when I practice this habit 4-5 times a week.
Do you have a cut off time with eating?