You know that black hole of time between work and bed? There’s nowhere to go, nothing new to watch, and a bottle of wine (or bag of chips) calling your name from the other room. Call it the pandemic happy hour or straight-up boredom, but if you’re using your after hours time in a less-than-ideal way, check out this week’s post from PHCI Coaching Director, Erin Power. And keep your questions coming in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group or below in the comments.
Ann Marie asked:
I don’t have a problem eating healthy during the day, but I can’t seem to control myself after dinner. I just feel ravenous, even when we’ve made a healthy meal. I try to hold out but once my husband goes into the kitchen for a snack, I’m right there with him. And once I start, I can’t stop eating!! How do I tame my late-night cravings?
I think it’s safe to say that your eating cycle is off, Ann Marie. What do I mean by eating cycle? It has to do with your circadian rhythm.https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/9/415/eaal2774‘>2
This study looked at the behaviours of night-shift workers and found that they have a 43% higher risk of obesity than their 1st shift counterparts. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413118302535‘>4 The group whose window ended at 3pm had dramatically lower insulin levels, reduced blood pressure, and a significantly decreased appetite. More information on Intermittent Fasting here.
My glass-of-wine-a-night habit is getting a little out of hand. I used to have a glass here and there, but lately I’ve found myself pouring multiple glasses every night. Think I need to go cold turkey? Or do you recommend a healthier substitute?
I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten questions like this – especially over the past 9 months. While in the past, you might have had a commute or trip to the gym to decompress from your day, now there’s no real distinction between work and leisure. There’s no change of scenery and no change of people to interact with. Enter wine (or whatever your escape of choice happens to be).
I don’t necessarily think you have to go cold turkey, unless you’ve noticed that alcohol in general is a problem for you.https://www.uchealth.org/today/five-reasons-water-is-so-important-to-your-health/‘>6 But if you enjoy having your nightly glass of wine, I’ve got a few strategies to help you reel it back in.
- Support your body with nourishing food. Preparing and enjoying a satiating meal can help you tap the breaks on filling up on less-than-nourishing choices. Alcohol turns to sugar in the body, so loading up on protein and healthy fats can keep those cravings at bay.
- Drink a non-alcoholic beverage first. Got a favorite alcohol-free drink? Pour a glass of bubbly water or kombucha before diving into the adult version. You might find that you don’t even want your drink of choice afterward. But if you do, go for it! Heck, you can even use a wine glass if you feel like being fancy.
- Distract yourself. Seems simple enough, but if you’re bored or stressed or not sure how to spend your downtime, finding a way to change your situation can keep you from polishing off a bottle of cab. Even though you’re probably home all day, I’m sure there are areas of your house that could use some attention. So, start a load of laundry. Iron that pile of clean clothes you’ve been staring at all month. Or clean the clutter off your desk.
Between the pandemic and the holidays, the kind of stress we’re under is unprecedented, so it’s natural that alcohol plays a role here, but it doesn’t have to derail your entire evening.
Even though I’m working from home, my days are packed and the only time I have to work out is after dinner. Problem is, I’m so exhausted by then that all I want to do is lay on the couch. I’m not overweight and my fitness level is pretty good. I’m wondering, how bad is it to take a break from exercising for a while?
If your fitness level is generally good, taking a few days or weeks off isn’t going to impact your muscle-to-fat ratio that much. That said, there are tons of studies like this one that prove daily exercise can improve your immune function, which is especially important right now.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3907653/‘>1 If this is the case with you, I have a better solution than doling out energy-boosting snack ideas…or napping.
- The lowest hanging fruit here is to manage your post-lunch sleepiness by swapping refined carbs for satiating and blood sugar stabilizing protein and fat. Maybe a Big Ass Salad or some leftover roasted chicken and veggies with butter. Even a handful of mixed nuts is better than a sandwich.
- It’s not always food related though. You have a natural drop in energy as part of human circadian biology. And it comes, you guessed it, about mid-afternoon. Knowing that your body has a built-in lull that happens around 3pm, the best thing you can do is anticipate it and plan accordingly. That means don’t schedule any overly draining tasks during that time. Instead, practice a little self-care and schedule in 15 minutes of stretching, walking outside, or listening to energizing music.
- Another possibility for your slump is mental drain. Even if your workday isn’t overly stressful, everything else in the world is right now, so again, cut yourself some slack and pay attention to how drained you feel on a daily basis. It could just be that by 3pm your brain (and your central nervous system) are so tapped that it signals a reset (i.e. you to take a nap). To avoid burnout, I like productivity apps like Focus Keeper. This one’s based on the Pomodoro Technique and breaks your day into 25-minute focus sessions, followed by 5-minute breaks.
- Of course, there’s always the possibility that you’re not breathing. And by “not breathing” I mean, you’re taking small shallow breaths that rob your brain of oxygen. Chances are you spend most of your day hunched over your computer, which compromises your breathing and your energy flow. Next time you feel that midday lull, think about the last time you took a good, deep breath, then sit up straight and take six slow deep breaths.
Test out any of these tips and my guess is you’ll feel better fairly quickly, no snack required.
“I’ve lost 40 pounds following the Primal Blueprint and have about 5 more to go. The problem is, I feel hungry all the time, so I either eat or try and white knuckle it! How do I tame my hunger?”
You’re not alone here Valerie. This is one of the most common challenges I hear from my clients. “I would have done better this week, but I was SO HUNGRY!” Common diet culture says you should eat healthy meals and snacks every 2-3 hours if you want to keep your blood sugar stable and keep hunger at bay.
My opinion? You shouldn’t have to feed your body every 3 hours to do either of those things. You also shouldn’t fear hunger. We’ve all been led to believe that hunger is bad — that it’s the one thing that stands between you and your weight loss goals.
Here’s the deal though. Hunger is actually a loving, protective signal from your miraculous body. It’s one of your most primitive survival mechanisms. It’s how your body makes sure you’re fueled sufficiently so that you can function properly.
The clients I work with claim to feel hungry “all the time”, which to me, indicates that they’re out of touch with their body. Sometimes it starts as a kid — if you’ve been told to finish your plate, regardless of whether or not you were hungry. And sometimes it’s in the ultra-processed foods you eat which unapologetically mess with your hormones. Certain foods inhibit your ability to recognize when you’re full — they literally confuse your brain into thinking you need to eat more.
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