Come nighttime, I am pretty much the snack queen. And considering I’ve been going to sleep as late as 2 a.m. since the pandemic reared its head, I’ve had ample time for mindless late-night snacking.
After a few months of evening snack attacks, I knew I wanted to kick my habit to the curb. I found the snacking stimulating, which made it harder to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. The more I ate, the more I felt awake, the more Netflix I watched, and the more I snacked. It was a vicious cycle. Plus, I found that the sugar and sodium in many of my snacks left me feeling bloated and heavy.
I found during my later-hour snacking that I wasn’t reaching for a piece of fruit or a yogurt. Instead, I’d go for chocolate bars, light ice cream (which still adds up when you eat half a pint in a sitting…), popcorn, cheese crackers (my weakness), and way too much nut butter. It was time for a change.
When I commit to changing a habit, there is no turning back. So when I finally decided that enough was enough, I tackled my late-night snacking with full force. I brainstormed ways to try and crush my snack habit until I finally came up with a plan.
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Finally, I landed on a simple trick I hoped would help: After dinner each night, I’d brush my teeth.
While that may seem silly, I know myself—and I am way too lazy to eat something after brushing my teeth and then be forced to brush them again. I value my time (and my toothpaste)! I wondered if I would stop snacking after I brushed.
Of course, I didn’t want to deprive myself of food if I ended up hungry later at night. After all, I couldn’t suddenly change my bedtime. So I chose to delay my evening workout and eat dinner a little later. I sat down to eat at nine o’clock so that I could brush my teeth right after my meal and watch TV on the couch for a bit before hitting the hay.
To my surprise (and delight), this really worked well! When I started brushing my teeth right after dinner, I stopped grabbing snacks late at night.
My laziness (oh well!) and unwillingness to get up and brush my teeth all over again made snacking feel less exciting. If anything, I ended up drinking more water after dinner, instead. And that likely helped settle some of my munchies without my even realizing it.
Read More: How Quarantine Transformed My Relationship With Food
This routine change helped me shift my bedtime earlier, too. While I still went to sleep late (usually after midnight), I found I got sleepier earlier and left the couch to go to bed sooner with snacks off the table. Without the stimulation of the food, I was better able to power down and doze off. Plus, I digested my food during those hours of watching television, and so I headed to bed feeling less gassy or bloated than I typically did.
Not to mention, pushing back my workouts and dinner time to make this habit change stick helped me realize I actually prefer working out and eating later in the day.
Ultimately, this small change made it easier for me to get eight hours of sleep—and I woke up feeling more refreshed and ready to start the day. I’ll definitely be sticking with my new trick for the long haul.
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