It's 6pm on Wednesday night, you've had a long work week thus far and cooking is the furthest task on your mind. A co worker invites you out for a happy hour, this co worker can put back some alcohol. You agree, since you figure a night away from your kitchen is looking glorious at this point.
You've been on a pretty good nutrition kick over the last month. You are consistently eating a balanced portion of protein, carbs and fat at each meal, you're seeing definition in the mirror you haven't seen in years and you're feeling fantastic! On this night, you have 2 beers, split loaded nachos, 2 glasses of wine yet you do manage to sneak in the salmon with mixed vegetables. However, since you are REALLY stressed at work, that piece of lava cake sounded amazing too. Okay, we'll give you a pass on this day. The best of the best do it. However the domino effect for whatever reason kicks in.
Here is a fact, eating the bulk of your food in the evening when your activity level is low, results in winding up with far more fuel than you body needs. The surplus of food gets sent straight to your fat cells. Your body also does the bulk of its maintenance, healing, and repair work while you sleep, so the quality of the food you eat close to bedtime is key. Processed junk won’t provide the building blocks that go to work to build muscle tissue, maintain a healthy immune system,
You stop tracking food, you start reaching for an extra glass of wine after work, your exercise plan slowly drops off, you begin eating the way you did when you were unhappy with your figure. Does this sound like you?? Am I specifically talking to you at this exact moment?? Did it all have to start with that one happy hour? How did you fall off track so quickly??
Face it, dinner is THE easiest meal of the day to say fu^& it to and eat a pizza. You figure "I've gone this far, so I may as well have ice cream too". (For the record, this was the Jesse Velasquez special 2 nights a month during the time when I was my leanest! The reason I did it was to escape the insanity that was unseasoned chicken breasts, rice, oatmeal, vegetables and fruits every meal the rest of the month. I didn't have time for alcohol.....work hard, eat well, cheat harder 7% of the time!)
When we get home from work, we're beat. We may have worked out before we got home, so it's time to get into the kitchen right?? Oh, I still have an hour's worth of reports to work on? What's quick and convenient? I don't have a microwaveable dinner?? Crap...I do have a frozen pizza in the freezer(you look begrudgingly in the cupboard to see boxed mac and cheese and bread are the only other options, must have forgotten to grocery shop amidst my full calendar!!) For starters, what is a frozen pizza doing in your house if you're trying to be on a better health kick? If you have children, I understand why that was there.....
Again, I'm not here to chide anyone reading this. Everyone is human, we're not perfect. We live in a "right here, right now, instantly gratified, microwavable society" in which we have no time to spend 45 minutes preparing a meal because "House Of Cards awaits us!" In all seriousness, maybe we have extra work to do and don't feel like cooking like I alluded to in the beginning? Okay, we can use that rationale once or twice. No food in the house?? Okay...wait a minute!? Your stress levels are through the roof!! You've been great at breakfast and lunch nearly every day, why in the heck does every dinner signal my downfall towards more unwanted guilt that I self impose on myself? Why does this broken record continue to skip at the 6:27 mark each evening?? Let's look at some of the ways:
Not sleeping well: Suppose your sleep is inconsistent, 4-6 hours a night on average. In the long run, lack of sleep usually leads to us eating larger meals, especially at the end of the night. Are you watching TV up until you go to sleep? Cut the tube off an hour before bed. TV also has a tendency to send subliminal message via commercials to enhance our ghrelin hormone! Pace it from the get go and bring a snack with you to work in between your lunch and dinner(almonds, Greek yogurt, celery, string cheese). If you are hungry after that point, you just might be on your there.
Stressed or boredom eating: Our cortisol levels could be spiked, how do we combat this at night?? Burgers or alcohol!! Again, I advocate for this, just not consistently. Stressed? Go exercise a little. Take a walk, read a book, take your mind off of your stomach. If you're hungry, be prepared when this situation arises (and it will). Have some fish, potatoes, rice and vegetables handy. (pre cooked may be best which I'll allude to later) Anything you buy WILL be consumed at some point, so make sure to avoid the stress eating by avoiding the center aisles of the grocery store which spell "Insulin bombs"! Pop tarts, buffalo wings, pizza, DON'T BUY IT if you're trying to lose weight! Do something productive that your body will thank you for later.
Precook your dinner's ahead of time: My roommate is the king of this, he has 6 dinner's frozen in our freezer. It's not glorious, it's grunt work. Prep your meal's on the ONE day a week you have free to prepare it. Portion it out and stack it in your freezer. When you are ready for dinner on a random Thursday...."OH LOOK, I have sweet potatoes, steak and broccoli already in the freezer waiting for me to heat up." If you are on a mission to break old habit's, this may be my number 1 solution to that problem. Don't be afraid to cook 5 day's worth of dinner for yourself in advance and store it for yourself later in the week! Not pretty, but hey it's guilt free!!
Chipotle: One of (if not THE) the only fast food places I can think of which I advocate eating. Keep it simple, burrito bowl with your choice of meat(double if you'd like to!!), rice if your on a higher carb day, half or skip it altogether if you're trying to skimp on the carbs, lettuce, fajita vegetables, 1 salsa, (cheese and guacamole if you are going high fat and low carb.) Is it guiltless?? Mostly. I eat there once a week and it's an excellent substitute if you're lazy.
Menu surf where you are going: This may be a little tedious/Type A of you to do. Yet if you are looking to stay in a caloric deficit without bending any rules, try to find nutritional information out! You should know that 2 plates of egg rolls are going to be sodium/calorie heavy, or anything deep fried is going to completely blow up your day's numbers. This rule should be instituted when you are going out and trying to stay on point with your plan. If you know this night will be apart of your night off, take advantage of it!!
I don't advocate a single person in the world to have a spot on nutrition plan. I get it, we have to have fun and I sure do too. However, if you are in a dramatic slump at night and are trying to maintain good eating habits: consult with someone. Find an accountability partner and reach out to them if you feel stuck. Heck, keep a food journal for a little if you don't track your food already. Do you have a 2 month goal to hit before your Wedding?? Stay on track, heck even after that: STAY ON TRACK!! Just know that you aren't alone and there are the options listed above among-st some others which will keep you on track if you fall off the dinner train.
Follow me Jesse Velasquez @jcvwellness on Twitter and Instagram or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for fitness advice, life questions or a simple shout out/criticism you have.
I am a personal trainer/nutrition coach whose passion is enhancing the lives of those around me.
Decide, Commit, Act, Succeed, Repeat!