In session this week, my client, Emily, told me that while she has gotten much better at moderating her eating during the day, she is still having trouble sticking to reasonable portions in the evening. Emily said that after a long day, and knowing she still had housework and papers to grade ahead of her, all she wants to do is relax and eat a lot. Emily and I discussed what goes through her mind once she eats what she knows is a reasonable amount and is then tempted to go back for more, and Emily identified that it was something along the lines of, “This food tastes really good and I don’t want this period of eating and relaxing to end.” In discussing this further, Emily realized that part of the reason it was so difficult for her to limit her eating in the evening is because once she’s done dinner, she then tells herself that it’s time to get started on her evening tasks and her time to relax is finished. Once we figured this out, it was no surprise that it was so hard for Emily to stop eating because ending dinner not only signaled the end of eating but it also signaled the end of her allowing herself to relax.
Because of this, we knew it would be important for Emily to build more relaxation time right after dinner, so that stopping eating wouldn’t feel like such a big shift into the next part of her evening. Emily decided that she would give herself an additional half an hour or so after dinner to continue relaxing and she would save one of her favorite shows to watch during this time. In this way, she would have something to look forward to once she finished eating.
Emily also made the following Response Cards to read after dinner to help her stay on track:
I’m done eating but I’m not done relaxing. I still have time to myself to watch my favorite show before I get started on other things.
If I continued to eat more now, it would be because I wanted to relax more, not because I’m still hungry. But if I overeat, the only thing it will do is make me feel guilty and mad at myself, which is the opposite of relaxation.
If you’re tempted to overeat in the evenings, ask yourself: What am I really looking for here? If you’ve eaten enough, it’s not about hunger, it’s about something else. For Emily, it was more relaxation, so we built that into her evening by having her watch a favorite show after dinner. Once you figure out what it is you’re using food to achieve, look for other, non-food ways to fulfill it.