Do you know the black hole between work and bed? There’s nowhere to go to see nothing new and a bottle of wine (or a bag of fries) calling your name from the other room. Let’s call it pandemic happy hour or boredom, but if you’re not making the most of your time outside of business hours, check out this week’s post from Erin Power, PHCI Coaching Director. And keep your questions in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group or in the comments below.
Ann Marie asked:
I have no problem eating healthy during the day, but I can’t control myself after dinner. I just feel starved even after we cooked a healthy meal. I try to hold on but as soon as my husband goes into the kitchen for a snack, I’ll be right there with him. And when I start, I can’t stop eating !! How do I tame my nocturnal cravings?
I think it’s safe to say that your eating cycle is interrupted, Ann Marie. What do I mean by the eating cycle? It has to do with your daily rhythm. People ate during the day and fasted at night. But with our new normal, there’s a good chance you’ll burn the candle on both ends and just grab a coffee, snack bar, or yogurt to fortify yourself during the day – and then feast at night. You have completely strayed from your body’s natural rhythm.
Why is that important?
Because your circadian rhythm controls everything from your appetite to your body temperature to your hormones – even how quickly you heal from wounds.
This study looked at the behavior of night shift workers and found that they were 43% more likely to become obese than their counterparts on the first shift. The culprit? Circadian misalignment. The researchers had participants who worked the midnight to 6 a.m. shift fill out a self-administered questionnaire about their professional history, sociodemographics, dietary habits, smoking, alcohol consumption, leisure physical activity, sleep patterns, and mental stress.
Of the 3,871 participants, 26.8% were overweight and 83% were obese. They also smoked and drank more alcohol more frequently.
I suspect that you are on the autopilot for most of the day and not notice your hunger cues. And once your body realizes it made it to the end of that day, it goes into starved mode. In general, your body doesn’t need a lot of fuel at this time of the day If you have your largest meal at dinner and then snack all night, it is inconsistent with your biology.
How do you get your daily rhythm going again?
- Eat your largest meal in daylight. I like to start with a filling, protein-rich breakfast. If the idea of eating within the first few hours after you wake up doesn’t sound at all appealing, then you are likely still full of dinner the night before. So, taper the size of your last meal (including snacks) for a few days and you will notice a change.
- Reduce the size of your dining window. And stop eating earlier in the day. The researchers compared the results of groups that ate from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but consumed the same number of calories. The group, whose window ended at 3 p.m., had dramatically lower insulin levels, decreased blood pressure, and significantly decreased appetite. More information on intermittent fasting can be found here.
- Stop grazing all day. I’m a big proponent of always answering hunger with a meal instead of eating something nibble. Make a habit of sitting down (and slowing down) for your meals to ensure that you are in a parasympathetic state so that you can properly digest your food.
My habit of having a glass of wine a night is getting a little out of control. I used to have a glass here and there, but lately I’ve poured several glasses every night. Do you think I have to go cold turkey? Or do you recommend a healthier replacement?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten such questions – especially in the past 9 months. In the past, you may have had a commute or a trip to the gym to relax from your day. Now there is no real difference between work and leisure. There is no change in the landscape and no change in the people with whom one can interact. Enter wine (or whatever your getaway of choice is).
I don’t necessarily think you need to get a cold turkey unless you’ve noticed that alcohol is a problem for you in general. And of course there are always healthier alternatives. But if you enjoy having your nightly glass of wine, I have a few strategies to help you get it back on track.
- Support your body with nutritious food. Preparing and enjoying a filling meal can help you capitalize on the breaks when you are making less than nutritious choices. Alcohol turns into sugar in the body, so loading up with protein and healthy fats can keep these cravings in check.
- First, drink a soft drink. Do you have a favorite non-alcoholic drink? Pour a glass of sparkling water or kombucha before diving into the adult version. You may not even want the drink of your choice after that. But if you do, do it! You can even use a wine glass if you feel like it.
- Distract yourself. Seems easy, but if you are bored, stressed out, or not sure how to spend your downtime, if you can find a way to change your situation it can prevent you from cleaning a bottle of cab. While you are likely to be home all day, there are sure to be areas in your house that could use some attention. So start a load of laundry. Iron the pile of clean clothes you’ve been staring at for all month. Or clean the clutter off your desk.
Between the pandemic and the holidays, the type of stress we are under is unprecedentedSo, of course, alcohol plays a role here, but it doesn’t have to derail the whole evening.
Although I work from home, my days are full and I only need to exercise after dinner. The problem is, by then, I’m so exhausted that all I want to do is lie down on the couch. I am not overweight and my fitness level is pretty good. I wonder how bad it is to take a break from training for a while?
If your fitness level is generally good, taking a few days or weeks off will not affect your muscle-to-fat ratio as much. That said, there are tons of such studies prove that daily exercise can improve your immune function, This is particularly important right now.
There are several theories about exactly how immune function improves, including claims that exercise makes antibodies and white blood cells that fight off colds and viruses circulate faster, flushes pathogens out of the lungs and airways, and does so slows down the release of stress hormones, which reduces the chance of getting sick.
While you may not need it from a physical standpoint, it would be beneficial for you to move your body around to protect yourself from all the things that are floating around.
Physiologists from the University of Bath, UK recommend Regular, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as walking, running, or cycling with the goal of reaching 150 minutes per week.
But I understand. After a long day of video calls while managing your work and home chores, you feel drained. Hunched over in front of your computer doesn’t help either, as it affects your posture, breathing, and the oxygen that goes to your brain. Here are some things you can do to feel more energetic after dinner, even if you don’t feel like it:
- Eat a little less for dinner. When Your digestion works hard to break down everything you ate. After that, you will feel tired. Try to eat about three quarters of what you normally put on your plate and see if it moves the needle of your energy.
- Inhale slowly and deeply five times. Stand up and slowly inhale five times through your nose and mouth. You’d be surprised how much more awake you are after about a minute.
- Update what you call “workout”. You don’t have to work up a sweat or do heavy lifting to notice the benefits. Try adding microworkouts into your evening routine or jump while you wait for the next Netflix episode to load.
There is no doubt that things are different right now, but you have the time – you just need to muster the energy I know you can do.
How do you manage your “after hours”? Tell me what works for you!
About the author
Erin Power is the coaching and curriculum director of the Primal Health Coach Institute. She also helps her clients reestablish loving and trusting relationships with their bodies – while restoring their metabolic health so they can lose fat and gain energy – through her own private health coaching practice, eat.simple.
If you are passionate about health and wellness and want to help people like Erin for their clients every day, you should consider becoming a self-certified health coach. In this special information event hosted by PHCI Co-Founder Mark Sisson, you will learn the three simple steps to building a successful health coaching business in a maximum of 6 months.
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