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Taming Late-Night Cravings: A Postpartum Mama's Guide to Healthy Eating Habits

postpartum Apr 22, 2024

Hey Mama! Are those late-night snack attacks & cravings getting the best of you lately? You're not alone – it's a common struggle for busy moms juggling work, kids, and endless to-dos. While indulging in an occasional treat is perfectly normal, frequent late-night munching or emotional eating can sabotage your health goals and leave you feeling sluggish, guilty, and out of control around food.

Here are some common causes of late-night cravings:

  1. The stress of a demanding day weighs on you once the kids are tucked in.
  2. Boredom and loneliness that creeps in when the house is finally quiet.
  3. Hormonal changes during pregnancy or postpartum.
  4. Poor sleep habits, which impact your hunger & fullness hormones. 
  5. Having uncontrolled blood sugar throughout the day. 

Whatever the underlying cause, giving in to late-night snack attacks and emotional eating can perpetuate an unhealthy cycle that impacts your energy levels, self-esteem, and overall well-being as a mom.

The Science Behind Food Cravings and Emotional Eating

From a biological standpoint, cravings often represent your body's way of indicating a lack of specific nutrients. For instance, chocolate cravings could signal a need for more magnesium, while salt cravings may stem from mineral deficiencies. Having irregular blood sugar throughout the day can also cause sugar cravings (especially when blood sugar has crashed). However, emotional eating frequently has little to do with true physical hunger. Many moms are using food as a way to cope with different emotions (from boredom to stress to sadness to celebration). 

When you're stressed, anxious, or emotionally drained, your body pumps out higher levels of cortisol – the "stress hormone." Over time, elevated cortisol can disrupt your appetite regulation and drive you to seek calorie-dense "comfort" foods as a coping mechanism. The vicious cycle continues as you may then experience guilt, disgust, or shame from overeating, leading to further emotional distress.        

                

6 Proven Tips to Overcome Late-Night Cravings & Emotional Eating for Moms

  1. Know your Triggers - The first step is increasing your self-awareness around what situations or emotional states commonly trigger late-night snacking. Is it boredom after putting the kids to bed? Stress from an overwhelming day? Loneliness or sadness? Getting curious about your triggers is crucial for catching yourself before mindlessly diving into the snack stash.
  2. Stock Up on Healthy, Satisfying Snacks - Have a ton of nutrient-dense and delicious options on hand when a craving happens. Think fresh fruits, crunchy veggies with hummus or guacamole, Greek yogurt with berries, air-popped popcorn, or nuts and seeds.
  3. Practice Mindful Eating - When you do decide to indulge in a treat, savor it fully without distractions. Turn off the TV, put your phone away, and eat slowly while tuning into your senses. Notice the flavors, textures, and aromas. Eating mindfully can increase your satisfaction and make you less likely to overeat out of habit.
  4. Get Creative With Coping Techniques - Rather than automatically reaching for food when you're stressed, anxious, or emotionally drained, get creative with alternate coping mechanisms. Try deep breathing exercises, take a warm bath, start a gratitude journal, curl up with a good book, or chat with a friend. Experiment to find non-food activities that help you release emotional tension healthily.
  5. Prioritize Self-Care and Set a Routine - Running on empty as a mom often sets the stage for burnout – and you're more likely to make poor food choices when you're depleted. Prioritize self-care by blocking off time for activities that reenergize you, whether it's exercise, meditation, or simply some child-free me-time. Regulating your sleep-wake cycle with a consistent nighttime routine can also minimize late-night hunger by stabilizing hunger hormones like leptin and ghrelin. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
  6. Build a Support Network - You don't have to white-knuckle it alone on this journey! Reach out to fellow mom friends who can empathize and keep you accountable. Or join an online community or support group for overcoming emotional eating. Working with a qualified nutritionist, therapist, or health coach can also provide invaluable guidance as you develop a healthier relationship with food.

Be patient and compassionate with yourself, Mama. Breaking ingrained habits like late-night snacking and emotional eating is rarely an overnight process. But through self-care, mindfulness, and smart strategies, you absolutely can take control of unhealthy eating patterns. One small step at a time!

Did you find it helpful, Mama? Please share it with other Mamas!

Hey mama,

I'm Brooke Miller,

Before becoming a mom, I chronically dieted & thought "eat less, move more" was the healthiest option. I dealt with exhaustion, mood swings, hormone imbalances (not getting a regular cycle), high cholesterol and weight cycling. I felt like something was wrong with me.

Before I got pregnant with my first son, I discovered the balanced nutrition approach I teach inside The Postpartum Shift. Once I implemented the framework, I was energized, gained strength, got my period back, lowered my cholesterol & maintained my healthiest weight. I continued this during my pregnancies & postpartum periods and recovered quickly after birth, made more than enough milk for my babies, had energy (even with the sleep deprivation) & stable mood. Postpartum was really enjoyable.

With a decade of experience as a Registered Dietitian and Certified Lactation Counselor, I created The Postpartum Shift to help moms boost energy, mood, metabolism & milk supply to have a stress-free & enjoyable postpartum experience.

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