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How to stop eating sweets after dinner

Kate Freeman

This week I asked Facebook what eating habit they wished they could break. The most common answer? Stop eating sweet foods after dinner.

When it comes to changing an eating habit that has proven difficult to break, you’ve got to move beyond behaviour management and dig a little deeper into your psyche.

Why do you want to stop snacking on sweet foods after dinner?

If you don’t know why, you’re not really going to find the motivation to do something differently. How many times have you tried to stop eating sweets after dinner only to sit on the couch at 8pm and stare longingly into the kitchen…?

I’ve always found it fascinating that we want one thing, yet do another. We want to eat healthily, yet find ourselves doing the exact opposite. Why do we do things that we don’t want to do?

I’m currently eating dark mint Lindt chocolate while I’m writing this post. What a hypocrite! I’m engaging in a habit that many of you want to break, while I’m writing an article that allegedly teaches you how to break it…

The reason I’m eating chocolate now is because I WANT to eat chocolate now. And the reason I WANT to is because, in the context of my life, my other food choices and my goals, a couple of pieces of chocolate after dinner is completely ok with me.

Have a think about your life, your daily food choices and your goals. Does eating sweets after dinner align with these things? Do you really WANT to stop eating sweets after dinner?

I’ve set myself rules like this before in the past. Rules like: “No chocolate after dinner.” But honestly, deep down, I don’t really WANT to stop. I like the idea of stopping. But I don’t really want to. It’s yummy. I like it. I deserve it! Sound familiar?

Have a think about your WHY. Ask yourself why and answer yourself, honestly, five times over. Get to the root belief system as to why you do what you do.

What are you going to DO differently?

Once you’ve discovered your WHY, you need to start thinking about what it is that you’re going to DO.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Don’t be insane. If you genuinely want to change a habit you must DO something differently. Take action. And then keep trialing and tweaking your action until you figure out the new behaviour that will replace your old one.

For example: I wanted to stop looking at my phone in bed at night, however, I kept bringing my phone to bed with me. And then, out of habit, I’d find myself picking it up and looking at it in bed, without even thinking about it. It wasn’t until I left my phone downstairs (did something different) that I stopped looking at my phone in bed.

Your action item could be:

  • don’t buy chocolate in the first place – if it’s not in your home, you can’t eat it
  • do a different post dinner activity – if watching TV is associated with chocolate, read a book instead
  • make yourself a cup of herbal tea – sip it slowly
  • brush your teeth – the peppermint actually reduces your appetite for something else to eat

Repeat and tweak

You have to reinforce new habits with positive outcomes. When your new behaviour generates good feelings, you’re more likely to keep doing it. The only way you’re going to get good feelings from your new behaviours is by giving them a go, reviewing how you went, learning from what went wrong and trying again.

If you’ve been eating something sweet after dinner for the past 10 years, don’t expect to break that bad boy in a week. You’ve got to put in the time! Action requires patience, consistency and perseverance! Don’t give up so quickly!

Ditch the all or nothing approach

If you do eat chocolate when you didn’t want to, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and eat the whole block. Acknowledge your choice. Review the behaviours around that choice. Forgive yourself for that choice and then move on. You’re not a bad person, you’re a normal person.

Make progress your goal, not perfection.

Are you eating properly throughout the day?

Sugar cravings after dinner is sometimes the result of not eating sufficiently throughout the day. My book, Everyday Eats, outlines the key principles of a healthy diet and offers you 60+ real life recipes that will help keep those sugar cravings at bay. Check it out here!

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Kate Freeman

Kate Freeman is a Registered Nutritionist and the founder and managing director of The Healthy Eating Hub. Kate’s healthy eating philosophy is all about whole, fresh foods, being realistic about life and creating long term healthy eating habits. She doesn’t believe in detoxes, fad diets or quick fixes. Once you’ve finished working with Kate, you’ll be empowered to feed yourself well for the rest of you life! More about the Author