Like most women, I'm a night nibbler. I'm good all day and then my hunger demons (and emotional eating) come out in the evenings. So I decided to try and stop eating two hours before bed for a whole month to see what would happen. The challenge, for me, is my early bedtime: I’m up at 5:30 or 6 every morning, which means I’m usually in bed by 9 PM. That means I'd need to stop eating by 7 o'clock—not so easy, but I was determined.
Here's what happened during my month-long challenge to stop eating in the hours just before bedtime:
I generally eat dinner with the kids around 6, so for my new experiment I made sure that we were all done by our 7 PM cut-off. Of course, it's after dinner that the cravings often set in. I'm trying not to eat sweets for dessert, so instead I eat a piece of fruit or maybe cheese to end my meal. Then around 8, I tend to eat another piece of fruit or cheese (or if I'm having a particularly bad day, a KitKat).
Cutting off all food by 7 was in some ways easy and in some ways hard. The easy part was that instead of a more vague, "no snacking before bed," a hard rule of "no food after 7 PM" was actually easier to follow because it was so rigid. After a few slip-ups in the beginning, I soon fell into a pattern of eating dinner, then brushing my teeth immediately after. I found that once I brushed my teeth, I didn't want to snack, because it would get my teeth dirty (and I'm too lazy to brush twice in a night).
The one challenging part is going out to dinner. If we go out with other couples, which we do frequently, we don't often eat until 8 or later. By the time we finish up it's well past 10, and when we get home I want to go right to sleep. I couldn't figure out a way to not eat two hours before bed on date night (except to stay up later, but that wasn't realistic). I tried suggesting an earlier dinner, but nobody seemed to be game (as someone who was brought up in the Midwest, a 6 PM dinner is normal, but for New Yorkers, it's way early).
So, during my month, I was pretty good when I ate at home, but not so good on date night (which was maybe four times during the month). I consider that a success. Having a hard and fast food cut-off time may seem rigid to most, but I tend to do well with strict rules when it comes to food (if I have one cookie, I'll eat the bag, so I generally have none).
What started as an experiment for me has turned into a healthier lifestyle adjustment for my whole family.
This article originally appeared on Prevention.