How Do I Stop Craving Sweets After Dinner?
Dealing with Constant Cravings After Dinner
It’s like clockwork, every evening after dinner I crave something sweet. What gives?!
First of all, there is nothing inherently wrong with cravings nor is it “bad” to intentionally satisfy them! I love to teach my clients how to satisfy their cravings in a way that feels great AND is in line with their goals.
Plus these tips have nothing to do with brushing your teeth (because if you really want the food, you will eat it regardless of whether your teeth are clean or not).
Here are 5 reasons why you crave sweets after supper:
Cost of Digestion
Our brains are incredibly complex as well as incredibly simple. Many of our habits are triggered by cues in our environment or other habits. Not unlike when I grab my dogs’ leash they get extremely excited because usually, that means we go for a walk, if you have something sweet after supper often, your brain will anticipate something sweet.
If you often eat while watching TV, your brain will remind you that something is missing which is very similar to going to the movies without buying popcorn.
Cost of Digestion
This is surprising for many people but 1 component of our metabolism is called the thermic effect of food (TEF) which means it actually costs us calories to digest, absorb and process food!
The amount of calories used to digest food varies between all 3 macronutrients (protein being the highest) and the type of food (whole foods cost more calories to digest than highly processed foods).
Your body craves a quick boost of energy from something that digests quickly such as sugar to help aid the digestive process.
If your craving feels urgent, specific (you know exactly what you want), and you can also identify an emotion, this might be emotional eating! Keep in mind that emotional eating does not need to be dramatic like you are crying into a container of ice cream - check out my series on hidden triggers for emotional eating here and here.
Many of my clients who struggle with emotional eating have less obvious emotions as triggers such as feeling bored, tired, withdrawn, vulnerable, isolated, rejected, or restless.
Emotional eating can be a bandaid where you feel good momentarily but it resolves little of the root problem.
As one of my clients wisely said “My roof is still leaking whether I eat cake or not". Her trigger for stress (the leaking roof) wasn’t resolved by eating and she didn’t feel any better after she ate.
Our environment influences our eating choices more than we give it credit for!
It can shape your eating habits to help you reach your goals or push you further away from them. The food environment could be:
How and where food is stored at home or at work. For example, if you have a bowl of candies on the island, you will likely find yourself picking at those throughout the day or night.
The food habits of your closest friends & family members. For example, if your partner likes to snack after supper while watching TV and you want to spend time with them, you will likely pick up some of their food habits.
If this isn’t your first time on my page, you will have read a rant or two about this already! Your cravings can be impacted by a myriad of reasons, including how you fuel yourself during the day such as:
- Skipping meals
- Unbalanced meals such as toast & jam for breakfast
Some of my clients have thought they were addicted to sugar or emotional eaters only to realize that they were compensating for all the missed meals earlier in the day!
How to Deal with Cravings:
- Avoid eating while watching TV as much as possible. If you do eat while watching a movie, try to sit in a different spot so your brain can associate your normal spot on the couch with solely watching TV instead of couch + TV = snacking.
- Keep your hands or body occupied while watching TV such as crafting, walking on a treadmill, or stretching.
- Consider trying habit stacking where you use supper as a cue for a new habit such as going for a walk, playing cards, or playing with your pets or children!
- Avoid skipping meals! If you don't eat enough during the day, your body will try to get you to make up for it later on during the day or night!
- One way to combat emotional eating is to get familiar with your feelings and allow yourself to experience them fully.
1. Start small with building your emotional tolerance by sitting down before you eat anything and ask yourself “What am I feeling right now?”.
2. Once you can identify the feeling, try sitting with that feeling & delay acting on it for 1-5 minutes. If you still eat afterward, that is fine! Continue to practice & work on slowly increasing the time you can delay acting on those feelings.
Together we can work on creating a sustainable plan that will help you break free from emotional eating, and PCOS cravings and feel better in your body than ever before.
Letisha Hodges is a registered dietitian nutritionist with 7 years of experience in women’s health, healthy relationships with food, weight management, and PCOS. Follow her on Instagram & Facebook, or join our email list for more helpful tips.