When I first start working with new clients, they often report that they have trouble staying on track when they get home from work, and that the hour or two between arriving home and eating dinner is often filled with unplanned eating. There are several reasons why this is such a troublesome area:
- When you get home from work, you are tired, and when you feel tired, you often want to eat.
- You may legitimately be hungry, and because you are also feeling tired and drained, controlling your eating is much more difficult.
- You use food as a means to help you transition from work to home.
To help clients overcome these difficulties, we put a number of strategies in place. First, we work to institute a planned snack that they can eat either before they leave the office or when they get home. They portion the snack in advance, which helps them stick to a reasonable serving and be less tempted to keep going back for more. I also make sure that they are eating their snack sitting down & slowly. This is key in enabling maximum satisfaction from what they’re eating, which also helps cut down the urge to keep eating more.
Sometime clients react negatively to the idea of eating a pre-portioned snack sitting down, slowly and mindfully. One of my clients, had the common unhelpful thought, “But I’m so hungry when I get home from work; I just want to be able to eat right away.” She and I discussed the fact that sitting down to eat (as opposed to eating standing up at the counter, which is what she usually did) would only take a few extra seconds, and even though she was hungry, she could handle these few seconds. Another client of mine, told me that she didn’t want to take the time to eat her snack slowly because then it would delay her dinner preparation. I had her time how long it took her to eat her snack slowly and she found that it usually took between five and eight minutes. And, when she spent the time eating slowly and really savouring what she was eating, she found that she was much, much more satisfied and it really helped her stop eating once she finished her portion (as opposed to continuing to snack until dinner was ready). She made a Response Card that reminded her that it was worth delaying dinner five to eight minutes if it meant the rest of her eating day went much more smoothly.
When I have clients who use food as a means to help them de-stress from work and transition to being home, it’s critical that to help them institute other habits to achieve the same end. I remind my clients that it’s not problematic to want to de-stress after work, but it is problematic to use food to de-stress because it causes them to take in too many calories and inhibits weight loss. Even when my clients get home hungry, I work with them on doing a five minute de-stressing activity first, and then having their planned snack. This really helps break the link between getting home and immediately turning to food.
Some of the things my clients do to help them transition are:
- Immediately going upstairs, changing out of their work clothes, and lying on their beds for 5 minutes listening to a podcast
- Doing some deep breathing or mindfulness meditation in their cars before going inside
- Sitting on the couch and reading their Advantages List and Response Cards
- Listening to soothing music for a few minutes
- Getting home and immediately taking their dog out for a short walk
- Keeping a magazine handy just for transition times and reading it when they get home
It’s critical for you to plan something to do when you arrive at home, because if you don’t, you will keep turning to food.
If you have trouble staying on track after work, consider taking the following steps:
- Plan and portion a snack (if you eat one after work) in advance.
- Eat that snack sitting down, slowly, and mindfully no matter how much you want to rush it.
- Institute de-stressing/relaxing rituals that you do for at least five minutes every day when you come home from work – whether or not you really feel that you need it on any given day. This will help make it a habit and will make it much more likely that you’ll be able to get yourself to do it on the days that you do need to de-stress.
Are you ready to incorporate CBT into your health and fitness program? Contact now with subject “CBT & FITNESS” and I will send you over more information on the 1-to-1 coaching program!