I get through the door, dodge the mess, go straight to the pantry. “I’ll just have a quick snack and then get sorted”, I think. And that’s the start of the 4pm binge.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. In this series of posts that focus on the after-work moment, Food Psychology Coach Laura Lloyd explains why that time of day is dubbed ‘the witching hour’ for so many of us.
Almost all overeaters have one ‘f-it’ moment in the day where all our good intentions go out the window. Where we feel compelled to eat and eat.
For so many of my clients – and *hold my hands up* for me too, if there’s one point in the day where I get the urge to overeat really really strongly, it’s in the transition between work and ‘rest’, between afternoon and evening.
I put ‘rest’ in inverted commas, because I don’t think about what’s ahead of me as restful or relaxing. I don’t think many of us do. It’s full on. I often don’t even think of it as being quality time with my tired, argumentative kids. And that trepidation of the evening before us, as well as all the emotions that we have brought with us, is part of the picture.
Let me guide you through a series of questions that’ll help you understand the factors working on you, making eating feel like an inevitability at that time of day.
1. The emotional dimension of the work you left behind
What were the dominant emotions at work today – the cloud you’ve been moving beneath before you came home?
Work brings up a whole spectrum of feelings – from self-doubt to excitement to exposure to resentment.
- Feelings about the work.
- Feelings about ourselves and our capability.
- Feelings about our colleagues and the hierarchy we are in.
Chances are, we have been trying for most of the day to get on with it, get stuff done, and not get too bogged down in any of these unwelcome, not-very-professional-seeming human vibes. But, like kids who have been sat in front of the TV while you’re ‘busy’, they are going to try to get our attention as soon as there’s a gap.
2. The emotional dimension of your evening ahead.
What do you feel about coming home?
- Feelings about being alone or with others.
- Feelings about the space you live in.
- Feelings about your life, its direction and meaning.
- Feelings about the activities you have planned.
It’s when we stop being busy and distracted that our thoughts and feelings surface, which is why weekends are often so much harder than week days for people too.
We may also have expectations of ourselves for this time of day – to clean up, or to go and work out. Stuff we may feel some resistance around!
3. The physical dimension.
Did you even eat today? Or did you skip meals and power through?
We can see this as ‘being good’ all day. But the body will send out some pretty strong signals by mid-afternoon.
Psychologically, you may think you are still ‘owed’ a meal if you skipped one.
Physically, your cravings and hunger may be in emergency mode, pushing you towards COOKIES rather than leaving you the spaciousness of smart decision-making.
Add to this the hormone shift as the adrenaline of work stress dips, and tiredness is allowed to enter the party. No wonder you feel weak.
4. The habit dimension
Do you make excuses and justifications about deserving something after work?
- It may feel like you’re being kind to yourself, finally doing something for you.
- It may be the time you take the kids for an ice cream and have a fear of missing out.
- You might tell yourself you “need some energy” to cook dinner or do what you need to do. (My brain loves to try this on me).
- Or that you’re so, so tired (which can feel so, so true).
We can have habits around eating that are expectations of reward we have established over time. Maybe ‘relaxing’ is signalled by a glass of wine and some crisps while you get onto the sofa. Maybe you have an eating chair.
Solving your over eating or binge eating 'weak' time of day is the No.1 thing you can do for your relationship with food, and for your weight loss.
Coaching and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy are proven tools to break habits and make habits, in a way that goes deeper than trying to simply manage behaviours.
We look at the emotions and thoughts that are driving your behaviours.
We look at your motivation and get rid of mixed feelings about stopping eating after work.
We look at, and rehearse, dealing with urges to eat, so that they don't feel so compelling.