Afternoons Can Be Dangerous

I wanted to thank everyone for their insightful comments on yesterday’s post on Fat Acceptance. It’s a touchy subject and I think everyone had some great thoughts. Reading your comments made me appreciate yet again the power and depth of the blogging community.

What is it about the afternoon that is so difficult? Every morning of the ten years I struggled with my weight I’d swear that I was going to have a good eating day. And sometimes I’d do okay in the morning, but once about 2:30 p.m. rolled around, the afternoon munchie monster began rearing its ugly head.


I’m still amazed at how much I was able to eat in one afternoon. I tried to resist, but oftentimes ended up eating one unhealthy food after another. For example, I may have eaten half a bag of chips, a handful or two of cookies, some leftover biscuits smothered with butter, a spoonful or twelve of ice cream, and anything else I could get my hands on. The couple of hours before dinner time were so hard for me to control my eating.

Even when I was officially “dieting” and had purged the house of most unhealthy foods, I would find all sorts of things to eat. I’d make muffins or cookies. I’d eat the kids animal crackers by the bagful, and search the recesses of the pantry in search for something “good” to eat. The afternoon munchie monster was in full swing. After I had eaten all I could, I’d be so annoyed at myself. Why did I just eat all that when I was so determined to be good that day?

I think there were several factors that contributed to me giving into the afternoon munchie monster:

I didn’t plan ahead.

I had too many tempting foods around.

I thought I had to deprive myself of most sweets to be successful.

I was easily pulled into an emotional eating vortex.

Way back in 1997, when I finally lost my 158 pounds, I worked really hard to conquer the afternoon problem. I used the kitchen timer like I talked about on Dr. Oz. I set it for 15 minutes when I felt the urge to overeat, and nine times out of ten when the timer rang I determined that I wasn’t really hungry, but rather experiencing another type of emotional hunger. In addition to the kitchen timer, I also made sure I had some healthy snacks that I liked around. This made a big difference. And finally, I did not beat myself up if I made a mistake.

Is the afternoon a potentially difficult time for you? If so, what strategies do you employ to tame the monster?  Diane

43 thoughts on “Afternoons Can Be Dangerous

  1. Miz says:

    TOTALLY A STRUGGLE TIME FOR ME especially around 4p as the husband isnt home for dinner until 8p
    Even though I know this, I plan for this in my ‘food plan,’ even though I eat intuitively and simply EAT THEN because Im snackyhungry its a daily thing.


    for me I think lots of it is a result of the clock 🙂
    I know its hours till the husband comes home and I can unplug with him.
    I know its hours till the child goes to bed.

    and I know I already tired 🙂
    I try to do OTHER things that will perk me up and pick me up (including hydrate) but its a daily choice.
    .-= Miz´s last blog ..Earth Footwear 30 Day Challenge (video post). =-.

  2. Yum Yucky says:

    I do best at work because I pack my lunch and have gotten used to being satisfied with the healthy food I have available.

    But the Munch Monster strikes as soon as I get home. I even tried snacking right before leaving work to curb my home appetite – but it doesn’t work. So I’m convinced that this Munch Monster lives in my head, NOT in a truly hungry belly. It must be conquered!!!!
    .-= Yum Yucky´s last blog ..Tasting! Kraft Singles Melt Downs =-.

  3. JourneyBeyondSurvival says:

    I use training wheel tricks like brushing my teeth, or blogging. Anything which requires me NOT to eat. Like a shower or a walk, or talking on the phone.

    Also, knowing the time of day helps, and I try to plan things at that time. Therapy for my daughter. Appointments. That way the time is done when they are over.

    I mess up too. It’s best for me to realize that one slip up does not have to lead to a binge.
    .-= JourneyBeyondSurvival´s last blog ..Sunset =-.

  4. Susan says:

    The afternoon can be a dangerous time for me to. I just make sure that I plan what I’m going to eat for a healthy snack ahead of time. I do best staying in control when I eat every 3-4 hours that way I’m not starved and there is no need to binge.
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Taking It Easy =-.

  5. Cindy says:

    This is the worst time for me. It seems llike I am in the kitchen just looking for food to graze on. Eating stuff I don’t even care for. Lately I have started having a cup of tea when I get this urge and it has helped. I pour my tea and then sit down and read a magazine or book and enjoy the moment.
    .-= Cindy´s last blog ..BOOT CAMP DAY 2 =-.

  6. Marisa (Loser For Life) says:

    YES!!!! I wish I could just fast forward from 3:00 to 5:30!!! I never have a problem with night time eating, but the minute the kids come in the door from school, I’m like Pavlov’s dogs…drooling and chomping! I haven’t completely found what works yet. I’m still playing around with different combinations of snacks. One thing I have noticed is if I have a snack and feel the urge to keep eating, I will do as you said, set the timer for 20 minutes. When it rings, I realize I am never hungry for more. It’s a hard thing to employ when the forces of “crunch, salt and sweet” are calling,though!
    .-= Marisa (Loser For Life)´s last blog ..The Princess And The Chickpea =-.

  7. kwithme says:

    I have problems at this time, too. I now have a snack between 2:30 and 3:30. For me, it seems to be when I am loneliest. Especially in the winter. My youngest is in preschool so she has been home for 2.5 hours, my older one is not home for 2 more hours and husband probably won’t be home for 4-6 more hours.

    Something else that helped was adding a mini work out in the afternoon. I try to do 2-5 mins of strength/cardio (plank and stair climbing) to warm me up, and rev my metabolism. Now that it is getting sunny, I am trying to get outside. That helps to.

    Since it is a problem for a lot of people, it makes me wonder if it is physiological, hence the siestas that occur in many other countries.

  8. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    That pic is too funny!!!!! I think it speaks to all of us at some point in time! 🙂

    Yes, afternoons can be crazed. I think some of it is that we start out so good that we either are a bit hungry due to being good & watching ourselves OR we may say that we were so good in the morn that we deserve something else. For me, it is more that I may be hungrier from being good earlier in the day.

    I am kind of like your timer thing. I take 10-15 minutes to think thru the whys of eating more. I insist on this self talk every time I get the “urge”. I ask myself why, what will it take to work it of OR will I have to give up my weekend treats. Is it really worth it to me. This is the big one! After all that, if I eat, I know why & the consequences.

    Also, I do try to remove myself from the food. Jeez, just start blog reading & before you know it, it is 2 hours later! 🙂
    .-= Jody – Fit at 52´s last blog ..Joy, Laughter, Fun – Good for You & Your Health! =-.

  9. vickie says:

    In the very beginning I ate many meals throughout the day – planned and balanced and tiny. So the next ‘meal’ was always right around the corner – and I could wait.

    I do the vast majority of my eating early in the day now. I eat a large breakfast and have a morning snack and then a large lunch and then an early mostly veggies/protein dinner. A big breakfast and lunch were the cure for night time eating (for me).

    I agree that afternoon can be an anxiety time. Afternoons are sort of like the Sunday ‘thing’ – where one is transitioning from one mode into another.
    .-= vickie´s last blog ..A very unusual, social Sunday (and this is the one with Youth Hostels in comments) =-.

  10. karen@fitnessjourney says:

    Afternoon isn’t so much an issue for me, I’m usually busy, but evening is a different story. When I have the time to relax, that is when munching sounds like a good idea. Like you, I have a few go-to snacks that are healthy but I like and I snack on those things.

    It also helps to have a hobby that involves using your hands. Sewing, knitting, scrapbooking or blogging come to mind.
    .-= karen@fitnessjourney´s last blog ..Those Birthdays With the Zeros and Fives at the End =-.

  11. Mia says:

    Same here!

    It is so hard to think about dinner and then have to prepare it when you are so hungry. You can’t go for a walk or get out of the kitchen because YOU are responsible for feeding everyone.

    I finally just gave in and now I eat dinner at 5 pm prior to fixing dinner and feeding my clan. I still sit down with the family (This is important) to eat some veggies or drink a cup of tea. I enjoy my dinner without the distraction of jumping up to get something or being the last to sit down. I am less anxious and less focused on eating my dinner before it gets cold or someone needs something. This works for our family because my husband’s mom did the same thing. He grew up in an extremely large family and his mom always ate prior to serving the boys. Of note: My MIL is still a small person even at 79 while my mom, who ate while cooking dinner and ate some more at the dinner table, is obese.

  12. anne h says:

    When I want to double check my eating plan, I use the example of a person who is trying to save money…what might she do?
    Is it worth it to delay my goal, just to have a little indulgence? Or can I, should I, MUST I go on through, even though I want “just one bite?”
    A better example might be an ex-junkie wanting one more hit.
    C’mon…just one bite, eh?

  13. Jules - Big Girl Bombshell says:

    Afternoons have always been the hardest time for me. Over a year ago, that 3:00 was like an alarm that went off to go grab my Coca-Cola. I did give that up. Now, I go grab a cup of hot tea. But the sugar monster still attacks, even after a year. If I plan ahead and have a piece of fruit, it helps but unfortunately that is the only thing I have found to fix it and if I dont plan ahead, the monster usually wins. Working on that one.
    .-= Jules – Big Girl Bombshell´s last blog ..What Type of Person are You? =-.

  14. Diane says:

    Afternoons are a problem for many because of the way our bodies work. Most people eat either nothing for breakfast or one that is really unhealthy in the mix of refined carbs, sugar and fats ( cereal, juice, donuts or other pastries or pancakes and syrup). Lunch tends to be better because of the ratio of protein ( a sandwich on bread of some sort). As we digest the previous intake our blood sugar goes a little “wiggy” and 2 pm arrives to find us really looking for a nap, snack, coffee or energy drink.I do not fight this urge, but instead plan breakfast and lunch to contain a healthy mix and a snack at 2 pm. Currently that snack is nonfat yogert and blueberries. Having that planned snacks really helps to cut out temptation
    .-= Diane´s last blog ..Uggh =-.

  15. Brenda Kaye says:

    I love your timer idea. If I make it through the scary afternoon time then I still have the dinner hour to get through. For some reason, even if my entire day is healthy and on track, I think my family dinner time is a time to talk, laugh, relax and overeat. It is all such a mental game…but I can ruin my calorie total in just one meal unfortunately!

  16. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    Yes! I’m OK right after lunch but once 2 or 3 p.m. hits I get a sweet craving. In the past I’d have some cookies or hit up the vending machine, but now I just pack an apple or something. Usually that fills me up enough that I don’t want anything more. And not bringing a dessert to work is a big help. I think it’s that at work you have certain milestones to look forward to: lunch and the end of the day. At 2 p.m. there’s still so much time left in the day it’s like, OK well maybe I’ll have a Snickers!
    .-= Tracey @ I’m Not Superhuman´s last blog ..Snack Attack: Why Kids Who Eat Junk All Day Get Fat =-.

  17. Bella @ Stilettos on the Streetcar says:

    I struggle with after dinner snacking. I love to munch on something while I’m watching tv. In an effort to curb my snacking, I’ve made a rule that I don’t eat after 9 PM. I also pick a snack that I’ll look forward to and won’t throw me off my plan – vitatop, air-popped popcorn, or berries.

    I also have a Resisted Temptations jar. It’s essentially a piggy bank that I put a dollar into every time I resist a sweet treat. The money in the Resisted Temptations jar will eventually buy me an extravagant something I wouldn’t have bought myself otherwise. In my case, it’s a Coach purse I’ve been coveting for years. It’s a great way to keep me motivated!

  18. Brenda says:

    One thing I have learned is that my 3pm snack is MANDITORY for me even though I am not hungry at 3pm. If I skip this snack, I will over eat at dinner and continue to munch thru the evening!
    I love Bella’s temptation jar idea!!
    And planning out meals is a must for me too. It really helps in this area.
    .-= Brenda´s last blog ..Vegetable Barley Soup =-.

  19. Linda says:

    Afternoons can be eating-everything-in-sight traps for me too. I have started including a cup of milk with lunch to help keep me full and I have planned snacks that won’t blow my points budget out the window. I also try to do meal prep and baking in the afternoons to keep me occupied. If I don’t have time to look at the clock and be bored, I won’t eat.
    .-= Linda´s last blog ..Chicken Tetrazzini =-.

  20. says:

    Afternoons were my enemy too. Things were in the house that were just too tempting. I had to learn self-control. I had to learn that I can subsitute healther things. I had to learn that eating some sweet was ok…just not the whole bag (like I used to)! I had to plan like you said…for me that was eating right in the morning and getting enough fiber to feel full so I wouldn’t indulge myself in the afternoon. Your posts have really been helping me talk about what I did do and how I’ve overcome these issues and problems today…thank you Diane!
    .-=´s last blog ..Olympic Special #10: Curling Crescent Lunge =-.

  21. MySensei says:

    The afternoons are the worst for me! It’s usually around 2:30-3 pm when it’s at it’s peak. I crave something sweet and I become ravenous at times. Took me a while to tame that hunger beast, but now I keep my work fridge stocked with fruit, veggie snacks, and yogurt. So when the clock strikes around 3 – I just reach for one of those 🙂

  22. Leah says:

    Yes, afternoons are hard for me sometimes. I’m really just working on stopping and making myself take notice if I’m truly hungry or just bored, tired, etc.

    It’s still work for me, and I don’t have any one thing that works yet.

  23. Sunny says:

    Afternoon is definitely the most difficult time of the day. I work it out by enjoying one Nestle’s Nugget after lunch, then I chew cinnamon flavored sugarless gum in the afternoon, and LOTS of unsweetened ice tea. But it’s tough. Especially on stressful or boring afternoons.
    .-= Sunny´s last blog ..Creative Writer Blogger Award =-.

  24. RNegade says:

    Some days I’m just hungrier than other days. So I eat more. And I enjoy it. It’s just food, not a monster. The day after a hungry day is almost always a not-so-hungry day. It all evens out in the long run.

  25. Jill says:

    After work is a hard time for me, but I finally started planning a yummy healthy snack at that time. Something to look forward to, but won’t kill my plan – so far it’s working!
    .-= Jill´s last blog ..I just binged. =-.

  26. Hope @ Hope's Journey says:

    Hi Diane! Long time, no comment!

    I find that afternoons can be a little difficult for me as well. I struggle when I get home after work, until I eat dinner later. I’ve done some serious damage in that time. My strategy for dealing with it is just trying to do the best that I can. If I’m that hungry, I’ll grab something healthy, or a small portion of something else. Moderation is what I try to achieve.

    Anyways, hope you’re doing well!


  27. erin says:

    Oh man, afternoons are the WORST. When I wasn’t working it was especially difficult because I was just hanging around the house all day. It’s easier now that I’m at work and can control what it is I bring to eat, but I still struggle often.

  28. Mackattack (Beth) says:

    Whenever I have a quieter afternoon at work it is dangerous. I think about all the places I can go to have treats. I now have dan buy me the things I crave in one ounce bags so I can have them. within a limit. Much better!
    .-= Mackattack (Beth)´s last blog ..Chinese Chicken =-.

  29. Babbalou says:

    The hungry hour for me is closer to 4 pm. When I’m home and not working, that’s when I head out to a nearby mall to walk laps. Walking for 30 minutes or more, then getting a cup of coffee and reading some magazines gets me out of the house and past that dangerous time when the kitchen is calling my name. I head home around 5:30 and can start making dinner. Even if we don’t eat until 7:30 I’m fine – I just have to get past that 4-5 pm time slot. Right now I’m struggling, I’m a trailing spouse who came along with my husband on a 3 month business trip to Asia. He doesn’t get home until 7:30 most nights, then we go out to dinner around 8 pm – and I’m so hungry I fall completely off my plan. I’m working on the solution, but again it’s that very late afternoon time that gets to me. When I was working, I’d bring a protein snack and have that along with a cup of coffee. I can’t drink coffee after dinner any more, but one cup late afternoon doesn’t seem to cause any problems.

  30. Siobhan says:

    DH goes to bed fairly early since he gets up at 4:30 am most mornings, so that was always my worst time. The good thing about it being at that time was that I could just stay out of the kitchen and not eat at all because meals were DONE for the day.
    .-= Siobhan´s last blog ..passing it on, take two =-.

  31. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    Yes, afternoons can be dangerous! And if I’m home all afternoon, it’s especially a problem. It’s really boredom, not hunger most of the time… However, in the past, I would sometimes not eat enough earlier in the day. I now make sure to eat enough for breakfast, a morning snack, and a substantial lunch.

    And, yes, having healthy, convenient snacks I really like helps. Portioned out hummus with carrots and cucumbers is one of my favorite afternoon snacks these days. I often have it before heading to the gym for a late afternoon workout. And that’s actually the best way to beat the “afternoon problem” for me, getting out of the house!
    .-= Andrea@WellnessNotes´s last blog ..How to Deal With Muscle Soreness After Working Out =-.

  32. Lori says:

    I have a bad habit of needing something after school when I get home from work. Some of it’s just the “let-down” of making it through a stressful day, and some of it is hunger. And usually it’s pop, and I can’t ever drink pop by itself, so I have something sugary with it. If I keep myself occupied, it helps, and can tide through it. And then I have to just end up eating my supper early. It doesn’t always work, but I just have to work through it!
    .-= Lori´s last blog .. =-.

  33. Jill Knapp says:

    If I don’t eat well during the day and skip meals I will for sure struggle at night. Night eating is horrible to deal with but it seems as long as I stay balanced and eat I make it through the night.


  34. Susan says:

    My two worst eating times are when I come in the door from work and starting munching on everything in the kitchen (because I’m hungry for dinner) and when I prepare my lunch at night (because I’m hungry after dinner, and I keep my nighttime snack small so I don’t go to bed too full). I can devour anything that gets in my way – it’s awful! In some ways I’ve just started accepting it. So I’ve gotten rid of all the “bad” munching foods (cereals, chips, crackers, etc) and replaced them with carrot sticks. At least if I’m going to do it, I can do it with a healthier food! 😛
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Flashback Friday: Fitness Edition =-.

  35. Fran says:

    I agree on the afternoons. Not the ones I’m at work, I do fine on those but the weekends or days off are difficult. Don’t really know why that is,sometimes I’m strong and sometimes I give in and eat something. However that’s never fruit but always something like a cookie or chocolate. Can do better on that one!
    .-= Fran´s last blog ..A day in my life: Saturday March 6th 2010 =-.

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