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It’s the third call after midnight and the ice cream is calling you from the freezer. If late night cravings are your thing, you are not alone! Yearning for salty, sugary starchy foods is hard-wired into our circadian rhythms. Unfortunately for first responders, shift work can cause circadian rhythms to go haywire. Eating after midnight because you are actually hungry is normal and can help fuel the final leg of your shift. Eating out of boredom, however, can derail fat loss efforts quickly. With a few quick tweaks, you can make better decisions at midnight in a snap!
1) Hunger vs. Emotions
First determine if the rumbling in your stomach is real, or if it’s just an underlying emotion. If you’ve eaten a full meal in the past 2-3 hours, chances are it might be emotions. Take a moment to tune into how you feel (I know, not a first responder’s favorite thing, but try it). Are you cranky, sad, upset, or just tired? If you are tired, head to the bunkroom! Otherwise, find an activity you can do to distract yourself. Browse social media, read an article, or watch a movie. Think of something that will engage your mind when sleep is not an option.
2) Make a better “bad” decision
3) Plan for a late night snack
If you can’t kick a craving that happens almost every night, plan for it! Save one of your snacks for the evening. Be sure to hit your protein and fiber goals if the midnight snack will be a treat. This means loading up on vegetables, fruit, and lean proteins earlier in the day.
If your midnight snack goes left, it’s okay! Try to make better decisions 80% of the time. You can always make healthier decisions the next day.
Megan Lautz, MS, RD, CSCS, TSAC-F
Megan is a Registered Dietitian and coach who specializes in firefighter nutrition. Megan’s mission is to help firefighters perform better, recover faster, and enjoy long healthy retirements. Megan is the owner of RescueRD LLC, which provides nutrition seminars and coaching for tactical athletes across the country. Check out @Rescue.RD on Facebook and Instagram.