The trick to nipping late night Oreo nashing

by Pamela Slim

Do you ever fantasize about looking in the mirror and using one of those magic “before and after” wands to shrink your chubby thighs to the size of a long distance runner’s? I know I do.

We are bombarded by weight loss commercials, fat-free food and stick-thin Victoria’s Secret models wherever we go. Yet we persist, at least in the United States, in being one of the chunkiest people on earth.  We eat without abandon, then try to balance our excess with a variety of fad diets.  Low carbs one day, high protein the next, lemon juice and cayenne pepper fasts wreak havoc with our minds and bodies.

Switch your focus from your body to your brain

The real problem is that we have been obsessed with managing our bodies, when in fact, the attention needs to go to our brains.  Martha explains:

“People get fat because their brain’s calibration of the amount they need to eat, and the amount of intake they should store as calories, is altered by neural structure and its interface with the endocrine system.  The starved and frightened brain drives overeating and low metabolism.  The calm and secure brain drives a very different set of biological motivators and consequences. In other words, when your brain is fixed, you eat less and burn off excess as heat, whereas the “famine brain” caused by stress and hunger– including dieting — really does make you consume more and store more as fat.”

How to calm down famine brain

The first step to getting a handle on the state of your brain in relation to food is to examine the thoughts that lead to feelings which lead to actions which lead to results.

Thought or Belief:  I have so much to do!  I am overwhelmed.

Feelings:  Stress.  Fear.  Anxiety.

Action:  Stuff 42 M&Ms in your mouth

Result:  Stubborn metabolism and no chance at fitting in those skinny jeans

Change your thoughts, acknowledge your feelings

Once you identify the thoughts that are causing you stress, you can replace them with more accurate, positive ones.  Byron Katie’s 4 questions from The Work are a great tool:

The Four Questions from “The Work.”

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it is true?
  3. How do you react when you think that thought?
  4. Who would you be without that thought?and

    Turn it around (come up with another thought that is opposite from the original meaning, but still very true for you).

The is a more robust explanation of The Work in a past post:  Are your thoughts keeping you stuck?  Time for some belief busting.

Another powerful tool comes from Brooke Castillo’s book If I am so smart, why can’t I lose weight?

When you fight a feeling of negative emotion you actually make it stronger.

Instead of fighting, which in the case of eating patterns means shoving lots of food in your mouth to dull the pain, try this instead:

Sitting at a kitchen table and feeling a feeling all the way through, instead of eating, is a very courageous act. When the fear starts to come and we recognize it as fear, we need to sit and watch it come. Welcome it. Expect it. Don’t run to the refrigerator and start eating so you can forget about it. Don’t start thinking about how fat you are. Stay with this feeling right now and
acknowledge it. It really can’t hurt you if you let it in to wash over you. If you start to resist it or fight with it or try to deny it, it will cause you additional pain in your life. I like to use the example of someone coming to your house to break in. If you aren’t expecting them and they sneak in the back door and you pretend they aren’t there, they can cause you harm. But, if you are expecting them and you are sitting calmly on the couch with a couple of police officers, it’s not so bad. You let the guy come in and you watch him leave peacefully with the police.

Weight loss coach Lisa Cavallaro was kind enough to record a coaching conversation with me to illustrate this concept.  We used my late-night Oreo cookie-eating sessions as an example. When I finally get my kids and husband tucked away safely in bed, I prepare for a couple of peaceful hours of uninterrupted work. But as soon as I sit down at the computer, I get an overwhelming desire to shove a few cups of sugar in my mouth.  Like a possessed madwoman, I forage in the kitchen for ice cream or chocolate or cookies.

Listen to this 20 minute conversation and see how Lisa’s coaching might help your own version of my late night snacking.

MP3 File

I hope some of these brain-related exercises are more successful at changing your eating habits than hanging your hopes on the next fad diet or exercise program.

I learned that a bit of indulgent “me time” may be the trick to nipping my sweet habit.  I will see if my local spa does late night in-home pedicures.  That would beat a heaping bowl of ice cream any day.

7 replies
  1. Beth Quinlan
    Beth Quinlan says:

    And just how did you know I got into the Oreas last night and ate just a few too many!!! LOL! I could not believe it when I saw the subject line.

    Sometimes I have the presence to say no to the voice that demands the sweets, but when I am in the midst of a huge work project, as I now am. I get disoriented.

    Thank for giving me some tools for evening sweet cravings and for making me feel less alone in this.

  2. Mark McClure
    Mark McClure says:


    I ‘enjoyed’ listening to this interview as I was a “comfort food” eater in the shape of chocolate covered peanuts in the summer of 2004.

    It was definitely emotional eating mainly due to a stressful 9 months implementing a big ‘can’t fail’ IT project. In my case, I would come home late (after 10pm usually M-F), proceed to eat a meal that was (kindly) left for me by my better half – and then spend the next 2-3 hours surfing the net and wolfing down those “I earned it’ chocos !!!

    Of course, family was fast asleep and knew nothing of this, as I put the empty boxes in briefcase and disposed of in work! Naughty, naughty!
    Well, actually they eventually did find out because I started to resemble the michelin man with the developing ‘spare tyre’ around my waist. lol

    So, what changed? Well, the project got done, the stress relaxed and I got to work more normal hours.
    I also discovered coaching and self-care and started a regular exercise program. Over time I lost the 7Kg I had gained (was 89Kg) and felt better about it.

    I do sometimes eat chocolate at night but nothing like before. And that’s OK.

    Listening to your call with Lisa it seemed clear to me that you were using the Oreos as a kind of “care miles” accumulator for all those daytime hours spent looking after young children, attending to “everyone else” tasks – whatever.

    And then, finally, it’s ‘me’ time, the house is silent, and time to kick relax and relax! Yes, I recall it well!

    BTW – here’s a great little resource you might check out on your next surfing session!
    They sell an excellent pdf book for about $7.99, I think.
    I have both the book and the little gizmo (motivAider) – although I used for changing a habit (not weight gain).

    There are some neat strategies in the book – you don’t necessarily need the gizmo – check out “Chapter 16 Right before Wrong”.
    I also like Byron’s work and the self-awareness that coaching can help with. There is also a place for choosing to make use of behavioral change tools.

    Good luck!

    mark mcclure


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  1. […] like it really will. How do you curb late-night or stress-related snacks? Tell us in the comments. The trick to nipping late night Oreo nashing [via Escape from Cubicle […]

  2. […] the rest here (the full post contains a 20-minute recording of a coaching session where my friend weight loss […]

  3. […] came across my desk last week and I haven’t had a chance to read it until last night,  The trick to nipping late night Oreo nashing.  The article was written by Pamela Slim on Martha Beck’s […]

  4. […] like it really will. How do you curb late-night or stress-related snacks? Tell us in the comments. The trick to nipping late night Oreo nashing [via Escape from Cubicle […]

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