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Gaining Control continued...

But too often, people set themselves up by skimping on breakfast and lunch and becoming ravenous in the evening, Farrell says. When they're hungry and tired at the end of the day, they're more likely to crave fattier foods -- including fast foods -- as a dinner or midnight snack, she says. "The later that a person eats, you tend to notice that the food choices aren't always the healthiest."

To fight this trap, Farrell says, "Really preplan. Have a balanced breakfast and lunch." Even eating an afternoon snack will help to curb the excessive night hunger that leads to fatty food cravings.

Working a late shift may complicate dinner planning. But preparing at least a couple of meals ahead of time on Sunday will cut down on fast food during the week. "Plan ahead and know what you're having for dinner before you walk in the door at night," Farrell says. "If you come home from work and say, 'What am I going to have for dinner?' chances are you're not going to take the time to run to the store and get some chicken or fish to grill. You just want something quick."

Emotional Eating

What about people who make a night run to the nearest burger joint for emotional reasons? "It's a very challenging habit. It's difficult for people to break that," Jamieson-Petonic says. Finding another activity -- such as taking a walk or exercising at home -- can help.

"The biggest key is to have a plan in place," Farrell says, "to come up with activities other than food." To that end, she helps clients to map out an agenda -- hour by hour, for an entire evening -- so that they don't resort to eating. They read, take a bubble bath, organize photo albums, or do sewing projects, she says. They may even call a friend to ease loneliness.

When it comes to food, Farrell says, "Really, at the end of the day, we should be winding down. That's not when we should be fueling up."

Making Healthier Food Choices

If you do go to fast-food restaurants at night, Farrell says, "Be proactive and make a healthy compromise. A lot of fast-food restaurants do offer lower-fat options these days."

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