Photo by © Getty / AleksandarNakic
You could practically set your watch by it. Every night, right around 8:30, I would find myself wandering to the pantry. Hmmm, I would ask myself, what sort of caloric damage can I do tonight? It’s . . . nibbling hour.
My boyfriend first pointed this out when I began my keto diet a few months ago. “It’s like clockwork. You drift into the kitchen and head for the sweet stuff,” he chuckled as I cringed, putting down the tray of Girl Scout cookies I was fully prepared to inhale. I had been caught, quite literally, with my hand in the cookie jar.
I knew keto or any other diet wasn’t going to work for me unless I could curb my sugar cravings. I needed to get a grip, and not on a sleeve of Thin Mints.
The first step was to analyze my snacking habits. Once I did, it was with no small amount of horror that I realized nibbling hour wasn’t just in the evenings. Every day at 3 p.m., I’d find myself reaching for the mini Butterfingers in my desk drawer, or slipping into my coworker’s office to see if she had brought in brownies. After lunch I felt like I needed something sweet, to balance out the savory taste of my salad (OK, fine, enchiladas).
But one day, I was in the ladies room in the afternoon and noticed everyone brushing their teeth. “It’s just a nice reset after lunch,” one woman told me. “It gets the coffee taste out of my mouth.”
I too started to brush my teeth midday, and guess what: the Butterfingers didn’t seem as urgent. Then, I started to brush the instant I finished dinner, and suddenly nibbling hour came and went without a single craving. The minty flavor reset my taste buds, and the act of brushing got me up and moving, burning off some of that restless energy I felt while Netflix-and-chilling on the couch, or sitting at my desk.
Had I stumbled upon the diet hack of the century? Less snacking and better oral hygiene?!
I’ve started to become evangelical about this tip, proudly whipping out my toothbrush after brunch with the girls or a work happy hour. I find that I’m less likely to keep picking at those nachos or order another mimosa if my teeth are clean, so there’s been the added bonus of saving money! It has also helped me stick to my keto diet, and I’m down 7 pounds in two months. For the first time maybe ever, I don’t feel like a slave to my cravings.
It’s important to remember, though, that overbrushing your teeth isn’t good, so to prevent me from scouring away at my enamel or irritating my gums, I’ll usually just brush my tongue or even swish around some Listerine to give me that reset I need.
Even if I forget my mouthwash or brush, just stumbling upon this hack has made me more aware of why I’m reaching for the sweets. Do I have coffee mouth and I want to erase it? Am I anxious and want to get up and move around? Would I rather be nibbling on my boyfriend but he’s scrolling Instagram?
Now, I feel more in control of what I eat, my sugar spell is finally broken, and I can go through the day without the fear of spinach (fine, enchiladas) in my teeth.