Are you one of those people that “eat well all day” and then desire snacks after dinner and wind up snacking on whatever you want?
Don’t fret; you are not alone.
Believe it or not, several people trying to diet or eat healthier fall into this routine. The question is whether this habit is a consequence of something physiological or psychological?
Unless your blood sugar is low, the odds are it is psychological and has become a practice.
You deprive yourself or skip meals throughout the day, which drives you to think about food always. You take unplanned snacks here and try to satiate yourself, but you do not think about what your body needs or wants.
You’re busy, and skipping breakfast might direct to weight loss, right?
You haven’t done any pre-dinner plan because you’ve never been good at meal preparation. So you pick up take-out from your preferred Thai place on the ride home.
You seem guilty about what you ate, though, knowing you’ve done this many times this week already.
Shrugging it off, figuring, “I’ve already eaten this much, what’s a little more?” you keep on snacking all evening.
The habit of eating at night can be harmful to blood sugar restriction and can even stall your weight loss. Researches have shown that eating most of your calories late at night can prevent you from losing weight.
Why People Snack at Night
You have a post-dinner routine that’s all about overeating and zoning out.
You change into loose, comfy clothes, plop onto the couch with your e-reader, book, or laptop nearby. The next thing you know, you’re staring at the TV for hours while waiting for the stress of the workday to fade away.
As soon as an ad break hits, you’re off to the kitchen for snacks. Your shifting between sweet and salty (what’s one without the other, really?), so once you’re tired with one flavor, you switch to the next.
You don’t pay much consideration to what you’re eating or how loaded you’re feeling. You’re just savoring the taste as you veg out.
Does this sound like your routine?
Your problem might not be that you lack the self-control or willpower to stay away from the foods you love (or, at the very least, have grown habitual to).
You might be dealing with something more particular (and treatable): night eating syndrome.
Also known as “midnight hunger,” night eating syndrome is the persistent late-night binge eating pattern. While night eating syndrome is not the same as binge eating disorder, there are absolutely some similarities.
According to the DSM-5, night eating syndrome can fall into the feeding and eating disorder classification. It can cause eating after waking up in the middle of the night, overeating after you’ve already had dinner, or feeling guilt or shame about these habits.
And you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 1.5% of the population in the US alone deals with this.
Impact of Overeating Before Bed
Nightly habits like these are a cause of weight gain for many folks – which is why we usually start thinking about these habits in the first place.
Of course, weight gain in and of itself isn’t uncertain. But if we know that we’re consuming food in a way that isn’t in line with our intuition, we also realize that we could be toying with our set aim weight.
The problem isn’t merely the food that’s being consumed – although you can check out other recipes if you’re looking for new snack options!
But the more significant issue is that overeating at night can disrupt your sleep. This can lead to imbalances of hunger and satiety hormones, making it more difficult for you to recognize when you’re truly hungry or satisfied.
That is to say, night eating in this way can take your body’s natural rhythm way off balance and cause several health issues as a result!
So what can you do if nighttime eating seems out of control and you want to regain some balance? The answer is a lot simpler than it may appear: classify the reasons you overeat at night, and then improve that trigger.
The truth of the subject is: there is a reason why you’re encountering what feels like a loss of control at night when it comes to food.
Eating or drinking too much before bed can result in potential heartburn or bathroom visits, thus interrupting sleep. Studies have explained that lack of sleep can negatively affect blood sugars and result in elevated hemoglobin A1C’s.
Lack of sleep can also affect hormones, which control feelings of fullness and hunger. Inadequate sleep has been shown to reduce the satiety hormone called leptin and increase the hunger hormone called ghrelin.
If you are not getting enough sleep, you may feel more hungry throughout the day and take in extra calories, resulting in weight gain.
Elevated Blood Sugars
Excess carbohydrates in the evening can produce raised morning blood sugars. It isn’t easy to manage your blood sugar when you start the day with it being above goal.
The American Diabetes Association suggests that fasting blood sugar (mornings) for most people with type 2 diabetes should vary between 80-130mg/dL. If you wake up with numbers beyond 130mg/dL, it may be necessary to lessen your carbohydrate intake at dinner, especially before bed.
Clever Ways to Stop Eating Late at Night
Several people find themselves eating late at night, even when they aren’t hungry.
Nighttime eating can make you eat more calories than you need and lead to weight gain.
Here are the things you can do to stop eating late in the evening or at night:
Identify the Cause
Several people eat most of their food late in the evening or during the night.
To break this attitude, you need to distinguish the cause of the problem.
Nighttime eating may be the effect of overly limited daytime food intake, leading to ravenous hunger at night. It may also be caused by habit or dullness.
However, nighttime eating has also been connected to some eating disorders. This includes binge eating disorder and night eating syndrome.
Intricate eating patterns and behaviors characterize these two dysfunctions. And it can have the same adverse effects on your health.
In both, people use food to restrain emotions such as sadness, anger, or frustration, and they often eat even when they are not hungry.
Binge eaters also tend to eat huge amounts of food in one sitting and appear out of control while eating.
On the other hand, people having nighttime eating syndrome tend to nibble throughout the evening and wake up during the night to eat. Thus, they eat more than 25% of their daily calories at night.
Both conditions have been connected to obesity, depression, and trouble sleeping.
Identify Your Triggers
Much like recognizing what causes your overeating, you may find it useful to look for triggers as well.
People relinquish food for many reasons. If you’re not hungry but see yourself eating at night, think about what drove up to it.
Usually, you will find you are using food to satisfy a need that isn’t hunger.
With nighttime eating syndrome, your entire eating pattern may be stalled due to your loss of daytime hunger.
One effective way to distinguish the cause of your nighttime eating and the things that trigger it is to keep a “food and mood” diary.
Tracking your eating and exercise habits and how you feel can help you distinguish patterns. Doing so allows you to work on breaking any negative cycles of behavior.
Use a Routine
If you’re overeating because you aren’t eating adequately during the day, then getting yourself into a routine can help.
Structured eating and sleeping times will help you spread your food consumption over the day so that you’re less hungry at night.
Getting adequate sleep is essential when it comes to managing your food intake and weight.
Lack of sleep and short sleep span has been linked to higher calorie intake and poor-quality diets. Over an extended period, poor sleep can raise your risk of obesity and related diseases.
Having established times for eating and sleeping can assist you to separate the two activities. More so, if you are prone to waking in the night to eat.
Plan Your Meals
As part of your routine, you may also profit from using a meal plan.
Planning your meals and having healthy snacks can decrease your chances of eating on impulse and making poor food choices.
Having a meal plan can also reduce anxiety about how much you are eating and help you spread your food throughout the day, holding hunger at bay.
Seek Emotional Support
If you think you may have a nighttime eating syndrome or binge eating disorder, then you may want to seek professional help.
A professional can help you distinguish your triggers and implement a treatment plan.
These plans frequently use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), shown to help with many eating disorders.
Creating an emotional aid network will also help you find ways to manage negative emotions, which otherwise might lead you to the fridge.
Anxiety and stress are two of the most obvious reasons why people eat when they aren’t hungry. However, using food to subdue your emotions is a bad idea.
If you realized that you eat when you are anxious or stressed, try to look for another way to let go of negative emotions and relax.
A study has shown that relaxation techniques can help manage eating disorders. Some relaxation techniques you can do are breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga.
Add more fun to your life. This is excellent advice.
Being told to develop more joy in your daily routine is a serious win.
Here’s the thing: Eating at night can turn into a preferred way to relax and wind down.
Hence, knowing that you have that pint of ice cream expecting for you in the freezer can get you through a tough day. It can even transform into your day’s highlight or even your prime source of joy, entertainment, and fun.
This is when it could become an issue.
Ask yourself: What are you missing in your life?
Are you craving joy? Self-nurturing? Comfort? So add more of it – and then you may find that you’re less likely to fulfill that need with food.
Eat Regularly Throughout the Day
Overeating at night has been linked to irregular eating patterns that can often be categorized as disordered eating.
Eating at planned periods throughout the day in line with “normal” eating patterns can help keep your blood sugar stable.
It can also help stop feelings of ravenous hunger, tiredness, irritability, or a perceived lack of food, which can lead to indulgence.
When you’re starving, you are more likely to make poor food choices and approach for high-fat, high-sugar junk foods.
Researchers find that those with regular meal times (eating three or more times per day) have better appetite control and lower weight.
Generally speaking, eating less than three times per day is considered to decrease your ability to control your appetite and food choices.
However, it’s essential to note that results in this area have been mixed.
The best eating frequency for controlling hunger and the amount of food eaten is likely to vary among people.
Not eating plenty throughout the day “sets the table,” so to speak, for overeating at night. It makes sense, right?
If you’ve been stripping your body of the nutrients and energy that it needs, you’re going to get frustrated and go searching for food!
When we limit our intake, we’re forced to head into a bout of bingeing or overeating because our bodies have a lot of lost time to make up for!
Allow yourself to eat more regularly and understand that skipping meals won’t do you any good. Make sure to eat well-balanced meals over the day to stop excessive intake at night.
Include Protein at Every Meal
Different foods can have different impacts on your appetite.
If you eat due to hunger, adding protein at every meal may help curb your appetite.
It could also help you feel more satiated throughout the day, stop you from being preoccupied with food, and help prevent snacking at night.
One study found that eating many high-protein meals reduced cravings by 60% and cut the desire to eat at night by half.
Don’t Keep Junk Food in the House
If you are inclined to eating high-fat, high-sugar junk food at night, take it out from your house.
If unhealthy bites aren’t within easy reach, you are much less likely to eat them.
Instead, fill your house with healthy food that you appreciate. Then when you have the urge to eat, you won’t indulge in junk foods.
Good snack-friendly meals to have available if you get hungry include fruits, berries, plain yogurt, and cottage cheese.
These are very filling and apparently won’t cause you to overeat if you do end up becoming ravenously hungry late at night.
If you find yourself preoccupied with thoughts of food because you’re bored, then find something else you fancy doing in the evening.
This will help keep your mind occupied.
Finding a new hobby or planning evening exercises can help prevent mindless late-night snacking.
We all have habits – for almost every part of our day. What is the system in which you get ready in the morning? What is the direction that you drive to work? What are the lines that you follow every time your best friend calls you with a problem?
But we all have routines around eating, too – whether it’s a time of day, location, or activity. Think about how frequently you order pizza when you watch a movie.
We all fall into these routines and connections. So, switching those routines can help break the habit of eating at night.
For instance, if you’re used to eating while working, move to your office. If TV is your signal to begin snacking, consider whether it’s necessary to watch TV at night.
Maybe you could start to play a board game or go for a walk instead.
But if the TV is crucial to you, that’s okay, too. Maybe pair it with a new activity so that food becomes less incorporated with those murder mysteries you’re so addicted to.
Just remember that it’ll take practice before the new routine feels comfortable and comforting. So don’t give up if it doesn’t feel great at first!
If you need (or want) to eat something right before bed, you can lessen the impact on your weight and wellbeing. All you need to do is consume a healthy snack and limit your portion sizes.
Make Your Snack Count
Perhaps you’ve worked all these things, and you still want a snack or dessert. Make your dessert worth your while and think of it as a treat.
If you’re having dessert regularly at night, the probabilities are you do not have it as much as you would if you had it on occasion.
Make an event out of it—go out for small ice cream once per week. If you find yourself that would rather have a little treat before bed, aim to keep it to about 150 calories.11
- 1 container of low-fat Greek yogurt (you can freeze it, so it’s ice cream texture)
- 1 low-fat pudding cup
- 1 1/2 cup frozen strawberries (frozen fruit takes a long time to eat and is refreshing)
- 3 cups air-popped popcorn
- 1/2 cup of ice cream
- 1 slice of whole-grain bread with a teaspoon of nut butter (cashew, peanut, almond)
- 1 piece of fresh fruit (size of a tennis ball), 1 cup of berries, or 1 cup melon
Depending upon your diet and health issues, you can opt for whole fruit or small dark chocolate quantities when you want something sweet.
Things that give a pleasing “crunch” during the day, like chopped celery on your salad, carrots, cabbage, etc., can also help amazingly.
We are meant to taste and crunch, and the stress of most of our regular work lives adds to this urge. If we don’t unload it during the day, then we have more of a desire to do so in the evening.
You might also try adding dehydrated vegetables as flavor enhancers. For example, adding a few sundried tomatoes (without oil) to your salad can make all the difference in comfort and satiation. They also blend very well in soups.
And remember, adding a few planned extra calories to your dinner meal is much better than a significant amount of spontaneous, unplanned snacking.
- Sleep and obesity
- Blood Sugar: Hidden Causes of High Blood Sugar Levels in the Morning
- The Big Picture: Checking Your Blood Glucose
- Missing Meals? Avoid Dangerous Blood Sugar if You Have Diabetes
- Eating two larger meals a day (breakfast and lunch) is more effective than six smaller meals in a reduced-energy regimen for patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomised crossover study
- Optimal management of night eating syndrome: challenges and solutions
- Why eating late at night may be particularly bad for you and your diet
- Psychological Treatments for Binge Eating Disorder
- Are You a Night Eater? 5 Tips to Curb the Cravings and Stop Eating at Night
- How to Stop Overeating at Night
- 10 Clever Ways to Stop Eating Late at Night