How To Stop Eating At Night 2023: 9 Things To Keep In Mind
Many people struggle with eating late at night then suffer emotional and physical consequences for days after. You may have tried to stop eating late at night cold turkey and had no success. Perhaps you changed what you eat so that you’re eating healthy late night snacks instead of junk food. But you may still need help creating better habits so that you have a healthy cut-off point for when to stop eating (even if the food is healthy). If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. This article will dive into the many reasons why you may feel like you need to snack past bedtime. It will also provide sustainable tactics to help you kick the habit for good.
How To Stop Eating At Night?
- Practice Pausing
- Delayed Gratification
- Keep a Glass Of Water By Your Bed
- Eat Protein with Every Meal (especially breakfast)
- Eat Healthy Fat with Dinner
- Balance Your Blood Sugar
- Drink Fluids Throughout the Day
- Space Your Meals Throughout the Day
- Keep a Food Diary
What Causes Nighttime Eating?
Nighttime eating is a complicated phenomenon. It’s not solely driven by physical reasons, nor is it solely driven by emotional ones – it’s both. Physically, eating during the night could be caused by low blood sugar, which causes cravings and low energy, leading us to seek out food. Certain medications or hormonal fluctuations are other physical factors that can also cause us to reach for food late at night. However, many times nighttime eating is a habitual routine that provides more emotional comfort than physical satiety. We may be reaching for ice cream when what we really want is love or safety. It can be about how food makes us feel. Becoming aware of your triggers and what the real reason for your hunger is is the first step in changing your habits. From there, you can try different tactics to help break the late night eating cycle.
How To Stop Eating At Night?
First and foremost, late night eating is a habit. This means we repeatedly do it, sometimes without even thinking. We may be so used to it, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Because it’s automatic, it’s also quick. One minute we’re having a craving and the next minute, there’s a donut in our mouth! One of the greatest tools to get you out of the habit is to stop as soon as you notice the urge to eat. Stop, pause, and just notice. If you want to go to the kitchen after that, that’s fine. But at least go into the kitchen with a little more awareness. Make pausing before snacking a new habit.
Oftentimes, the desire to eat late is a compulsion. We want to eat, and we want to eat now. It can be difficult to delay the desire and the pleasure we will get from eating. But if we can practice patience and remind ourselves that we don’t have to give in to the craving, we can begin to break the habit. Remind yourself that you can hold off and enjoy a big, delicious breakfast in the morning. This can help us feel more at ease with not eating at night.
Keep A Glass Of Water By Your Bed
Sometimes we just feel a little peckish and may want a snack before bed. We may even feel a little hunger pang. But eating late can interfere with our body’s natural sleep and wake cycles. It can also cause disruptions to sleep, which then cause a vicious cycle of craving sweets the next day.
So instead of reaching for food to ease the hunger sensation, keep a glass of water by your bed and sip it as soon as you feel the urge to snack. Sometimes just having a little liquid in your stomach can help the hunger feeling subside long enough for you to fall asleep soundly.
Eat Protein And Fiber At Every Meal
The standard American diet is heavy in simple, processed carbohydrates. Things like french fries and refined flour: Bread, pizza, pasta, pancakes, waffles, etc. The problem with refined carbs is that they digest quickly, a little too quickly and spike blood sugar, which makes us more hungry later. Adding protein and fiber to every meal will help balance the carbs out, slowing down how the sugar from the carbs gets absorbed in the body. This leads to less hunger and cravings.
Eating protein and fiber is especially important for breakfast because as the first meal of the day, it sets the tone for how you’ll feel for the rest of the day. Swap out your pancakes and bagels for eggs and avocado with brown rice, a veggie omelet, or salmon and cheese on whole grain toast.
Eat Healthy Fat With Dinner
Healthy fat can help curb hunger because fat consumption triggers hormones that make us feel satiated. Healthy fat comes from fatty fish, nuts and nut butters, seeds, avocados, and eggs, rather than processed foods. If you want to feel full well into the night, make sure to include some healthy fat in your dinner. If you forget, just have a spoon full of nut butter afterwards or a handful of seeds.
Balance Your Blood Sugar
Prioritize keeping your blood sugar stable. Oftentimes we crave food not because we’re malnourished, but because our blood sugar is low. We can control our blood sugar by making sure we’re eating balanced meals throughout the day, not snacking and not eating any carbs/starches/sugars on an empty stomach. Other ways to balance blood sugar include keeping stress at a minimum, drinking a spoonful of apple cider vinegar diluted in water before each meal and eating in a certain order: Fiber first (veggies), followed by protein and fat and saving the carbs/starches/sugar for last.
Drink Fluids Throughout The Day
Dehydration can masquerade as hunger. It sounds odd, but it’s true. When we feel hungry we assume it’s time to eat, but what we might be feeling is thirst. Before eating, ask yourself if you’ve drunk enough clear fluids that day. Try drinking a full glass of water each time you feel the urge to snack and see if you still feel the urge once you’re well hydrated.
Space Your Meals Throughout The Day
Constant snacking may seem like it’ll fill you up, but it just causes more blood sugar spikes and subsequent hunger. One of the best ways to ensure you won’t feel hungry late at night is to have three or four well-balanced meals throughout the day, spacing them out evenly. If you skip meals or eat many small meals too close together, you’ll likely want to binge on food later.
Keep A Food Diary
Many of us eat late at night out of habit, unaware of what we’re eating or why. We feel the urge to eat, we assume it’s hunger, we reach for food, and the next thing you know, we’re feeling physically and emotionally bad for eating so late. That’s why keeping a diary can be a helpful tool to provide insight into what we’re eating, when, how much, and even why.
Once you start tracking your food, you may notice patterns or see information that can help you make more informed decisions. For example, you may read an entry that shows that you’ve already eaten four healthy meals that day, which may then trigger the realization that you’re not actually hungry like you thought you were.
Benefits Of Stopping Nighttime Eating
Limit Body Weight Gain
Late night snacking can cause excess weight gain. Our body needs time to rest and time to digest, however, not necessarily at the same time. When we sleep, the body needs to slow down and go into relaxation mode. But when we eat junk food late at night, we’re giving our body mixed signals: work hard digesting food and sleep.
Essentially, when we eat late, the calories from the food don’t get metabolized well because the body is trying to be in sleep mode. This also explains why we often don’t sleep well when we eat late at night – both sleep and digestion suffer. Studies have shown that those who are more prone to eat at night, such as late-night shift workers, have higher amounts of obesity. Once we limit late night snacking, we can limit weight gain.
Minimize The Risk Of Chronic Diseases
Late night snacking can have consequences on our blood sugar and cholesterol, and can disrupt our sleep. Over time, these behaviors can cause cholesterol levels to rise, repeated blood sugar spikes which lead to inflammation and hormone imbalance and the body begins to be more susceptible to chronic disease. When we stop eating late at night, we reduce our risk of developing chronic disease and allow our body to heal.
Feel More In Control
Because nighttime eating is often an emotional habit, we can feel like we’re out of control when we engage in the behavior. When we stop eating late at night and just sit with the craving instead of acting on it, we begin to take back control of our lives. We also begin to realize what may be driving the desire to snack. These realizations can be empowering and help put us back in the driver’s seat of our own lives. Though, in cases where late night eating is due to night eating syndrome (a type of eating disorder), those individuals may need to seek professional help to stop.
Late night eating can show up externally. If you’ve ever gotten a pimple from eating chocolate or pizza, you know there is a direct connection between the gut and the skin. When we eat late, our body is not primed to work on digesting and absorbing nutrients. It can’t metabolize the food as it should, so food can be poorly digested, creating inflammation on the skin and clogged pores. When we stop eating late at night, our skin and outward appearance begins to improve.
Resolve The Root Of The Issue
Eating late at night and binging on food is rarely about physical hunger. It usually runs much deeper – an emotional connection to food. Perhaps it’s comfort, hence the term “comfort food”. Perhaps it’s about control or perhaps it’s about trying to feel a certain way through food that you’re lacking in your life (safety, love, support).
Food can also be tied to our history, where eating a certain food helps us get in touch with a memory we long to relive. When we stop eating late at night and let the urge pass, we become more in tune with what the real issue is. And when we know what the underlying issue is, we can work to resolve it. In that sense, we find what we are truly hungry for and fill that hunger with something that will provide real, lasting satiety.
Eating during the nighttime can be due to a variety of physical and emotional factors. From not being hydrated enough, to imbalanced blood sugar, to habitual emotional fulfillment, nighttime eating is a complicated behavior that takes some time to break. However, once you get to the real reason you’re snacking, you can begin to see that not only is nighttime eating harming your health, but it won’t provide whatever it is that you’re truly searching for. Taking the time to balance your blood sugar, focus on protein, hydrate, and resist the initial urge to snack are just some of the essential practices to start so that you can break the late night eating habit and become the healthiest version of yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you wait out the initial urge to snack and have a glass of water and you still feel legitimately hungry, then of course, make sure you feed yourself. However, the importance lies in being able to make the distinction between emotional hunger/habit and physical hunger. Take time to decipher before jumping into eating.
Eat well-balanced meals, spaced evenly throughout the day. Always have protein, fat, complex carbs and fiber at every meal. Eat the fiber first and always save the carbs for last. Make sure to include healthy fat with dinner.
Snacking at night will usually contribute to weight gain, so stopping this habit can certainly help you lose weight. However, weight loss will vary from person to person, and will require other lifestyle changes including eating a healthy diet (during the day), sleeping well and exercising.
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