Many people have problems with eating late at night. This can cause several health issues, such as weight gain and insomnia, which are difficult to overcome unless you learn how to stop eating late at night in the first place.
If you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle, late-night eating is top on the list as one of the worst offenders to achieving your health goals. Mainly because you are more than likely to eat only the bad stuff you’ll never hear someone say they snack on broccoli or cauliflower late at night.
It’s usually unhealthy foods like refined carbohydrates and sugars.
This article gives you practical and effective ways to help you stop late-night eating once and for all.
How to Stop Eating Late at Night
How to stop eating late at night may seem like a simple problem, but if you’re having trouble doing it consistently, then it might be that your eating habits are deeply ingrained and hard to shake.
Besides, late-night eating can seriously mess with your health in the long run. So making an effort to stop eating so late at night will pay off in the long run. Here are tips to help you cut back on eating too late at night so you can wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day!
1. Eliminate processed carbs, sugar, or any added sugar from your diet
One of the most obvious ways you can stop eating late at night is by eliminating processed foods and added sugar from your diet. Even natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and agave should be eliminated from your diet. This is because sugars and other processed foods get digested quickly, leaving you hungry after a short period of time. This can trigger an urge to snack shortly after dinner or later at night.
On the other hand, whole foods have fiber, which helps slow down digestion and slowly releases sugar over a long period without you feeling hungry. See How To Avoid Processed Foods.
2. Eat a diet rich in healthy fats and protein but low in carbs
Many people who stop eating late at night report that they found success in reducing hunger and cravings by increasing their fat and protein intake—specifically within two hours of bedtime.
People tend to have higher levels of leptin, a hormone that tells our bodies we’re full, after consuming fats and proteins than after consuming carbs. So it might be time to make some changes to your diet. Healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, and nuts are all good choices to include in your diet.
If you’re feeling hungry after dinner, it might just be that your dinner is lacking enough protein and fats.
So examine your meals and make the necessary changes. See Low-Calorie Foods That Will Fill You Up.
3. Avoid a long gap between dinner and bedtime
It’s easy to fall into a routine of eating dinner, doing some work, watching some TV, and then going to bed. If you want to avoid overeating late at night, make sure you don’t stay up too late after dinner.
A gap between dinner and bedtime is generally recommended, it’s better for your digestion, and you are less likely to have issues like acid reflux. But a gap that’s too long, for instance, if you take your dinner at 6 pm and you’re going to bed at 1 am, you’re likely going to snack.
You can also try drinking warm tea like chamomile or taking a bath before hitting the sack. These two simple activities can help you relax and get ready for sleep.
Additionally, don’t go to bed hungry: Many people who eat late at night often do so because they are hungry.
4. Avoid blue light from devices in the evening
Blue light is the light that’s emitted from devices such as phone screens, tv, laptops, etc.
Exposure to blue light late in the day can disrupt your circadian rhythm or your body’s natural clock. As a result, it can make it harder for you to fall asleep and cause trouble sleeping throughout your night.
To shut off that blue light in the evening, avoid electronics or wear orange-tinted glasses instead. And try not to look at screens right before bed—it could mess with your sleep cycle even more. In fact, one study found that people who read on tablets before bed took longer to fall asleep than those who read printed books.
Another reason: The glow from screens makes it harder for your brain to distinguish between wakefulness and sleep, making it more difficult for you to feel tired when it’s time for bed. This tricks the brain into thinking that it’s daytime, and because of that, the body doesn’t produce sufficient amounts of the sleep hormone, which makes it difficult to fall asleep.
And when you are sleep-deprived, it affects your appetite control, causing you to overeat.
5. Try taking a liquid each time you feel the urge to eat
Quite often, your body may perceive thirst and boredom for hunger. Try drinking a glass of sparkling water with lemon or warm water with some cinnamon or tea, like chamomile tea, slowly over 10-15 minutes, and see what happens. You may end up not snacking at all.
6. Manage your stress
When you are stressed out and anxious, your body is typically in a fight or flight mode. This means that your cortisol levels are high, which makes you crave things that provide instant pleasure.
By managing your stress, you can lower your cortisol levels and get into a more relaxed state where you don’t feel so hungry all the time. Start by eliminating stressful triggers like working late and watching TV before bed.
In addition, when stressed, people tend to make poor food decisions like going for cookies, candies, donuts, etc., and if you examine yourself, when you’re not stressed, you don’t reach for those foods as much.
Look into your stress management and see if there is something you can do to manage your stress better.
One simple way to manage stress is to do some self-care. Be it your hair, skin, teeth, or nails, these will help defocus your need to snack and provide an outlet to release the pressure. See Why Is Stress Management Important?
7. Avoid stocking up on junk food
Junk food is engineered to make you crave it, and late-night snacking is one of its biggest triggers. One study found that cravings for certain foods peaked in mid-evening hours, especially among participants who had poor self-control.
If you find yourself reaching for a midnight snack or a soda during your next Netflix binge session, try filling up on more nutritious fare beforehand—such as fruit or whole grains. The fiber will help fill you up so that when hunger pangs strike, you’ll be less likely to reach for unhealthy options.
Besides, if you don’t have junk food at home, you’re not going to eat it. But as long as it’s within your reach, you’ll be tempted even when you are not hungry.
8. Know your triggers
To help you avoid eating late at night, it’s important to know what your triggers are. Before going to bed, take note of how many hours you typically spend awake and when you tend to feel hungry (e.g., 10 p.m.). Once you’ve identified your mealtime patterns, create an action plan that includes either healthier options or ways to distract yourself from overeating.
For example, if watching TV always makes you want a snack, try reading instead. Or, if you find yourself craving something sweet after dinner, keep some dark chocolate in your fridge.
9. Use a routine
One of the first strategies to avoid late-night snacking is developing a routine. This will help you schedule your meals during specific times, avoid temptation, and give yourself structure. Create a pre-bedtime routine that includes eating dinner early, brushing your teeth, taking a shower, etc.
Following a routine will help your body adjust and make you less likely to reach for snacks once it’s time to hit snooze. While we may not be able to control our cravings 100 percent of the time, these practices can bring you closer to effectively managing late-night eating habits.
What Causes Eating Late at Night
While you may be focusing on how to stop eating late at night, you must first understand why it happens. If you can identify the source and address it, you are definitely going to win.
Here are the top 4 reasons as to why you are likely to eat late at night.
1. You are not eating enough during the day
When you are not eating enough during the day, your body thinks that you are starving, so your metabolic rate slows down. This can make you more hungry at night, causing you to want to eat more.
But sometimes, it’s not about eating less but eating less frequently because your body will respond differently to both patterns.
For instance, in intermittent fasting, some people double up on their efforts because they want to achieve their results faster, so they put themselves on a massive calorie deficit on top of their fasting schedule.
But if you don’t eat enough during the day, you’ll not activate the satiety hormones that control hunger; come late at night, you’ll be hungry with a need to snack.
Not eating enough during the day also triggers cravings for something sugary or salty, usually late at night, so your body can get a quick source of fuel to make up for what it didn’t get earlier that day. This is why cutting calories doesn’t work.
2. You could be having a medical condition
Certain conditions, such as hypothyroidism, can cause irregular hunger and sleep patterns. Your doctor may be able to prescribe something that will regulate your body’s natural sleep/wake cycle.
Additionally, there are certain medications that have been known to cause excessive hunger or insomnia. If you suspect medications are causing your late-night eating, speak with a doctor or pharmacist about what might help you get back on track.
3. You’re eating too many refined carbs and sugar for dinner
Refined carbohydrates and sugars digest really quickly, causing a short-lived spike in blood glucose followed by hunger.
Carbohydrates are an essential part of a balanced diet, but it’s important to avoid refined carbs as much as possible. Refined carbohydrates have little nutritional value and tend to raise blood sugar rapidly. They also lead to higher levels of insulin, which can increase appetite.
When you eat refined carbs at night, they’re more likely to result in extra calories that may turn into fat gain. When choosing your carbs, opt for whole grains like brown rice or quinoa instead of white bread or pasta. These foods digest slowly and provide energy without causing spikes in blood sugar or insulin levels.
4. You didn’t eat enough protein at dinner
Protein, along with fat, signals that you are satisfied and don’t need to keep eating. Specifically, it triggers the release of certain hormones like peptide YY triggered by protein, and CCK, which is triggered by fat. These hormones tell your brain that you’re full and you don’t need to eat anymore.
5. You’re extremely stressed.
Late-night eating is often associated with stress. We might eat to cope with our troubles or to relax after a hard day’s work. Also, our body produces more cortisol (the stress hormone) as it gets later in the day, and studies have shown that high levels of cortisol lead to weight gain by causing changes in appetite and metabolism.
For instance, chronically high cortisol levels lead to chronically high insulin levels. Insulin being a storing hormone will store all the glucose, which will starve the cells and trigger hunger feelings.
6. It could be due to hormonal imbalance
Many experts believe that night-eating syndrome has a hormonal root. According to new research, two specific hormones are known to cause erratic feeding behavior: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone that gives us cravings for sweets, snacks, and other energy-dense foods.
Meanwhile, leptin is responsible for telling us when we’re full, so we can stop eating. Researchers have found that people with the night-eating syndrome tend to have higher ghrelin levels than those who don’t suffer from it.
This may be because they also tend to have lower melatonin levels, which regulate sleep cycles and may suppress appetite during nighttime hours.
In addition, many people with late-night eating tendencies also struggle with disrupted circadian rhythms. See Natural Hormonal Imbalance Treatment.
Why is Late-Night Eating Bad For You?
You may be wondering, is late-night eating really that bad?
The simple answer is yes! And here is why
1. It increases your risk of chronic diseases
While what you eat matters when you eat matters even more.
Your metabolism changes throughout the day. For example, if you were to consume the same food throughout the day, you would expect the same sugar spike, but that’s not the case. In the morning, your blood sugar spikes will be lower than in the evening for the exact same meal and quantity of food.
This is because in the evening, 2-3 hours before bedtime, your brain secretes melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone to help you fall asleep. But that’s not all. Melatonin tells your pancreas to stop releasing insulin, but your blood sugars will stay high without insulin.
This can be a danger, especially for someone with diabetes or those with borderline elevated blood sugars. Also, high sugar in the blood may impair your immune system, cause inflammation, and damage the blood vessels supplying different organs. This can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, and nerve problems. Read More.
2. It can increase the risk of nighttime acid reflux.
It’s a healthy practice to eat at least 2-3 hours before bedtime, and this is because, with late-night eating, you’re likely to lie down in bed almost immediately. With digestion still going on, the food being metabolized may put pressure on your lower esophageal sphincter, causing food and stomach acid regurgitation back into the esophagus.
This can lead to acidity, nighttime acid reflux, and pain in the middle of the chest. Read More.
3. It may cause poor memory and concentration
Late-night eating often comes with an irregular eating pattern. This can affect your circadian pattern, affecting your brain’s ability to learn, concentrate, and memorize. Read More.
Now that you understand how to stop eating late at night, it’s good to keep in mind that late-night eating can be extremely difficult to break free from, but it doesn’t have to be!
There are plenty of strategies you can use to break your late-night binge cycle and ensure that you stay in control of your eating habits. With the right combination of willpower and strategic planning, including following the tips discussed above, you can stop late-night eating and gain control over your health.
However, if you have a chronic situation- that you even wake up to eat at night, in that case, you could be dealing with an eating disorder, and maybe it’s time to seek professional help, as this may require a slightly different strategy to overcome your late-night eating.
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