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. Learn these smart ways to stop eating late at night. 

Especially 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 a practical guide to help you stop late-night eating once and for all.

business man eating burger late at night

What causes late-night eating?

Before you can stop late-night eating, you must understand why it happens to begin with. Because 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

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’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.

3.   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.

4.   You’re extremely stressed.

Stress triggers cortisol, which is your stress hormone.

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.

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.

late night eating female in the dark, looking in the refrigerator

How to stop late-night eating

Now that you understand what causes late-night eating and why it isn’t good for you, let’s look at some practical ways to overcome it.

1.   Eliminate processed carbs, sugar, or any added sugar from your diet

Processed food for dinner will leave you hungry with the urge to snack after eating.

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.

2.   Eat a high-fat and protein but low carb dinner

Hunger and cravings are best controlled when your entire diet is low in carbs and sufficient amounts of fat, protein, and fiber.

A meal containing enough fiber, protein, and fat will make you feel satiated, keeping you full for longer with fewer chances to snack.

Go for whole grains, nuts, vegetables, olive oil, avocado, etc.

If you’re feeling hungry after dinner, it might just be that your dinner is lacking enough protein, fats, and even fiber. So examine your meals and make the necessary changes.

3.   Avoid a long gap between dinner and bedtime

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.

If that’s you, try to reduce the gap to 2-3 hours. And if it’s not possible, at least snack on something healthy like nuts or less sugary fruit like green apples or kiwi.

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.

The problem with blue light is that it 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.

See if you can reduce your blue light exposure by putting on blue light filters on your device or using orange goggles.

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 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.

7.   Avoid stocking up on junk food

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.

Late-night eating is a common problem for most people. However, the tips in this article can only apply to mild cases of late-night eating.

Suppose 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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