Are you a nighttime eater? Do you restrict food consumption all day long only to binge on salty and/or sugary treats post-dinner regularly? Well, this behavior is known as Night Eating Syndrome (NES) and is a major cause of obesity (1). A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that nighttime eaters consume 300 calories extra every day, which led them to gain 14 pounds (2)! Thankfully, there are ways to curb your untimely hunger. This article discusses ways to stop nighttime eating. But first, let’s find out what causes nighttime eating. Swipe up!
What Causes Nighttime Eating/Binging?
Nighttime eating or binging is characterized by regular overeating post-dinner, after waking up in the middle of sleep, while watching television after dinner, working on your computer, or just because you feel bored.
The main causes of nighttime eating are depression, anxiety, an imbalance in the satiety and hunger hormones, consuming very few calories during the day, skipping breakfast, and not drinking enough water. Clearly, these habits can be changed by making a conscious effort. So, let’s get to that and talk about ways to stop nighttime eating post dinner.
15 Best Ways To Stop Nighttime Eating
Most night eaters/bingers think that they can never get over this behavior and will always be chubby. But that’s not true. The truth is, you have to take baby steps to change your habit permanently. Let’s me show you how.
1. Identify Your Triggers
Start by identifying what triggers you to reach out for that bag chips or a leftover pastry from the previous night. Is it really hunger or craving you are giving in to? The difference between hunger and craving is that hunger builds up slowly, but craving is the urge to eat something immediately. You might start feeling hungry sooner if you don’t have a filling dinner. Look closely to identify emotional triggers – if you are feeling low, had a bad day, are stressed out about work, etc. Also, watching TV or movies, reading a book, or studying can trigger untimely binging or hunger.
The best way to find out why you are eating the extra food after dinner is to maintain a journal. Record what, why, and when you are eating. It will help you come to a rational conclusion instead of just guessing.
2. Check Your Hormones
The main hormones that decide whether you should eat or not are insulin, ghrelin, leptin, cortisol, and peptide YY. Any imbalance in the levels of these hormones can lead to a feeling of hunger and overeating. If you are diabetic, have PCOs, or are pre-diabetic, chances are you are insulin resistant. And as a result, you will eat more and store the excess glucose in the form of fat. Leptin is the satiety hormone, and ghrelin is the hunger hormone. Erratic food habits and lifestyle can lead to an imbalance in these hormones and disrupt your eating habits. Peptide YY is like leptin, but when you consume foods that are high in calories and low in nutritional value, it signals the brain that you need more food.
3. Meal Planning Is Important
When you are aware of what is causing you to eat after dinner, you will be able to plan your day and meals. Planning might sound boring, but it is a habit that makes people successful. And there’s nothing wrong in planning your day, your food, and your life. Use your journal to write down what you intend to eat during the day and night. Take baby steps. Do not suddenly go on a 1500-calorie diet from a 2500-calorie diet. Also, write your plan down so that it becomes your goal for the next day and you adhere to it.
4. Kitchen Makeover
The next step is to give your kitchen the much-needed makeover. Get rid of all the unhealthy junk and sugary treats. You know, out of sight out of mind. Take a trip to your local grocery store and vegetable market. Get fresh veggies, fruits, lean protein (fish, chicken, eggs, mushroom, lentils, beans, tofu, and soy chunks), healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, ghee, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, and rice bran oil), dairy, herbs, and spices. Avoid cream cheese, canola oil, milk chocolate, ice cream, cake, high GI foods like mango, grapes, and white potato.
5. Have A Filling Breakfast
Now that you have everything you need, you can easily stay off the high-calorie junk foods. Get up at least 15 minutes earlier and fix a wholesome and filling breakfast. Sounds like a lot of work, but it is not. Here are a few quick and easy healthy breakfast recipes for weight loss.
Breakfast fuels your brain and muscles, keeps you productive and alert all day long, and also prevents you from binging on junk at night.
6. Do Not Starve During The Day
A filling breakfast will keep you satiated for 2-3 hours. And then, you will slowly start to feel hungry. In fact, you may start to feel hungry within two hours of having your breakfast. Instead of starving yourself, have a small healthy meal/snack. You can have a cup of green tea/black coffee and multigrain biscuits, a fruit or a small bowl of fruit salad, or coconut water. Have a small meal or snack post lunch, one hour before working out, and 15-30 minutes after workout. This will prevent you from feeling extremely hungry at night.
7. Drink Water
Between your big and small meals, drink adequate amounts of water. You must aim to drink at least 3 liters per day. If you keep forgetting, set a reminder on your phone. Add cucumber, mint leaves, etc. to your water to make it more visually appealing. Water is important not only because it helps boost metabolism, but sometimes when we feel thirsty and don’t drink water, our brain signals us to eat. And, instead of drinking water, we end up eating.
8. Add Protein To Every Meal
Adding protein to every meal will help increase your satiety levels. And that’s because protein is tough to digest and will remain your digestive system for a long duration. Consume chicken breast, fish, ground turkey, mushroom, lentils, beans, soy chunks, tofu, or eggs in every meal.
9. Add Fiber To Your Meals
Another way to keep your satiety levels high is to include dietary fiber in your meals. Dietary fiber is good carbohydrate that humans cannot digest. But it forms a gel-like layer in your digestive system, thereby slowing down digestion and absorption, making you feel full for a long duration. Also, it encapsulates the fat molecules and prevents fat absorption, supports the peristaltic movement of the colon, and flushes out toxins from the body.
10. No Distractions At Dinner
You might eat and drink the right things at the right time and continue your old habit of binging at night. So, you have to step up your game by taking control of your mind and not the other way round. First, cut off all distractions during your dinner. Toss your phone away, and shut down your laptop/TV/ tab. Look at your food and eat. This will give you a visual cue about the amount of food you are eating, what you are eating, and also help you enjoy the taste and flavors of the dish. When you actually see how much you are eating, you will stop yourself from eating just after dinner.
11. Relax And Meditate
As mentioned before, a lot of times, late night eaters indulge in emotional eating. So, if you are always stressed out, worried, and depressed, meditate regularly. Yes, it will be tough in the beginning, so start by meditating for a minute and then gradually increase the time. Also, try to relax by chanting “Om”, listening to music, getting a massage or a foot spa, etc.
12. Do What You Love
Doing what you love helps you de-stress and lowers anxiety, depression, and mental fatigue. Take out 10 minutes from your schedule and just do what you want to – painting, singing, dancing, learning a new skill, reading a book, writing, vlogging, cooking, or playing. When your stress levels are low, the cortisol levels come down. As a result, the inflammation levels decrease, metabolism speeds up, and you lose weight.
13. Emotional Support
If doing what you love is not helping you, seek emotional support from friends and/or family. Talking to people who know you and empathize with you will help you release all the negative emotions that you are holding in. This is a great way to detoxify and de-stress. If you are not ready to talk about your problems with someone you know, see a psychiatrist who will remain non-judgemental and allow you to take your time to process your emotions, directing you to take charge of your life.
14. Brush Your Teeth After Dinner
Yup! Brushing your teeth after dinner will prevent you from eating again. The taste of the toothpaste will signal your brain that it’s bedtime now, and the kitchen is closed. In fact, you will not feel like eating after brushing your teeth.
15. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation is closely related to weight gain. When you sleep, your body recharges and rejuvenates the muscles, bones, and brain. Going to bed within 2-3 hours of having your dinner will prevent you from binging on junk food. So, get good sleep, wake up fresh, and prepare and have your breakfast before you head out.
These are the 15 ways you can prevent yourself from eating late at night after you’ve had your dinner. These will work only if you take a little effort to make them work. And I believe you can do it. Yes, there will be slip-ups initially, but don’t let that stop you. Get going and put an end to nighttime eating. Cheers!
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