Late-night eating is an unhealthy practice that can make you consume more calories than needed, increasing your risk for obesity, heart disease, and many other conditions. Thankfully, small but smart hacks like identifying the cause & triggers of late-night eating, spreading meals throughout the day, sticking to a routine, planning your meals, distracting yourself, getting into the move, and increasing your protein intake per meal can help you stop the habit.
Late-night eating is a destructive habit linked to increased calorie and carb intake, leading to further increase in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions’ risk. Studies show that eating disorders, particularly binge eating disorder (BED) and nighttime eating syndrome (NES), are the primary causes of late-night eating, but many other factors actually contribute to this practice. Regardless of the cause, getting into a routine, de-stressing, distracting yourself, getting into the move, seeking professional help, planning your meals, and distributing them throughout the day will go a long way to effectively help you break the nighttime eating habit. See below for details.
i. Identify what causes your late-night cravings
As part of stopping late-night eating habits, you need to identify and understand the causes behind the chain. We often cannot know where we are going unless we know where we have come from, and this is true for late-night eating. Studies show that binge eating disorder (BED) or nighttime eating syndrome (NES) often trigger late-night eating, and you can try establishing if you suffer from any of these disorders. If not, find out what else could be causing your unhealthy habit. Henceforth, you will likely apply other techniques herein discussed to cut the nighttime eating chain.
ii. Identify the triggers
Identifying the triggers of nighttime eating may sound like part of point number one, but it can also stand on its own. Triggers could be anything from stress to frustrations to mishaps to being broke, among many other things. As such, critically self-examine yourself to know what triggers your late-night eating. You could use a ‘food and mood diary to track your feelings and what you eat late in the night when they engulf you, helping you know how to break the chain.
iii. Seek professional and emotional help
You might have to seek professional help to stop loading the body with calories. This will particularly be helpful when you suspect you could be suffering from BED or NES. Health professionals will use elimination methods to help you know what your problem is likely to be. Besides, you might benefit from emotional support if your late-night eating habit is stress-related.
Handling stress better helps you easily come to terms with life’s eventualities and stop stress-related nighttime eating since stress is among the main drivers of BED, NES, and other eating practices. Consequently, de-stressing will effectively help you break the unhealthy chain. Mediation, nature walks, reaching out to friends, and yoga classes are among the multiple ways you could go to de-stress.
v. Get into a routine
Some people overindulge late into the night because they don’t get quality sleep. Consequently, you can smartly stop eating late into the night by getting into a routine. For instance, you can plan when to go to bed and when to wake up. Quality sleep is determined by how long you take to sleep and how long you sleep. Working with a routine improves the two aspects, ultimately breaking a sleep-related late-night eating habit.
vi. Plan your meals and distribute them across the day
Do you eat late in the night because you deprive yourself of food? Worry not; many people have the same problem, and some have successfully discontinued the habit by planning their meals. Why not set specific times of the day when you eat? This leaves no space for feeling hungry and overindulging late in the night.
vii. Drink enough water at night
Drinking enough water at night as a strategy to stop nighttime eating may seem impractical, but it actually works and has scientific backing behind it. Studies show that many people who stay late into the night mistake thirst for hunger and reach out for snacks. Consequently, drinking enough water alongside healthy food picks leaves you feeling full for longer and less inclined to yield in to unhealthy cravings.
viii. Distract yourself
Preoccupying one’s mind with food or being lazy often contributes to BED, NES, late-night eating, giving in to unhealthy cravings, and other unhealthy habits. Thankfully, distracting yourself can help you stop these habits. For instance, why not google a recipe for some healthy dishes you would like to prepare? It will go a long way to help you stop giving in to cravings. Some people find watching movies helpful, but something else might still work for you; it’s about time you identify what works best for you.
ix. Be on the move
Being on the move sounds more like an extension of the aforementioned point, but it can stand alone and help you break the unhealthy chain of eating late into the night. Instead of sitting in the seat doing nothing or being bored in bed and keep thinking about food, you could get a little active. For instance, walking about in the house to closely look at the things you admire might be what you just need. Do you have an aquarium or some beautiful pics you took while on a picnic? Look at these and stop preoccupying your mind with food.
x. Have healthy snacks at your disposal
Breaking BED or NES or late-night eating habits related to them might take time, and you might have to go slow on yourself while keeping consistent. One way to do so is to have healthy snacks right at your disposal. Admittedly, eating late at night is unhealthy but not worse than eating junk foods and processed sugar. As such, you can have healthy snacks made with low-calorie fruits and vegetables and reach out for them when you feel overwhelmed and fight it difficult to put up with the pressure. You can slowly put out the snacks and stop nighttime eating altogether with time.
xi. Boost your protein intake
You can also stop eating late in the night by increasing your protein intake per meal. Studies show that proteins are the most filling foods, and they will help you hold up throughout the night. Of course, you need not ignore that increasing portion sizes have a bearing on calorie intake and your weight, but you can still find your way through, especially with the low-calorie-and-protein-rich foods.
Nighttime is a poor eating practice that may escalate your risks for obesity, diabetes type 2, and other health complications. While it is annoying and might even seem overwhelming, you can win it. Plan your meals, get into a routine, reach out for professional help, des-stress, distribute your meals throughout the day, add your protein intake per meal, get on the move, distract yourself, and identify the cause & triggers, and you will find yourself above this destructive habit.
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