(Note: This article was submitted to me for publication on my blog, and while it does not precisely mirror my teaching, I think it is a worthwhile contribution. My inclusion of it here should not be taken as an endorsement of all that it suggests. – William Anderson, LMHC )
by Sandra Bankers
Many people often find themselves snacking at night, even if they are not feeling particularly hungry. Although we’ve mentioned in a previous TAM post that it doesn’t matter what time of the day you eat, eating late at night can still be problematic. More often than not, it can lead to you consuming more calories than you actually need.
Furthermore, Healthline specified that eating at night is connected with certain eating disorders. With that in mind, it’s easier to understand why it’s imperative to control your bedtime eating habits.
You need to remember is that there is often an underlying reason why you have an urge to eat even if you’re not hungry. Experience Life identified some common causes which include depriving yourself of food throughout the day; not having a set meal plan; or being used to eating at that time. The latter may also be stress-induced, or brought about by special instances such as family dinners.
In addition, lack of sleep and boredom may also trigger you to eat at odd times of the day, including late in the evening. The good news is that there’s a corresponding solution in line with the cause.
For most people, eating at night is something they’ve gotten used to over the years. Overeating is usually caused by developed habits so you will need to change your routine to get around this. Look for activities that you can do at this specific time instead of munching on food. For instance, you can read a book or watch a movie during the usual period where you eat to keep yourself distracted. Changing your behavior and mindset is at the heart of The Anderson Method and doing so will help you keep yourself from returning to your late-night eating habit, eventually helping you lose and/or maintain weight. Distracting yourself is also a good strategy if you find yourself snacking at night due to boredom or restlessness.
Likewise, if night-time eating is your way of bonding with your loved ones, you can simply look for other ways to have fun. For instance, you can spend the night bowling or playing miniature golf.
On the other hand, eating a lot because you deprived yourself of food during the day can easily be remedied by eating properly planned meals during the day. Fitness Magazine quotes Milton Strokes, the spokesperson of the American Dietetic Association, who clarified that “by shifting calories to the morning hours, you will ensure that your night-time cravings don’t have as much of a pull.” It’s a good idea to make a meal plan on what you will need throughout the day so you can be sure you are getting enough nutrients and sustenance.
Similarly, craving for food late at night because of lack of sleep can easily be remedied by getting at least 6 or 7 hours of sleep per day. According to Psychology Today, depriving yourself of sleep can trigger overeating, especially of fatty and high-calorie foods, so make sure you get sufficient sleep to avoid this from happening. It’s worth mentioning as well that there are also certain types of food and nutrients that can help you doze off. The better sleep guide on Leesa featured a list of elements which includes food rich in magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins. They have various effects on the body such as for relaxing muscles and nerves or inducing the release of the sleep hormone Melatonin. However, make sure to regulate the amount that you eat. Otherwise, you run the risk of gaining more weight.
Finally, if the reason for your eating at night is stress-related, one effective solution is to increase the amount of fiber and protein that you have at dinner. MedicineNet.com specified their benefits: the former helps you feel full, while the latter helps keep you from feeling hunger pangs even late at night.
Exercising is also a good option for you to combat stress. You can work out before heading home once you leave the office. This strategy can also help you tire yourself out so you can fall asleep more easily.