Do you eat late at night? Binge eating late is bad for your health, here’s how to stop self sabotaging your diet and keep your eating in check.
Do you sometimes sneak a late-night snack, even after you’ve had a big dinner? Or worse, do you find yourself binge eating at night?
You are not alone! Millions of people struggle with late night binge eating. Its a problem that can eventually lead to obesity, diabetes, and depression.
The truth is that having a giant meal and then going right to sleep is guaranteed to pack on the pounds. If you binge eat late at night just before bed, your body will store the extra calories as fat instead of processing and burning them. Not to mention binge eating late will interrupt your sleep patterns, cause digestive issues, and create an irritable mood (from lack of sleep and tummy trouble!)
So, how does this happen? Why, even after a big meal, do you crave more food, more sugar, and more junk, and you want to have chips or sweets or other unhealthy foods? What is the root cause of this, and how do we deal with it? According to Dr. Mark Hyman, an imbalance of the hormones that regulate your appetite are the root cause of the binge eating issue. He believes there are specific things that trigger each of them, and if you understand how to balance them, you won’t have cravings for sweets and other foods…and you won’t be binge eating late at night. According to him, the following four hormones are:
- Insulin – A very important hormone that your body produces to process the sugar in your diet. When your insulin spikes then crashes after eating sugar and flour or junk, it makes you hungry. This can even happen after a large meal of “good food.”
- Leptin – This is the brake on your appetite. Leptin says to your brain, “Oh, I’m full. I don’t need any more food.” When you eat a lot of sugar, processed foods, and flour, the leptin doesn’t work anymore. Your brain actually becomes leptin resistant.
- Ghrelin – A “hunger hormone” produced in your stomach that helps regulate your appetite. Leptin sends the message, “You should eat – I’m hungry!”
- Peptide YY – A hormone that is produced in your intestines, and it says, “Hey, I’m full! I’ve had enough to eat. I don’t need any more.”
There is also one other hormone that comes into play: cortisol, the stress hormone. When you’re stressed, your cortisol level goes up, and when that happens, you get hungrier and your blood sugar and insulin levels rise. This sets the stage for pre-diabetes or insulin resistance, and it’s a vicious cycle.
I think Dr. Hyman is right, that all of these hormones have to be kept in balance in order to prevent late night hunger attacks. But I also feel like there is a second piece to night binge eating: emotions. Sometimes we binge eat at night because we are lonely, bored, tired, stressed, or sad.
Emotional reasons we binge eat at night include:
- Boredom. You may be bored or dealing with another emotion like stress, and use this time to preoccupy or numb yourself with food.
- Restriction. You have restricted your calories too much during the day and truly are hungry.
- Off-limits thinking. The psychological nature of “dieting” prompts you to feel that late-night eating is taboo, which in turn creates “off limits” thinking. Sometimes when we tell ourselves we can’t have something, we end up wanting it all the more.
I think ending late night binge eating comes from 1. balancing the body’s hormones and 2. understanding and addressing the emotional cause of raiding the cabinets come midnight. If you want to stop late night binge eating you’ll want to address both. Here are my tips to help you balance your hormones and practice mindful emotional nutrition. Hopefully these suggestions will help get you to sleep and not overeat 🙂
How To Stop Binge Eating Late At Night:
Figure out your pattern (emotional/physical). Start by keeping a food journal throughout your entire day. Include what you ate, how much, where, and who was with you (if anyone). Note how you were feeling before, during, and after, and how hungry you felt on a scale from zero (being hungry with physical symptoms) to 10 (stuffed) before and after. You can read my guide on keeping a food journal HERE. Tracking the details of your diet can be very eye-opening, it can help you see your patterns on how you are eating and if you are getting enough throughout the day at regular intervals. It can also raise awareness to your emotional eating habits the bonding ritual of night eating with their ‘partner in crime’ or eating alone while watching TV.
Determine why you do what you do (emotional/physical) . Once you know what you’re doing, stop and consider what it is that triggers this behavior. What’s the need you’re trying to meet? Are you eating a bag of chips out of boredom or bedtime habit? Soothing your loneliness with chocolate? Trying to ease your sadness with spoonfuls of peanut butter? Relieving stress with a dish of ice cream? Or are you eating because you are physically hungry because you didnt get enough calories throughout the day?? Understanding the cause of your late night eating will help you work to solve the issue with something other than peanut butter.
- Eat breakfast (physical): This is one of the key strategies to stop the nighttime cravings. Of course if you are bingeing at night, you probably won’t want to eat breakfast, because when you wake up, you’re still full. So, you’ll have to work to break that cycle, and you have to start with breakfast: a good, protein breakfast. Here are a few high protein breakfast ideas to get you off to a good start. If you have one of those for breakfast, it’ll keep your blood sugar even all morning and all day.
- Don’t drink your calories (physical): If you have sugary, liquid calories in the form of sodas, juices, lattes, sports drinks, or iced teas, it will spike your insulin and blood sugar and will cause cravings.
- Make sure you eat regularly (physical): Have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you want a snack in between, that’s fine, but make sure you eat at regular rhythms and regular times. Your body is a hormonal clock, and you have to eat in rhythm to keep it in balance.
- Have protein and good-quality fat at every meal (physical): Good fats are nuts and seeds, avocados, coconut, olive oil, or quality protein like chicken, fish, or grass-fed meat. Some combination of these (plus lots of vegetables) balances your blood sugar.
- Find your pause button and soothe the stress (emotional): Stress makes you fat (and overeat); relaxing makes you thin. Learn to find your pause button and de-stress. I encourage you to look at my blog on reducing stress to learn exactly what to do. Breathing, yoga, and exercise are some of my favorite ways to reduce stress, which helps reset the hormones, balance brain chemistry, and stop the cravings.
- Prioritize sleep (physical) : If you don’t sleep, you will be hungry, especially for carbs and sugar. Why? Because when you deprive yourself of sleep, ghrelin, the hormone that drives hunger goes up and PYY, the hormone that makes you feel full, goes down. So, if you want to lose weight, get your daily dose of ZZZ’s!
- Find your food sensitivities (physical): People don’t realize this, but you often crave the thing you’re allergic or sensitive to. And gluten and dairy are among the biggest triggers for food sensitivity. Try to get rid of these for a few weeks and see if your cravings stop.
- Nix Mindless Munching (emotional). If you’ve gotten into the habit of eating in front of the television or while working on your computer, aim to eat meals only in the kitchen. You can also choose to limit your TV/computer eating to fruits and vegetables. Or occupy your hands in other ways — ride a stationary bike, do exercises with an exercise ball, take up knitting, pay bills, or write notes to friends.
- Spice Up Your LIFE (emotional). Many people snack at night because they’re bored. Keep your evenings interesting, and you’ll find it easier to refrain from mindless snacking. Take a night class, plan an evening exercise session, find a new and interesting book or hobby, etc.
I believe that by addressing both the physical and emotional needs of your body you can work to end late night binge eating. Take care of yourself with the kind of quality and love that you would take care of your best friend. Would you keep your best friend up and binge eating late into the evening for no reason? Nope. So take a deep breath and put down the midnight bag of chips. Your future self will thank you for it 🙂
Want to build a balanced body? Check out my book, Balanced Body Breakthrough and get your mind, body, and spirit in great shape so you can love your life.
If you are interested in scheduling a consultation to discuss ways we can work with together and improve your health and happiness, contact me at: [email protected]
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