15 Ways to Curb Late-Night Cravings

Tuesday Jul 7 | BY |
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Young thin woman with fearful glance standing near opened refrigerator and holding fried chicken at night

Stop your brain from sabotaging your weight-loss goals!

The majority of the evidence says that eating after 8:00 isn’t good for us, for a number of reasons.

Among them, increased risk of:

  • Weight gain
  • Lack of blood sugar control/diabetes
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Brain fog/memory problems
  • Breast cancer

The problem, of course, is how to stop those late-night munchies. It doesn’t help that sometimes the body works against us. Researchers from Oregon Health & Science University reported in 2013 that our internal circadian systems often intensify hunger at night, and that on top of that, they increases cravings for sweet, starchy and salty foods.

Stay up later a night, when your body is doing this, and you’re more likely to eat, said lead researcher Steven Shea. Worse, your body will promptly store most of the calories away as fat.

That may have been helpful when we were hunting mammoths, but now? Not so much.

Did you know that Sumo wrestlers eat at night precisely so they can gain all that weight?

What’s the solution?

Tips to Help You Curb Late-Night Cravings

It’s not easy, but with some effort and adjustments, you can get over the desire to chow down on unhealthy things after 8:00 p.m. Here are a few tips—let us know if you have more!

  1. Go to bed earlier: If you can hit the sack before your cravings strike, you’ll sleep right through them. Going to bed even 30 minutes earlier can help you avoid eating.
  2. Eat a bigger breakfast: This may work for you. There is some evidence that eating a larger breakfast helps reduce overall daily intake. Try it and see—if you find you’re still eating just as much late at night, it may not be the right move.
  3. Set up a routine: Having regular meal and snack times helps you regulate your eating so you’re less prone to overdoing it at night. It’s those days when we’re snatching food items here and there while running from this appointment to another appointment that seem to most result in nighttime binging. Try to set up your day so you take breaks for meals (and snacks, if you snack) at about the same time every day, so your body gets used to the drill.
  4. Wait five minutes: When you have cravings in the evening, it’s often not because you’re hungry (even if your stomach insists you are). Set a timer for five minutes, and try to distract yourself in that time. Read a book, work on a craft, practice an instrument, brush your teeth, drink a glass of water. You may forget all about eating.
  5. Find other ways to cope: Much of late-night eating is a form of stress relief. The day is over, it’s time to relax and enjoy a reward, right? Make a list of other ways to reward yourself. A hot bath, a leisurely walk, listening to your favorite music, drawing or sketching, spending time with a pet—the options are nearly endless. Find what works for you.
  6. Plan out your meals: You know it’s on those days when there’s “nothing for dinner” that your diet goes out of whack. Try to plan out dinners a week ahead of time so you know what you’re eating. Plan out what you will allow yourself after dinner, as well, so you don’t have to make any decisions when you’re willpower is at it’s weakest (often late in the day).
  7. Eat dinner a little later: Particularly if you’re a night owl, try moving your dinner time back an hour or two (with 8:00 being the latest time). As long as you have a few hours before going to bed, the later meal may help offset any cravings that typically occur around 10:00. Just make sure your dinner isn’t too large. Try a small snack in the early evening and then keep the dinner at a moderate size to see if it helps you avoid late-night munching.
  8. Choose healthy late-night snacks: If you’re not satisfied without something to eat in the late-night hours, plan ahead—choose healthy items that will satisfy you without destroying your diet. Some options to try: hot tea, a tall glass of ice water (maybe with some fruit in it), a serving of fruit or vegetables, some low-fat yogurt, a cup of popcorn, a few slices of cheese, a handful of nuts, a small piece of dark chocolate (dark chocolate is known to help curb the appetite), some nut butter on a rice cake or a few crackers, etc. Also be sure to measure out your snack—do not, for example, take the whole bag into the living room with you.
  9. Get enough fiber and protein: Make sure you’re getting enough fiber and protein in your dinner to keep you satisfied. If you’re ravenous an hour after eating, ask yourself why. Maybe you need to add some beans or lean proteins to your meal. A fiber supplement may also help you feel full longer.
  10. Be aware of mindless eating: We overeat at night if we eat while doing something else—watching television, reading, talking, whatever. If you’re just mindlessly putting stuff into your mouth, try to be aware of what you’re doing, and stop. Pre-measure your snack next time, and ask yourself to participate in your usual evening activities without eating at the same time. Realize that eating at night may just be a habit—one that you can break with a little attention.
  11. Get used to feeling hungry: If you’re trying to break the late-night snacking habit, realize that it will be uncomfortable for a few days. Your stomach will whine and cry and act like it’s dying. Drink water and/or tea and power through it. Within a few days your body will get the message and will likely stop all its antics if it knows they won’t do it any good. (Except on those high-stress days—have something low-cal on hand for those days!)
  12. Try natural supplements: Omega-3 oils, vitamin D, and amino acids can help balance blood sugar, insulin, and other hormones to help reduce your cravings. Other possibilities include 5-HTP (it boosts levels of serotonin in the brain, which may help curb hunger), and irvingia gabonensis, a tree extract known for reducing cholesterol and for potentially supporting weight loss.
  13. Try aromatherapy: Sniffing some of your favorite scents may be all you need to increase your willpower. A 2013 study, for example, found that the scent of olive oil helped people lose weight. Try grapefruit, peppermint, lemon, bergamot, sandalwood, and ocatea in a tea, diffuser, on a cloth, massaged into the skin (diluted with a carrier oil), or in your bath.
  14. Eat more appetite-controlling foods: Some foods naturally fill you up without delivering too many calories. Try adding more leafy green vegetables to your evening meal, and then use either pickles or apples for your late-night snack. Both are low in calories and high in water content and will likely keep you satisfied without sending you over the edge.
  15. Drink some fennel tea: This healthy tea is known for reducing cravings and suppressing appetite. It also eases digestion and boosts nutrient absorption. Try a nice hot cup when cravings strike.

Do you have other tips for reducing late-night cravings? Please share them with our readers.

* * *

Marci E. Gluck, et al., “Nighttime eating: commonly observed and related to weight gain in an inpatient food intake study,” AM J Clin Nutr, October 2008; 88(4): 900-905, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/88/4/900.full.

Pawlowski, “Why eating late at night may be bad for your brain,” Today, February 22, 2015, http://www.today.com/health/eating-late-night-may-disrupt-learning-memory-t4576.

Colles SL, et al., “Night eating syndrome and nocturnal snacking: association with obesity, binge eating and psychological distress,” Int J Obes (Lond). November 2007; 31(11):1722-30, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17579633.

Oregon Health & Science University, “Scientists Dispel Late-Night Eating/Weight Gain Myth,” ScienceDaily, February 2, 2006, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/02/060202080832.htm.

“Study explains what triggers those late-night snack cravings,” OHSU, [Press Release], April 29, 2013, http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/about/news_events/news/2013/04-29-study-explains-what-trig.cfm.

M. Garaulet, et al., “Timing of food intake predicts weight loss effectiveness,” International Journal of Obesity, 2013; 37:604-611, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23357955.

Allison Aubrey, “To Maximize Weight Loss, Eat Early in the Day, Not Late,” NPR, January 30, 2013, http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/01/30/170591028/to-maximize-weight-loss-eat-early-in-the-day-not-late.

Lucy Waterlow, “Could sniffing essential oils help you lose weight?” Daily Mail, August 25, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2733837/Could-sniffing-essential-oils-help-lose-weight-Aromatherapist-says-inhaling-certain-scents-day-suppress-appetite.html.

Judith L. Ngondi, et al., “The effect of Irvingia gabonensis seeds on body weight and blood lipids of obese subjects in Cameroon,” Lipids Health Dis., 2005; 4: 12, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1168905/.

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story

Colleen M. Story, a northwest-based writer, editor, and ghostwriter, has been creating non-fiction materials for individuals, corporations, and commercial magazines for over 17 years. She specializes in the health and wellness field, where she writes and ghostwrites books, e-books, blogs, magazine articles, and more.

Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness. Her fantasy novel, “Rise of the Sidenah,” was released with Jupiter Gardens Press in September 2015. Her literary novel, “Loreena’s Gift,” is forthcoming in spring 2016 from Dzanc Books. She lives in Idaho. www.colleenmstory.com

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