Why You Can’t Stop The Late Night Eating
You put your best foot forward as far as eating healthy goes throughout the day. You don’t only have breakfast every day, but you have one filled with protein and fiber to sustain you until lunch and prevent you from hitting the vending machine. You pack your own lunch and somehow resist the temptation to visit the food trucks that circle your office like hawks that want to fatten you up. You pack a lunch a nutritionist would be proud of. You’ve even transitioned from having ice cream and cookies for dessert to having fruit and dark chocolate. But there is one little habit you have that is derailing all of your habits: midnight snacking. It seems to be the one thing you cannot resist, and it makes your other efforts feel useless. Here are the reasons you can’t stop eating in the middle of the night.
You have a nightcap
If you have a cocktail to help you fall asleep, you may wake up craving a snack. Your blood sugar spikes immediately after you consume the alcohol, but later in the night, it drops quickly. This can wake you up and cause you to feel hungry. It’s not unlike the way you get the drunk munchies—you just wake up to these.
You don’t have enough protein at dinner
When you lay down to sleep, you may not eat for nearly 10 or 11 hours. Do the math: if you finish dinner two or three hours before going to bed and sleep for eight hours, it’s easy to go a long time without any sustenance. Your dinner should be heavy on filling protein to keep you satisfied during that time.
You’re eating too healthy throughout the day
You need to leave a little wiggle room for indulgences throughout the day. Very few people can have nothing but lean protein and vegetables and feel satisfied. You’re better off having a piece of bread at lunch and that half pastry at breakfast than depriving yourself of these things, only to have your cravings for them sneak up on you at nighttime. Then, when you satisfy those cravings at night, you eat even more of the food than you would have during the day because your willpower is weak.
You’re under stress
You can try as hard as you want to deny that you’re under stress while you’re awake, but your subconscious won’t let you forget it. Once you go to bed, your subconscious takes over and you don’t have your usual faculties to convince yourself everything is fine. When your body finally registers the stress you’ve been ignoring all day, it could respond by pumping out stress hormones that cause hunger.
You wake up too much
Whether you don’t create a soothing sleep environment, drink too much liquid before bed or have some other disruptive habit, you just wake up too much throughout the night. When you get up, if your brain becomes alert, it can send signals to your stomach that it’s time to fuel up with food because it believes you’re starting your day. Find out why you wake up so much during the night and you could fight off these nighttime cravings.
You’re taking certain medications
Certain medications, particularly those that treat mental health issues, can cause nighttime cravings. If you are taking any such medications, ask your doctor if this is a common side effect. If your night eating has gotten out of control, you may need to switch to a different medication.
You’re smoking at night
Smoking cigarettes at night can interfere with your circadian rhythms and cause cravings at odd times. In some individuals, nicotine causes cravings. Kick your nighttime cigarette habit and you could kick the cravings.
Your defenses are down
To put it plain and simple: your defenses are down when you’re tired. You probably do other things you regret and say things you don’t mean when you’re tired, don’t you? So it’s easy to see how being around the kitchen while you’re tired could drive you to some poor food choices. If you do get up in the middle of the night, try to avoid passing through the kitchen.
You’re watching commercials
If you have cable TV then you’re probably watching some commercials before going to bed—specifically food commercials. If you’re the type of person who falls asleep with the television still on, you may be listening to food commercials while you’re asleep, and a desire for that food is making its way into your subconscious.
Your sex life isn’t satisfying
It’s not uncommon to use food to substitute for orgasms if you’re not getting the latter. If your sex life leaves you unsatisfied, your subconscious mind may tell you that you need to find another way to satisfy your body later in the night.
You have a hormonal imbalance
Hormones play a large role in regulating the rhythms of your brain and body that tell you when to eat and when to sleep. If you have a hormonal imbalance, these rhythms may be thrown off.
You need a probiotic
Your gut bacteria plays a large role in your body’s production of serotonin, and the healthy production of that is important to regulating your sleep cycle. If you eat a lot of fast food and processed food, and don’t take a probiotic, your gut flora is likely out of whack which can cause you to wake up during the night, and crave more unhealthy foods.
You skip breakfast
Skipping breakfast throws off your internal hunger clock for the rest of the day. Your stomach essentially registers the “beginning” of the day as the time you eat your first food. If you don’t eat until noon or 1 pm, and your body expects to be on about a 12-hour eating cycle, then it makes sense that it still craves food at midnight.
You live with someone who fat shames you
Perhaps you live with someone who makes you feel guilty when you eat a lot, or eat unhealthy foods, in front of her. Even if the person doesn’t intentionally make you feel this way, perhaps she accidentally does so by keeping a rigid diet that makes you feel ashamed of your own. This could drive you to “sneak” food in the middle of the night when nobody is looking.
As stated before, stress will creep in in the middle of the night. There is one other condition that will show its ugly face at night, even if you ignore it during the day: unhappiness. If you’re unhappy in your life, your body will find ways to make up for the lack of happy chemicals in your brain. It may look to food for that fix.