Ah, the late night snack — 9 p.m. rolls around, you find yourself a bit bored, mindlessly wandering into the kitchen, opening the cupboard or fridge and grabbing a handful of chips or a cookie.
For many of us, it’s a familiar routine.
The problem is that it’s also a quick recipe for weight gain and can even increase your risk of diabetes.
That’s according to a recent study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology. The study followed 20 healthy, normal-weight people who changed their evening meal from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Here’s what it found: Their markers for obesity and risks for diabetes, including blood sugar, cortisol and insulin levels, increased significantly. In addition, their bodies’ abilities to use and remove fat from their cells decreased.
Dr. Gabe Mirkin — a fitness guru, longtime radio host and sports medicine doctor with more than 50 years of practice — explored the results of this study in a recent blog post.
“Eating just before you go to bed causes high blood sugar levels and increased amounts of fat to be deposited in fat cells,” Mirkin said in his blog. “Resting muscles draw almost no sugar from the bloodstream and what little they do remove from the bloodstream requires insulin, while contracting muscles pull large amounts of sugar from the bloodstream and don’t even need insulin to do so.”
Mirkin added that we burn the least amount of calories when sleeping, and that not moving around after eating increases risk for higher blood sugar levels.
Nighttime eating or snacking, regardless, is a tough habit to break. With that in mind, we rounded up 5 shrewd methods to stop nighttime snacking in its tracks.
1) Learn why you do it and what triggers it.
Are you really hungry when 9 p.m. rolls around, or are you just bored? Have you created a habit of eating right before bed? Are you eating for emotional reasons? Or is there something more serious going on, like an eating disorder?
Knowing yourself is the first step to overcoming (and breaking) a nighttime eating habit. Put some serious thought into why you’re doing it, and, if you think there’s something deeper going on, seek out an expert’s advice.
Once you know, you can identify what triggers it. What patterns are there? What’s going on in your life during the evenings you eat more that could be creating the desire to snack when you’re not really hungry? And, most importantly, how can you interrupt these negative patterns?
2) Establish a routine.
There’s a reason workplaces and schools operate around consistent schedules. They help create discipline to ensure we get things done.
Apply that same reasoning to your day, creating a consistent routine that you adhere to throughout your day. Part of that routine should include structured, set meal times, ideally eating dinner between 5-7 p.m.
If possible, you should also try to create (and stick with) a set bedtime. High quality sleep plays an important role in reducing cravings.
3) Create a positive mindset.
Stress, anxiety, depression — dealing with negative emotions can take a toll on your physical health as well. It can make you more likely to use food as a coping mechanism, particularly in the evenings when the day is winding down.
Lean on your loved ones for support. Talk to them if you’re struggling. Find positive things to do in the evening that don’t involve food, such as crafting, playing games or snuggling on the couch with a movie. You might even consider doing something like yoga or meditation to relax your body and mind before bed.
4) Set your kitchen up for success.
One of the simplest — and perhaps most beneficial — things you can do to avoid nighttime eating is to not have junk food available in the first place.
Stock your kitchen with fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins. Don’t have chips, cookies, candy or other unhealthy foods readily available, and it will likely reduce your desire to mindlessly munch at night.
5) Meal planning is key.
Not only do you need to eat regularly throughout the day, but you should also plan your meals ahead of time.
Whether you meal prep on Sunday, or choose a convenient, healthy meal delivery service like Diet-to-Go, knowing what you’re going to eat — breakfast, lunch and dinner — ahead of time goes hand-in-hand with creating that daily routine that is critical to successfully avoiding nighttime snacking.
Ready to learn more about how Diet-to-Go can help you create structure around your day and eat healthy? View sample menus here!
Author: Caitlin H
Diet-to-Go Community Manager
Caitlin is the Diet-to-Go community manager and an avid runner. She is passionate about engaging with others online and maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle. She believes moderation is key, and people will have the most weight loss success if they engage in common-sense healthy eating and fitness.