Nighttime Cravings: Feed It Or Fight It?

woman kneeling in front of refridgerator at night( — Developing healthy eating habits is an important key to maintaining weight loss and fighting unhealthy cravings. But sometimes…it’s 11pm and that pint of ice cream just won’t stop calling your name! What are you supposed to do?

Is Snacking At Night All That Bad?

Many people overeat in the evening because they have not consumed enough calories during the day. Skipping breakfast, starting the day with foods high in sugar, and limiting your food to lose weight all make it harder for your body to sustain itself later into the evening.

Besides hunger, a nighttime snack can stem from stress, boredom, or habit.

“Emotions and feelings like depression, anxiety, sadness, and frustration also trigger eating, particularly in people who have not developed healthy coping strategies to deal with negative emotions,” says Cathy Leman, RD, a personal trainer and owner of NutriFit, Inc.

Leman also notes that any positive psychological effects of eating tend to wear off quickly, leaving the person with a full belly, stressed digestive system, and unsettled sleep at night.

“Eating at night when you aren’t hungry feeds a vicious cycle,” says Michelle May, MD, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. “You wake up in the morning feeling guilty and not hungry for breakfast, so you starve yourself all day to pay penance and binge again at night, or by mid-morning you are starving so you grab whatever is in the break room — usually doughnuts or bagels — which begins a downward spiral of overeating and guilt that lasts into the night again.”

If You Must Nibble At Night…

In general, you should stop eating two hours before your bedtime – this helps to avoid those unpleasant feelings of bloating and stomach pain the next morning. Assess why you really want to eat. If you’re just bored or stressed, find something to do that doesn’t involve food, such as taking a soothing bath or reading a book. But, if you truly are hungry, try drinking a full glass of water. Then, if you’re still hungry, eating something very light, like a very small salad or a piece of lean protein, like an ounce of tuna, chicken breast or turkey.

A nighttime snack isn’t always harmful, but if you understand the reasons behind late-night eating and then modify your diet accordingly, chances are your midnight cravings won’t be quite as bad.