When the chores of the day are done, food feels like a reward and a desirable way to pass the hours till bed. But, snacking through the hours after dinner can unravel all of the hard work you put into dieting during the day. In this post, I share 4 strategies that can help you put a stop to late night snacking.
Stop Late Night Snacking Summary
- By committing to starting a fast 3 hours before bed, you avoid empty calories and put your body in a fat-burning state
- Eating a high-fat/low-carb dinner prevents the blood sugar and insulin spikes that invite hunger and block fat loss.
- Use Stoppers, which are activities or items that separate you from the desire to eat.
- If you’ve been eating late at night for any length of time, your brain will expect a nighttime snack and make you feel hungry. This feeling will subside over time.
Stop Late Night Snacking [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Strategies to end the habit of late night snacking.
- Ways to reverse learned behaviors!
- Additional weight loss strategies.
Commit to Intermittent Fasting
The first suggestion is for those interested in intermittent fasting, which is a timing strategy that has you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It can serve as a tool to stop late night snacking when you commit to starting your fast 3 hours before bed.
There are several reasons why you want to do this. First of all, it is an effective way to lose weight because it directly eliminates the empty calories from late night snacks. It also moves your body into a fat-burning state.
When you eat late at night, your blood sugar level goes up as the food gets absorbed into your bloodstream. This triggers the release of insulin, which is the hormone that moves the sugar into your cells.
However, your cells become less sensitive to insulin in the evening hours, which means that they don’t accept the calories or energy from the late-night foods as easily as they did from the foods you ate earlier in the day.
The result is elevated blood sugar and insulin levels as you sleep, which blocks the release of fat from your fat cells.
When you start your fast after dinner, you sleep more soundly. This is because your digestive system has time to process most of the food in your stomach, which brings your core temperature down to a point that enhances sleep.
There are a lot of advantages that come with making the conscious decision to start fasting 3 hours before bed. To fully tackle late night snacking, you need to pair this mental commitment with practical strategies that control hunger. One of the best ways to do this is to eat a high-fat, low-carb dinner.
Eat a High-Fat/Low-Carb Dinner
Hunger and cravings are best controlled when your entire diet is low in carbs and high in fat. Let’s look at the importance of each of these components using dinner as an example.
Eating a high-fat diet where at least 50% of your calories are coming from fat is very hunger-satisfying, which is going to help you as the evening progresses.
Carbohydrates, on the other hand, digest relatively quickly, (especially if they are refined carbs, like pasta or bread), so they do not satisfy your hunger as long as dietary fats.
Carbs also break down into glucose or sugar, which spikes insulin. Remember that your cells are less sensitive to insulin in the evening. So, when you eat a high-carb dinner, insulin lingers in your blood and promotes fat storage overnight.
Not all carbs are created equal. You don’t need to avoid carbs at dinner altogether, you just want to select wisely.
Your best choice is going to be non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, and peppers. These vegetables have a good fiber-to-carb ratio, and they add volume to your meal, which are both things that will keep hunger away longer into the evening.
You have likely noticed that it can be hard to stop eating once you start. This kind of primal desire to keep eating needs to have an off switch, and this is where Stoppers come into play.
A Stopper is any activity, food, or drink that separates you from the act of eating. An example is hot tea, which takes a long time to sip, allowing your brain enough time to get the message that you are full or get past a craving, which is a hormonally-driven feeling that naturally fades with time.
I also find that minty things, like sugar-free gum, work great as Stoppers because they change the taste in your mouth, making it less desirable to keep eating. I’ve talked about sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners on my blog many times, and if you’ve seen those posts, you know that I recommend against them.
However, if you are struggling with late night snacking, a single stick of gum to avoid 300 plus calories of dessert or snacks is a swap that can work to your advantage. At least until you get over the mental hurdle of late night snacking, which is where we can bring all of this together for you.
Get Past the Learned Behavior
Eating a high-fat/low-carb dinner and using Stoppers are two physical things you can do to stop eating and get into the mindset that will help you be successful with intermittent fasting.
All three of these things will help you control late night snacking and lose weight. There is one more challenge to overcome, and that has to do with the fact that late night snacking is a learned behavior. Your body and brain are very trainable.
If you’ve been eating late at night for any length of time, you’ve trained your body and brain to expect a nighttime snack, and it will spike hunger hormones and produce digestive enzymes in anticipation of food.
When you are first transitioning away from your pattern, your brain will remind you that you typically eat at this time of the day, and you may experience cravings.
Just be aware of this challenge and know that learned behaviors can be unlearned and that you will reach a point where you are comfortable avoiding food in the evenings if you stay consistent with your efforts.
To stop late night snacking, you need to approach the challenge from both a mental and a physical side. Many of the principles that I covered in this video are part of my 4 daily habits for weight loss. These videos share additional eating and mindset strategies that act as a great starting point for your healthy diet.
About the Author:
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.