Is midnight snacking sabotaging your weight loss plans?

Is midnight snacking sabotaging your weight loss plans?

Do you wonder why you still find it difficult to lose weight despite all your best efforts? There might be something wrong with the later part of your day-and it must be your midnight snacking.

Studies have already shown that midnight snacking causes weight gain. There are several reasons a person craves and munches food late at night, even after a satisfying dinner.

Stress and fatigue

You might be stressed from work, and you reward yourself with a snack at night, even after dinner. This is very common among people with stressful jobs who are always meeting deadlines, and who have sales quotas to reach every week, every month, or even daily.

I have discovered that most of my female clients' husbands who have stressful jobs tend to regularly eat junk food or sweets late at night due to stress and to reward themselves with their favorite munchies.

Instead of eating as a quick fix for your stress, find alternative ways to deal with it, because eating unhealthy food and gaining more weight can actually double your stress.

The best solution to stress eating at night is to get more sleep, to manage your time, and to find new stress management strategies that are unrelated to food.

You can get a home massage, listen to relaxing music before you sleep, meditate or pray at night, or even have an after dinner stroll with your wife/husband and communicate your worries, troubles and other issues.

You might not be eating enough breakfast or not eating at regular intervals, like every three to four hours, so you tend to eat more at night and even after dinner. You have a certain caloric requirement for the whole day, and if you don't take a large percentage of it before dinner, there's a greater tendency to compensate for the missing calories at night as a normal physiological and psychological response.

However, if you want to control your weight, you should break this eating pattern because midnight snackers often consume more calories, as they tend to eat chips or sweets while watching TV at night, instead of eating healthier alternatives.

How to prevent it

How to prevent late night snacking

Start your day right by eating a 400 to 600-calorie breakfast (depending on your weight, physical activities, and goals) consisting of whole grain bread or brown rice, an egg, chicken or fish, a glass of low-fat milk, and a piece of fruit. This meal combination will make you last even until lunch.

Always fill your stomach with "real foods," which combine carbohydrates, protein and fat, so there will be no room anymore for high-calorie extras like sweets, flavored drinks, pastries and chips.

You might be used to eating something after dinner, not because of stress or hunger, but because you are aware that you have snacks readily available at home. This can always tempt you to eat even when not hungry, and this can develop into your habit.

Keep the high-calorie midnight snack foods out of sight, out of mind. Do not buy something you think you might want after dinner, and never put a refrigerator in your room.

Talk to your family about your goals and concerns on how to avoid unnecessary eating late at night. Make sure you keep healthier foods at home, such as fruits, yogurt, or low-fat milk so you won't get tempted to order take-out food or go out late at night to buy food if you get hungry.

Break the habit by sleeping early and avoiding late-night television watching.

Eating disorder

Midnight snacking can also be related to an eating disorder called "night eating syndrome" (NES). This relatively new disorder published in the Journal of the American Medical Association is described as having no appetite in the morning (morning anorexia) and over-eating late at night with agitation and insomnia.

This eating disorder causes one to eat more at night in response to one's moods. People often eat high-carbohydrate snacks at night. Causes of this disorder may include depression, anxiety, stress, boredom, prolonged dieting and body image issues.

The best way to resolve the "night eating syndrome" is to recognize the warning signs and symptoms and consult an eating disorder specialist or a mental health specialist to discuss treatment options.

  1. Do you have little or no appetite for breakfast, and delay your first meal for several hours after waking up?
  2. Do you eat more than half of daily food intake after dinner?
  3. Do you feel tense, anxious, upset or guilty while eating late at night?
  4. Are you usually moody, tense, anxious, nervous and agitated at night?
  5. Do you have trouble falling or staying asleep, get up frequently and then eat?
  6. Do you continually eat throughout evening and usually choose sugary and starchy carbohydrates?
  7. Does your late-night eating produces guilt and shame, not enjoyment?
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