How This Helps

When you are following a diet and aiming to lose weight, then strictly sticking to your diet during the day is easy. It is how to stop eating at night, that's the problem. Eating well-balanced and nutritious meals during the day and then by nighttime making repeated trips to your refrigerator is not going to help you lose weight. So how to stop eating at night? Here are some reliable ideas to help you stop binge eating at night.

What is binge eating?

Binge eating is defined as the ingestion of a great deal of food in a brief time period. Someone who binge eats might feel helpless in controlling the kind or amount of food they eat. Binge eating may cause feelings of shame, guilt, and even depression. Individuals who overeat consume at least once each week for three months might have binge eating disorder, the most common eating disorder in America. Binge eating is also a sign of bulimia nervosa and the binge-purge subtype of anorexia nervosa. Binge eating can lead to weight gain that may adversely affect other health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Check out some ideas to help people stop binge eating and summarize the treatment options for binge eating disorder.


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Why are you Eating at Night?

The first thing to figure out if you want to understand how to stop eating at night is to identify the cause behind having food at night or late evening. Nighttime eating could very well be a result of your overly restricted daytime eating, which causes you to feel extremely hungry at night. The other common causes of nighttime eating could also just be out of sheer boredom or by habit.  If you are having difficulty in getting control of your nighttime eating, then chances can be that you have an eating disorder, such as night eating syndrome and binge eating disorder.[1]

Night Eating Syndrome (NES) is a type of disorder characterized by a delayed neuroendocrine function and a delayed circadian rhythm of food intake.[2]

On the other hand, Binge Eating Disorder(BED) is a type of eating disorder that causes people to eat a lot of food within a short period of time, regardless of whether they are hungry or not. Emotional stress or just chronic stress is known to play a huge role in triggering an episode of binge eating.[3, 4] In both these disorders, people are prone to having a different eating pattern and behavior. They are likely to use food as a means to suppress other emotions such as anger, frustration, or sadness. This causes them to usually eat even when they are not feeling hungry. 

People who binge eat also tend to consume substantial amounts of food in one sitting. They often feel out of control while binging on food.[5] People with NES also tend to eat something or the other throughout the evening. They may even wake up to eat again. People who have NES tend to consume more than 20 percent of their total daily calories from night eating only.[6] Both of these eating disorders are also known to increase the risk of depression, obesity, and also leads to sleeping disorders.

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How to Stop Eating at Night?

Identifying the cause behind why you are prone to eating at night will help you take the right steps needed to stop eating at night.  Here are some steps to help stop eating at night:

1. Don't starve yourself during the day

Binge eating at night is usually a result of disordered eating during the day. When you start eating at regular intervals during the day as per what a 'normal' eating pattern should look like, then it can help keep your binge eating at night under control by managing your blood sugar levels and preventing them from fluctuations.[7]

Eating regularly during the day will also prevent the feeling of starvation, irritability, tiredness, and other similar emotions, which usually result in a binge by the time late evening or night rolls around.[8] What's more, when you are ravenously hungry, you are more likely to make some poor decisions when it comes to deciding on what to eat, and reach for the high-sugar, high-fat, highly processed junk foods.[9]

Studies have also found that people who stick to regular mealtimes have lower weight and better appetite control, especially if they also suffer from an eating disorder.[10] Eating regular meals throughout the day will prevent you from becoming too hungry and thus help you manage your nighttime food impulses and cravings to binge on junk foods. This is one of the essential steps you can take when you are worried about how to stop eating at night.

2. Increase your Protein Intake

Eating regularly and eating different types of nutrients will have the desired effect on your appetite. For example, including protein as an essential macronutrient with each meal will help control your hunger and limit your binge eating at night.  Protein is essential to include in your diet if you want to learn how to stop eating at night. Protein helps a person feel full faster and also makes you stay full for a longer time. When you feel full, it automatically cuts down on the mindless snacking.[11] 

Some ideas you can try include having a breakfast of oatmeal with a cup of fat-free or low-fat milk, along with a handful of nuts and fruit. These will provide you with around 20 grams of protein. Having half a can of tuna fish in lunch, along with half a cup of black beans, means you would be getting in the afternoon.  At dinner, you can again aim for having a serving of 3-ounce chicken breast, which gives you around 27 grams of protein. 

A study found that eating meals that are high in protein regularly throughout the day can reduce cravings by nearly 60 percent and also reduce the desire for nighttime eating by half.[12]

3. Throw out the Junk Food

If you are really concerned about how to stop eating at night, the best way to prevent a binge eating session on junk foods is to stop buying junk foods in the first place. If there are no unhealthy foods around you, the less likely you will be to binge out on them.  Replace junk foods with healthy food options that you like to have. Remember that it is important to keep something you want to eat, and that is healthy at the same time. 

Try to include healthy snacks like berries, plain yogurt, fruits, and cottage cheese. All these options taste good and are healthy as well. These are also going to make you feel full, and you will avoid overeating in the night.

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Why is it hard to stop binge eating at night?

Why is it that sometimes you eat all day and still end up looking for more food at night? A 2017 research study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that the night is a high-risk period for overeating, and our hormones might be to blame. The analysis analyzed 32 obese men and women, half of whom had the binge eating habit. Participants were then asked to fast for eight hours before being given a 600-calorie liquid meal. Two hours later, they had been exposed to a stressful situation for 2 minutes.

These evaluations were performed at 9 pm and at 4 pm Subsequently, subjects were attracted to a buffet of pizza, snacks, and desserts. Researchers measured hormone levels, and participants were asked to rate their feelings of hunger and fullness on a scale. The analysis indicated three hormones were at play when it comes to appetite: ghrelin, which induces hunger, peptide Y.Y., which is related to satiety, and cortisol, a hormone linked to anxiety. All participants were hungrier in the day, with high levels of ghrelin and reduced levels of peptide Y.Y. Increased amounts of cortisol due to the stressful position also increased desire, especially in the evening.

People who have binge eating disorders showed lower fullness and high levels of ghrelin in the day, and lower levels in the daytime. Additionally, those with binge eating tendencies reported a higher loss of control during the buffet.

Individuals who struggle with binge eating at night should set a particular time in the day to stop eating and take additional care to eat properly throughout the day.

Another study published in March 2013 from the journal Obesity, which found an individual's summit appetite comes in the day and is lowest in the morning. Researchers hypothesized this is the reason why evening meals are normally the biggest, and most adults skip breakfast.


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Summary

Nighttime eating is a known eating disorder. The first step to stop binge eating at night is to find out whether you suffer from any eating disorders so that the underlying condition can be treated.  If, on the other hand, you are just eating out of boredom, then try and find something that you like to do towards the late evening so that your mind remains occupied. If you still find yourself eating at night, then try following some of the steps above to help you stop.

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References

1. Kucukgoncu, S., Midura, M., and Tek, C., 2015. Optimal management of night eating syndrome: challenges & solutions. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 11, p.751.

2. Stunkard, A.J., Allison, K.C., Lundgren, J.D., and O'reardon, J.P., 2009. A biobehavioral model of the night eating syndrome. Obesity reviews, 10, pp.69-77.

3. Allison, K.C., Grilo, C.M., Masheb, R.M., and Stunkard, A.J., 2005. Binge eating disorder & night eating syndrome: a comparative study of disordered eating. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 73(6), p.1107.

4. Brownley, K.A., Berkman, N.D., Peat, C.M., Lohr, K.N., Cullen, K.E., Bann, C.M., and Bulik, C.M., 2016. Binge-eating disorder in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Internal Medicine, 165(6), pp.409-420.

5. Citrome, L., 2015. A primer on binge eating disorder diagnosis and management. CNS spectrums, 20(S1), pp.41-51.

6. Zawilska, J.B., Santorek-Strumiłło, E.J., and Kuna, P., 2010. Nighttime eating disorders--clinical symptoms and treatment. Przeglad lekarski, 67(7), pp.536-540.

7. Kucukgoncu, S., Midura, M., and Tek, C., 2015. Optimal management of night eating syndrome: challenges & solutions. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 11, p.751.

8. Rogers, P.J., 1999. Eating habits and appetite control: a psychobiological perspective. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 58(1), pp.59-67.

9. Goldstone, A.P., Prechtl de Hernandez, C.G., Beaver, J.D., Muhammed, K., Croese, C., Bell, G., Durighel, G., Hughes, E., Waldman, A.D., Frost, G. and Bell, J.D., 2009. Fasting biases brain reward systems towards high‐calorie foods. European Journal of Neuroscience, 30(8), pp.1625-1635.

10. Harvey, K., Rosselli, F., Wilson, G.T., DeBar, L.L., and Striegel‐Moore, R.H., 2011. Eating patterns in patients with spectrum binge‐eating disorder. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 44(5), pp.447-451.

11. Leidy, H.J., Armstrong, C.L., Tang, M., Mattes, R.D., and Campbell, W.W., 2010. The influence of higher protein intake & greater eating frequency on appetite control in overweight & obese men. Obesity, 18(9), pp.1725-1732.

12. Leidy, H.J., Tang, M., Armstrong, C.L., Martin, C.B., and Campbell, W.W., 2011. The effects of consuming frequent and higher protein meals on the appetite & satiety during weight loss in overweight/obese men. Obesity, 19(4), pp.818-824.

13. Carnell, S & Grillot, Charlotte & Ungredda, T & Ellis, S & Mehta, N & Holst, J & Geliebter, Allan. (2017). Morning & afternoon appetite and gut hormone responses to meal and stress challenges in obese individuals with & without binge eating disorder. International Journal of Obesity. 42. 10.1038/ijo.2017.307. 

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