Late Night Binge: Habit or Hunger?
Late night snacking is one of the number one problems with America’s eating habits today. Cookies and milk after dinner, bowl of popcorn while watching your Wednesday night sitcoms, a handful of M&M’s from the dining room candy bowl. It all adds up, and increases blood sugar before bedtime, which in turn will cause you to store body fat as your sleep.
Now are you eating due to hunger or habit? Majority of poor eating requires behavior modification, not just a “diet plan”. So let’s talk about a few things that can be done in order to prevent that late night binge.
Step outside for some air
When you head to the kitchen for that late night snack, step outside for some air, take the dog for a walk around the block one or two times before you choose something to eat. A combination of the fresh air, time to think, and endorphin production might change your mind about that sleeve of Oreos.
Change the type of snack
It’s not necessarily the time that you are eating the food, but how the food is broken down in the body and how your body reacts. Carbohydrates break down as sugar in the body. Insulin kicks in to bring the blood sugar down. Insulin will remain high as you sleep due to your sugary treat, and insulin tells the body to store body fat. If you spike your insulin before bed, you will essentially be storing fat while you sleep. So choose a snack that is low in sugar, contains a sufficient amount of protein (>10g), and has a good source of fats. The fat and protein sources will satiate you without increasing insulin production. Walnuts are a great choice!
Eliminate mindless eating
Walnuts would be a great evening snack to munch on to cure that late night craving, but did you know a serving size is only a quarter of a cup? A person could easily eat over a full cup of walnuts if they are paying attention to the television rather than how big their handfuls are, and a cup of walnuts has over 800 calories in it. This could be half the necessary calories in someone’s daily diet! Don’t keep snack containers and bags next to the couch in order to prevent overeating mindlessly. Make sure to measure out a serving size of your snack in the kitchen and only make one trip.
Make sure not to skip meals during the day
Whether you feel hunger or not throughout the work day, your body requires fuel in order to function properly. If the body is not supplied with enough energy to work efficiently, you will in turn crave high caloric foods later in the evening, your body’s feedback mechanism to make up for what it lost. Set alarms on your phone to remind yourself to eat so you can prevent the late night binge. Don’t let the day get away from you!
Avoid sugary foods
Did you know sugar is highly addictive? The same sensors in the brain are signaled when eating your chocolate ice cream that would be affected if you were to inject illicit drugs into your system. Once the brain is signaled, the body will crave more, and even withdraw from the sugar when you look to eliminate it. Remind yourself of this before choosing a sugary treat!
Healthy weight loss or maintenance is not putting yourself on a diet. It’s behavior modification and making healthy lifestyle habits for a long and healthy future!
Kristie brings her expertise as an Exercise Physiologist to Maze, focusing on helping patients improve health behaviors in order to assist in the therapy of male sexual dysfunction and improvement of endothelial function. She takes both a lifestyle and behavioral approach to creating wellness goals for patients in order to benefit their treatment outcome.