Do you crave snack late at night even though you don't feel hungry at all? You just want to have something sweet to nibble on, right?
You're not alone. I was like that too, especially when I stayed up late burning the midnight oil working on projects or watching my favorite late night TV programs.
Actually, eating snacks isn't a bad thing at all. But late night eating is definitely bad. It can evoke hormonal disorder, lead to insulin resistance and cause weight gain which can turn into diabetes or other nightmarish health problems.
To prevent my health from getting into a fix, I managed to beat my bad habits and stop late night snacking effectively. Now I'm sharing the techniques and strategies here and hope you'll find them useful.
1. Eat a Satisfying Dinner
A satisfying meal at dinner can help curb your cravings for late night snacking. By satisfying, I don't mean BIG portion but rather, a balanced (containing adequate carbs, fat and protein), nutrient-dense and fiber-rich meal that will put your true hunger off till the next morning.
Make sure you choose unrefined over refined carbs and use good fat like coconut oil for cooking. These foods not only help to keep you full longer, but also boost your immunity against illnesses.
2. Train Your Body to Sleep Early
If you've been a full-fledged night owl for ages, it really is not easy to get in bed early. I've been there. Here's what you can do to beat your long-term unhealthy habit.
If you normally turn in at say, 3 A.M. (I used to do that) and you toss and turn for about 30 mins before your body produces sufficient melatonin to "knock you out", which means your actual sleep begins at 3:30 A.M., then try going to bed 30 mins earlier for a good head start.
You'll probably still fall asleep at 3:30 A.M. even when you turn in earlier at 2:30 A.M. That's normal for the first few nights because your body has already accustomed to falling asleep after 3 A.M. and it needs time to recalibrate its biological clock.
My advice is, "persuade" your body to sleep 30 mins earlier and keep doing it. Your body will gradually adjust to your new habit after a couple of weeks or so.
Once you achieve that, push your bedtime earlier by another 30 mins and so forth until you're able to sleep at 11 A.M., which is the perfect time for you to enter slumberland.
If you feel 30 mins is "a lot" for you to begin with, then make it 15 mins.
Think about how you manage to sleep so late? You didn't go from sleeping regularly at 11 P.M. straight to sleeping late at 3 A.M. It's actually a gradual process that went unnoticed if you cast your mind back to the days where you went to bed before midnight every night.
If you can't trace back, never mind. Just follow this tactic which will reverse the process and help you get back to sleep early. And eventually, stop your late night snacking.
It may take months for you to train yourself to sleep by 11 P.M. and thus requires some serious discipline on your part to work. But you can speed up a little when you pick up these natural sleep-inducing tips.
3. Brush Your Teeth Early Before Bed
I got inspired by my wife, Laura. She's a goody-two-shoes in this and will stop eating after she has brushed her teeth at around 9 or 10 P.M. I only did that right before sleep. But now, I apply her technique and it beats my late night cravings.
If you're anything like us, this psychological tactic will work for you as well. If not, then use the substitution method (below).
4. Get "Food-less" Substitutes
Craving is a form of false hunger. It comes and goes. It won't stay long because it has "expiration period".
To get rid of cravings, you got to find something to do, particularly stuff you enjoy that can effectively occupy your mind and let you totally forget about late night snacking.
For example, I like to read books on self-improvement or watch news while my wife chooses to interact with her Facebook friends or do some graceful yoga moves. Very soon the cravings will pass.
We also found that having a deep and meaningful conversation is effective in beating late night cravings. Profound conversation like this can make you happy too.
5. Plan Your Night Snack Time
If you've tried various ways but your cravings for late night snacking are too strong to beat especially when you don't always get the "luxury" to eat a balanced dinner, or you want to go easy on stopping your late night snacking habits to make the transition smoother, what can you do?
Snack it earlier rather than do it late at night. When you plan to snack after dinner, make sure you cut back on your dinner's calorie counts.
For example, let's say you always feed yourself 300 kcal at 7 P.M. Imagine you plan to take some sweet stuff (e.g. 50 kcal) at say, 8:30 P.M., it'll definitely add onto your evening calorie intake and make it to 350 kcal.
An extra 50 kcal every night will add up to many pounds of extra fat in a month.
To avoid gaining the extra pounds, you need to cut your dinner's calorie intake down to 250 kcal so that your total evening calorie intake still equates to 300 kcal. Get it?
Okay, maybe you find it troublesome to count calories or you're not good at that. Then apply this tactic – if you normally fill your stomach to 70% at dinner (which is a healthy satiety level), now, reduce the satiety level to 60%. Leave 10% for your night snack.
Don't worry, you won't feel hungry easily right before bedtime as long as you keep sufficient fiber and unrefined carbs in your dinner.
The strategy here will enable you to enjoy your sweet treats after dinner while keeping the extra pounds at bay.
But remember this, while reducing your food portion size, don't increase your post-dinner snack intake or the calorie reduction in your dinner will become meaningless and useless.
Is 50 kcal of snacking too little for you to beat your late night cravings?
I could only suggest up to 80 kcal but not anything more than that because our digestive system is not productive especially late at night. In other words, if you feed your stomach too much food at this hour, it adds to the digestive load and you might not sleep restfully.
In fact, eating just 50-80 kcal of sweet snack in the evening should satisfy your cravings and avoid late night snacking provided the sweet treat is of low glycemic index (low-GI) which releases glucose more slowly and steadily.
Warning: Stop eating at least 2 hours before bedtime to allow your body to prepare for sleep.
The Harsh Truth...
How many years have you been eating late night snack?
The longer you have been practicing late night snacking, the harder it'll take you to stop it.
To make stopping late night snacking easier, learn to make wise food choices. Avoid bad carbs such as refined sugar and white flour as much as you can because bad carbs in your dinner can trigger your cravings for late night snacking in most cases.
On top of that, try using as many combinations of tips from above as you can to beat late night snacking.
Please also note that you should make every change and move progressively and gradually. Abrupt changes won't last long and can easily revert you to your old self or make you even worse than before.
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