Focused on weight loss and developing a healthy relationship with food? Then you need to learn how to stop late night eating.
If this is something you’re struggling with, then your evenings probably look a little something like this: you settle down in front of the TV after a long day. The kids are down for the night, the kitchen is cleaned up from dinner, and it’s finally your time to rest and relax.
You turn on some Netflix and then the munchies hit. Some popcorn sounds nice. Or maybe some chocolate from the candy stash you hide from the kids.
Maybe you grab for the bag of chips in the pantry. You’re intending to only eat a few handfuls, but next thing you know you’ve gone a little overboard.
By the time you’re climbing into bed, you kind of regret the snacking and resolve to do better tomorrow.
I used to repeat this cycle all the time. In this article, I’m going to go over some tips and advice on how to stop late night eating that helped me, in the hopes that it will help you too.
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Tips on How to Stop Late Night Eating
Why You Should Stop Late Night Eating
First and foremost, before we get started on how to stop late night eating, I think it’s important to go over why you should stop late night eating.
Eating late at night can have some definite negative side effects to your health. When you eat late at night, you are typically staying pretty sedentary after you eat.
You might continue to sit around on the couch, or you go to bed. This means that your body doesn’t really have a chance to process your food.
Eating late at night can lead to:
Higher blood sugar levels
If weight loss and improving your health are important goals for you, then you are definitely going to want to get a handle on this bad habit sooner rather than later.
Eat a Filling Dinner – Healthy Fats, Fiber, Protein
Step one in cutting out late night eating is to have a healthy filling dinner. Make sure that you are getting enough healthy fats, fiber, and protein in your evening meal.
These nutrients help your body feel full and satisfied longer. This is going to help cut down on false hunger signals and cravings that your body will be sending.
Benefits of Healthy Fats
So before you get all nervous, when I say fats, I’m referring to healthy fats, not “bad” fats. According to HelpGuide.org, healthy fats refer to monosaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These fats are good for your heart, cholesterol, and overall health.
Healthy fats lower blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol levels, and lower risk of heart disease and stroke. They can also reduce inflammation in the body.
Here are some good sources of healthy fats:
Olive, canola, peanut, and sesame oil
Nuts and seeds
Benefits of Fiber
According to the Mayoclinic, fiber is an important part of a healthy diet because it does 2 things. 1.) it helps control blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar drops it can make you feel shaky, moody, and hangry.
2.) high fiber foods tend to be more filling than low fiber foods. This means that you’re likely to eat less and feel satisfied longer when you eat high fiber foods.
This makes it a great addition to your dinner to help you battle those late night cravings. Some good sources of fiber are:
Beans, peas, and other legumes
Nuts and seeds
Benefits of Protein
Ensuring you get enough protein in your evening meal is key to curbing late night eating because it helps fill you up faster. This means you aren’t going to want to eat as much or feel the urge to eat as often.
Protein also increases recovery from exercise or injury, helps to reduce muscle loss, and helps build new lean muscle. Here are some good sources of protein:
Nuts and seeds
Beans and peas
Set a Cut Off Time for Closing the Kitchen
My next tip on how to stop late night eating is to set a cut off time for closing the kitchen. This means that you pick a time in the evening when there will be no more eating.
No more stopping in the pantry and seeing what looks good. No more opening the fridge to see if something might catch your eye.
You might even decide not to go into the kitchen at all to avoid temptation!
If late night eating is something you do pretty regularly, then you want to ease your way into it. If you normally find yourself eating at 10:00 pm at night, close down your kitchen at 9:30 pm.
Once you get more comfortable with that, move it up to 9:00 pm. Gradually move up what time you close the kitchen down until dinner becomes your last meal of the day.
Avoid Your Food Triggers
The next tip on how to stop late night eating is to avoid your food triggers. Avoid the actions or environments that make you want to eat.
For example, if sitting down in your favorite chair in front of the TV automatically has you craving a bag of chips, try watching TV from a new spot for a few weeks.
If cleaning up the dinner dishes spurs you into finishing off the leftovers so nothing goes to waste, try cleaning up as soon as everyone is finished eating.
If you find yourself peeking into the fridge every time you walk through the kitchen, try to take a new path to wherever you’re going. Even if it means you have to walk the long way around.
Late night eating is often a habit that is triggered by a certain action or thought. If you can redirect yourself at the very beginning of the habit you can often avoid doing it altogether.
Try Drinking Some Water
My next tip on how to stop late night eating is to go drink some water. Our bodies require a lot more water than most of us drink.
When our bodies start to get a little dehydrated, they will send out signals to get something to drink. If those signals get ignored, they will send out hunger signals.
Our bodies will get the hydration it needs, even if it has to get it from food. This can often be the cause behind some of your late night urges to eat.
Drinking water can also help fill your belly up and help you feel more full. This will make it that much easier to stay strong when temptation is calling.
Learn the Difference Between Physical Hunger and Emotional Cravings
The next tip I have on how to stop late night eating is to recognize the difference between physical hunger and emotional cravings.
Physical hunger is when your body needs food for fuel. It’s sending hunger signals to your body to tell you that it needs energy.
Emotional cravings are when you feel the need to eat, but it’s driven by emotions, habit, boredom, etc. Your body doesn’t need the food, you just want it.
Here’s how to tell the difference:
Physical hunger is a sensation in your body, not a thought about food. When I become physically hungry, I often feel it in my stomach first. When I am wanting to eat about emotions, I typically start thinking about the food first. I know when I am thinking about how good it will taste to justify eating it, it’s an emotional craving.
If you can forget about it or be distracted by it, it’s not physical hunger. If you wait 10 minutes from your initial desire to eat, and you realize the feeling has passed, it was probably an emotional craving. Emotional cravings come in waves. Physical hunger is constant and increases.
If you are craving something specific, ex: sweet, salty, carb related, it’s not physical hunger. Emotional cravings are usually for a specific food or taste in your mouth. If you are physically hungry, that broccoli in the fridge is looking pretty good.
If it’s been less than 2 hours after your last full meal, it’s probably an emotional craving. Physical hunger usually shows up 3-4 hours after your last meal. Emotional cravings can show up when you are noticeably full.
If it follows a strong emotion, i.e. anger, stress, sadness, guilt, it’s probably an emotional craving. Physical hunger only shows up when our bodies need fuel. Emotional cravings show up when we are experiencing strong emotions.
Check-in with your late night eating urges. Are they physical hunger or emotional cravings? If it’s not physical hunger, you know you need to resist the urge. (I go over some great steps on how to tackle that here.)
If it is physical hunger, find yourself a healthy snack that is in line with your weight loss goals.
Create a List of Power Thoughts
My next tip on how to stop late night eating is to create a list of power thoughts. Power thoughts are phrases, quotes, and thoughts that you can refer back to when you are feeling tempted.
They should empower and motivate you to make a better choice in the moment. You can repeat them out loud, write them down, or just think them to yourself.
Here are some of my favorites:
I’m creating a body that I enjoy living in.
Eat like you love yourself.
Doing the best in this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.
What decision will I wish I had made tomorrow morning?
Does this support my goals?
Every time I practice a good decision, it becomes that much easier the next time.
Will this decision propel me forward or set me back?
You can use these power thoughts or sit down and make a list of your own. Aim for at least 5-10 power thoughts. It’s nice to have different options, because some thoughts are going to be more effective some days than others.
When you find yourself reaching for that bag of chips or candy stash late at night, pause and go through some of your power thoughts. It can really help reset your mind and recommit you to making a change.
Create a List of Pattern Interrupts
My next tip on how to stop late night snacking is to create a pattern interrupt. A pattern interrupt is a change in behavior that disrupts a habit cycle.
A habit cycle usually goes like this:
Step 1 Cue: Something cues or triggers you into wanting to perform a certain behavior in expectation of a reward. For example, a cue could be that you sit down to eat in front of the TV to relax after a long day.
Step 2 Craving: Based on the cue, you begin to feel a craving or desire to perform a certain action. For example, after sitting down on the couch, you get a strong craving for a bag of chips.
Step 3 Response: Your response is the actual habit that you perform. For example, the response would be to go and grab a bag of chips and start eating them while you watch TV.
Step 4 Reward: The reward is the enjoyable experience you get from performing the habit. For example, the reward would be that you finally feel relaxed and calm.
In his article, How To Start New Habits That Actually Stick, James Clear explains it like this, “The cue is about noticing the reward. The craving is about wanting the reward. The response is about obtaining the reward.”
If you want to learn more about habits, how to start new ones, and break old ones, I highly recommend his book “Atomic Habits.” You can find it here.
Possible Pattern Interrupts
Any action or thought that disrupts one of the steps of the habit cycle can function as a pattern interrupt. You can try to avoid the cue, redirect the craving, perform a different action, or remove the reward.
In order to create a list of pattern interrupts, you need to first recognize the steps of your habit cycle. If you aren’t sure of at least a few of your triggers, head over to this post here. I go in-depth on how to become aware of your habit patterns and triggers when it comes to eating.
Once you get a good idea of what triggers your late night eating and when you typically do it, you can start making a list of actions you can take or thoughts you can practice to disrupt the cycle.
Here are some of the ones that I used to cut out my late night eating:
Get up and go brush my teeth when I feel the craving hit.
Sit in a different part of the house to relax in the evenings.
Go drink a big cup of water.
Take a quick walk around the house.
Avoid going into the kitchen after 8:00 pm.
Take a bubble bath to relax instead of watching TV.
Write out a list of 5-10 reasons why eating late at night doesn’t help me reach my weight loss goals.
Check in with a friend when the craving hits for extra accountability.
When making your list of pattern interrupts, aim for writing out 5-10. Just like the power thoughts, you want lots of options to choose from. Some nights some pattern interrupts are going to work better than others.
Practice, Practice, Practice
My last tip on how to stop late night eating is to practice, practice, practice! I probably can’t say this enough, but you have to put in the work.
Changing a habit you have probably practiced for months if not years isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take a lot of time for it to become your new normal.
You’re also going to make mistakes and sometimes not follow through. That’s ok! That’s a part of every successful journey. Mine included.
What matters most is you evaluate what happened and then make a plan for what you’re going to do differently next time.
Every time you practice avoiding late night eating, it will become that much easier the next time. If you stay committed to the process, it will eventually become something you do without thinking.
Conclusion on Tips on How to Stop Late Night Eating
So those are my tips on how to stop late night eating. You can use 1 of them or all of them together to help curb your late night eats. Pick the ones that sound like they will work the best for you and give them a try. If that doesn’t work, try another one.
If you love the thoughts behind the information I have shared but feel like you need more help and support putting them into action, check out my coaching and accountability group. It’s designed to help women use tools like these to rewire their minds so they can make the changes they want in their health and their weight.
I would love to know your thoughts on how to stop late night eating. If you found some tips helpful or have some of your own to share, comment below, or email me Candice@littlestepsbighappy.com. Follow me on Pinterest for more healthy eating and weight loss tips.
Looking for more healthy eating tips?
Healthy Eating Habits:
- Emotional Overeating: how to recognize it and how to stop it
- How to Eat Healthy When Your Family Doesn’t: 8 Practical Tips
- How to Break Unhealthy Eating Habits in 6 Steps
- How to Stop Mindless Snacking
- 15 Quick and Easy Tips for Drinking More Water
- Overeating vs. Satisfied: How to Tell if You’re Eating Too Much
- 7 Tips to Manage Food Cravings and Sustain Your Weight Loss
- 8 Secrets to a Successful Diet
- How to Stick to Your Diet on Vacation
- Does Counting Calories Work? – The Surprising Truth!
- 3 Ways You Practice Diet Sabotage & How to Stop!
- 21 Small Diet Changes to Lose Weight for Good
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I’m a busy mom of 3 turned Health and Fitness Coach and Self Defense Instructor. I help inspire other moms to reach their health, fitness, and weight loss goals. You can usually find me chasing my kiddos around, training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or sneaking away to read romance novels. About Me