7 Ways to stop nighttime snacking

One of the most common questions I get is how to stop nighttime snacking, so if you are struggling with this then don’t worry, as you definitely aren’t alone! 

The problem with nighttime snacking is it can very quickly hinder any progress, affecting weight gain, causing various health problems, as well as leading to a whole host of negative emotions.

The good news though is that if nighttime snacking controls your evening routine, then you have come to the right place, as in this post I’m going to share with you 7 ways to stop nighttime time snacking for good.

1) Find the cause

Snacking at night is often a response to various emotions, from boredom to loneliness, sadness, frustration, anger or depression.

So when facing these emotions we turn to food as a coping mechanism to deal with them, rather than facing them head on.

While eating gives us a temporary boost in the feel-good hormone dopamine, it doesn’t actually solve the problem, especially when afterwards we are left feeling guilty, beating ourselves up over why we have no willpower, can never stick to anything and often leaving us feeling worse than before.

The problem with eating as a response to emotions as that often we do it subconsciously without even realising.

One way to tackle this is to keep a mood journal where you write down how you are feeling when you choose to snack or eat.

Ask yourself; ‘Am I hungry?’ ‘Am I thirsty?’ ‘Am I bored/lonely/tired/stressed? etc.

Then you can use this journal to look back and find links between your emotions and food choices, and from there find a plan to change or deal with these emotions in another manner.

2) Identify triggers

Along with knowing the cause of nighttime snacking, we also need to know what triggers it, as it is often down to habit and can be kicked off by a certain cue or event each night.

I’ll give you an example; one of my clients used to devour a packet of biscuits every night, and no matter what she tried, couldn’t get rid of the cravings.

I got her to keep a food and mood diary so we could look at her evening routine, and it turned out that everynight she would relax with a cup of tea, which triggered the desire for the biscuits.

We changed the tea for another drink, breaking the trigger and stopping the craving.

My favourite strategy to deal with triggers is to say to yourself that before you can give in, you have to have a glass of water and wait 15 minutes.

This breaks the trigger of acting on impulse and instant gratification, putting you in control.

Then at the end of 15 minutes you can decide if you still want it, or was the desire down to being thirsty or trying to deal with another emotion? Then on the times you do give in you can do so guilt free, knowing you waited.

3) Eat more during the day

With our hectic on the go lifestyles it can be easy to get caught up rushing around at work, after the kids or completing one of the days many tasks, leading to grab and go meals, picking, or forgetting to eat all together.

This could mean that by the time nighttime comes you are starving, leading to excessive overeating.

In this case it would really help to have a meal plan, with set times where you sit down and have a proper filling balanced meal.

Make sure you add a decent portion of protein and some healthy fat, as these are going to keep you fuller for longer, keeping hunger and cravings at bay.

4) Focus on improving sleep

Numerous studies have linked a lack of sleep to overeating, especially when the tiredness hits and you go searching for a hit of energy to get through that midday slump.

One study even found that people who sleep 80 minutes less than usual eat 550 calories more the next day!

I know prioritising sleep can be tough, as it is usually the first thing to go when we have a lot on or want to sneak in one last episode, but set yourself set times to go to bed each night.

5) Find ways to manage stress

One of the biggest ways that people deal with stress or anxiety is turning to food, but just like with other emotions, all it does is give temporary relief, not solving the problem.

I know telling you to reduce stress is useless advice, but if you want to get your health and snacking under control then there’s no way around it, you have to find ways to manage it.

Check out an article on managing stress here.

6) Don’t keep junk food in the house

The easiest way to stop yourself from snacking is to remove it from being an option, meaning no more buying ‘junk’ food or other goods that you overindulge in at night.

The age old ‘out of sight, out of mind’ will go a long way in breaking the triggers, especially since you will now have to go out of your way to give in.

Instead replace them with healthy snacks, such as fruits, plain yoghurts or cottage cheese, or if you find that you fall victim to impulse buys, then start doing your shopping online.

7) Be strong and stop

I know it is tough, as someone who never felt satisfied without something sweet after their evening meal I know exactly how difficult it can be to break this habit.

But for many people nighttime snacking can an addiction, meaning the only way to break it is to push through.

Just like someone trying to quit smoking or drinking the first few days will be the hardest, but if you can persevere, you can break the control it has over you.

One thing that really helps with this is changing your environment, so instead of retreating to the coach after a long day make sure you eat your meals at a table. Then when you are done head out for a walk, see some friends, break a sweat, go to bed and read, or anything else that removes you from your usual circumstances.

Final thoughts

Nighttime snacking directly affects how we feel mentally and emotionally, as in many cases it is an outlet being turned to for comfort instead of facing the problem head on, leaving us in a negative state of mind.

Not only that, but it is also linked to excessive calorie intake, health problems and obesity, along with being one of the reasons why people struggle with losing or maintaining weight.

So to help you take control of this part of your life I’ve put together a FREE cheatsheet for you…

Enter your email below to get it!

What do you think?

Do you have any strategies that have worked for you to help with nighttime snacking?

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