Why We Binge Eat at Night—and Three Ways to Stop
You eat a delicious dinner and know you should be satisfied, but you really want something sweet for dessert. Not long after that you crave something crunchy as you’re watching your favorite television show. Before bed, you’re rummaging in the fridge again.
Many people have less trouble controlling their eating during the day than at night, snacking excessively or even binging at night. Now, research suggests that hormonal changes could be partially to blame.
A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that hunger is higher at night, and it is harder to feel full in the evening hours. This is compounded by stressful situations, and could be partially explained by rising levels of the hormones that cause hunger.
“There’s more opportunity to eat in the evening, but this study is showing that hormonal responses are setting [people] up to do this,” Susan Carnell, study author and an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told The New York Times.
This isn’t the first study to show that eating at night could have a biological basis. A 2013 study out of Harvard found that even non-obese adults tend to be more hungry at night. Researchers theorized that this could be a biological phenomenon meant to encourage us to eat enough before fasting through the hours that we are asleep.
Although there may have been a biological advantage to night snacking in the past, modern Americans too often reach for sugary treats and other unhealthy snacks at night, so it’s important to work hard to curtail the habit. Here are some ways to make the change:
- Set a kitchen curfew. Dr. Kelly Costello Allison, director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests closing your kitchen after a certain time of night and simply not allowing yourself to snack further.
- Opt for an unsweetened drink. If you really need to consume something, drink some water or herbal tea, which will give you an oral fix without any calories or extra sugar.
- Boost your willpower with help. If you’re craving something sweet, use a Sweet Defeat lozenge, which will stop you from eating sugar for up to an hour.
Despite the fact that biology might make it hard to avoid snacking at night, you’re ultimately in charge of what you consume no matter what the time of day.