By Helen West
Many people find themselves eating late at night, even when they aren't hungry. Nighttime eating can cause you to eat more calories than you need and lead to weight gain.
Here are 10 things you can do to stop eating late in the evening or at night:
1. Identify the Cause
Some people eat most of their food late in the evening or during the night.
To change this habit, you need to identify the cause of the problem.
Nighttime eating may be the result of overly restricted daytime food intake, leading to ravenous hunger at night. It may also be caused by habit or boredom.
In both, people use food to curb emotions such as sadness, anger or frustration and they often eat even when they are not hungry.
Binge eaters also tend to eat very large amounts of food in one sitting and feel out of control while they are eating (6).
On the other hand, people with nighttime eating syndrome tend to graze throughout the evening and wake up during the night to eat, consuming more than 25 percent of their daily calories at night (7, 8).
Both conditions have been linked to obesity, depression and trouble sleeping.
Bottom Line: Nighttime eating can be caused by boredom, hunger, binge eating disorder and nighttime eating syndrome. Identifying the cause will help you take the right steps to solve the problem.
2. Identify Your Triggers
As well as identifying the overall cause of your overeating, you may find it useful to look for a specific pattern of events that usually sets off your eating behavior.
People reach for food for many reasons. If you're not hungry but nonetheless find yourself eating at night, think about what led up to it.
Often you will find you are using food to meet a need that isn't hunger.
Tracking your eating and exercise habits alongside your feelings will help you identify patterns, enabling you to work on breaking any negative cycles of behavior.
Bottom Line: Monitoring your behavior patterns and identifying what triggers you to eat at night will help you break cycles of emotional eating.
3. Use a Routine
If you're overeating because you aren't eating enough during the day, then getting yourself into a routine can help.
Structured eating and sleeping times will help you spread your food intake over the day so that you're less hungry at night.
Getting good sleep is very important when it comes to managing your food intake and weight.
Lack of sleep and short sleep duration have been linked to higher calorie intakes and poor-quality diets. Over a long period of time, poor sleep can increase your risk of obesity and related diseases (14).
Having set times for eating and sleeping can help you separate the two activities, especially if you are prone to waking in the night to eat.
Bottom Line: Having a routine for meal and sleep times can help you break unhealthy cycles of behavior. This can help if you have no appetite during the day or tend to binge at night.
4. Plan Your Meals
As part of your routine, you may also benefit from using a meal plan.
Having a meal plan can also reduce any anxiety about how much you are eating and help you spread your food throughout the day, keeping hunger at bay.
Bottom Line: Planning your meals and snacks can help manage your food intake and stave off hunger.
5. Seek Emotional Support
If you think you may have nighttime eating syndrome or binge eating disorder, then you may want to seek professional help.
A professional can help you identify your triggers and implement a treatment plan.
Creating an emotional support network will also help you find ways to manage negative emotions, which otherwise might lead you to the fridge (22).
Bottom Line: For some people with eating disorders, seeking professional help and support can be key to overcoming problematic eating at night.
Anxiety and stress are two of the most common reasons why people eat when they aren't hungry. However, using food to curb your emotions is a bad idea.
If you notice that you eat when you are anxious or stressed, try to find another way to let go of negative emotions and relax.
Relaxation techniques you may find useful include breathing exercises, meditation, hot baths, yoga, gentle exercise or stretching.
Bottom Line: Instead of eating, try to deal with stress and anxiety using relaxation techniques, gentle exercise or stretching.
7. Eat Regularly Throughout the Day
Overeating at night has been linked to erratic eating patterns that can often be categorized as disordered eating (26).
Eating at planned intervals throughout the day in line with “normal" eating patterns can help keep your blood sugar stable.
It can also help prevent feelings of ravenous hunger, tiredness, irritability or a perceived lack of food, which can lead to a binge (27).
However, it's important to note that results in this area have been mixed.
Bottom Line: Eating regular meals will prevent you from getting too hungry and will help you manage your cravings and food impulses.
8. Include Protein at Every Meal
Different foods can have different effects on your appetite.
If you eat due to hunger, including protein at every meal may help curb your hunger.
It could also help you feel more satisfied throughout the day, stop you from being preoccupied with food and help prevent snacking at night (36).
One study found that eating frequent high-protein meals reduced cravings by 60 percent and cut the desire to eat at night by half (37).
Here is a list of 20 healthy high-protein foods.
Bottom Line: Protein is known to keep you fuller for longer. Including protein at every meal can reduce cravings and nighttime eating.
9. Don't Keep Junk Food in the House
If you are prone to eating high-fat, high-sugar junk food at night, remove it from your house.
If unhealthy snacks aren't within easy reach, you are much less likely to eat them.
Instead, fill your house with healthy food that you enjoy. Then when you have the urge to eat, you won't snack on junk.
Good snack-friendly foods to have available if you get hungry include fruits, berries, plain yogurt and cottage cheese.
These are very filling and probably won't cause you to overeat in the case that you do end up becoming ravenously hungry in the evening.
Bottom Line: Take any unhealthy junk food out of the house. Doing so will stop you from snacking on it throughout the night.
10. Distract Yourself
If you are preoccupied with thoughts of food because you're bored, then find something else you enjoy doing in the evening.
This will help keep your mind occupied.
Finding a new hobby or planning evening activities can help prevent mindless late-night snacking.
Bottom Line: If you are eating out of boredom, then try finding something else you enjoy doing in the evening to keep your mind occupied.
Take Home Message
Nighttime eating has been linked to excess calorie intake, obesity and poor health.
If eating at night is a problem for you, then try the steps above to help you stop.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.
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Wild and Scenic Merced River, California. Bob Wick / BLM<p>Let's begin with COVID-19. More than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">16 million Americans</a> have contracted the coronavirus and, tragically,<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank"> more than</a> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">300,000 have died</a> due to the pandemic. While health officials encourage hand-washing to contain the pandemic, at least <a href="https://closethewatergap.org/" target="_blank">2 million Americans</a> are currently living without running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater treatment. Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank">aging water infrastructure is growing increasingly costly for utilities to maintain</a>. That cost is passed along to consumers. The upshot? <a href="https://research.msu.edu/affordable-water-in-us-reaching-a-crisis/" target="_blank">More than 13 million</a> U.S. households regularly face unaffordable water bills — and, thus, the threat of water shutoffs. Without basic access to clean water, families and entire communities are at a higher risk of <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2020/08/05/488705/bridging-water-access-gap-covid-19-relief/" target="_blank">contracting</a> and spreading COVID-19.</p><p>We have a moral duty to ensure that everyone has access to clean water to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Last spring, <a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/coronavirus-stimulus-bill-explained-bailouts-unemployment-benefits.html" target="_blank">Congress appropriated more than $4 trillion</a> to jumpstart the economy and bring millions of unemployed Americans back to work. Additional federal assistance — desperately needed — will present a historic opportunity to improve our crumbling infrastructure, which has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">grossly underfunded for decades</a>.</p><p>A report by my organization, American Rivers, suggests that <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Congress must invest at least $50 billion</a> "to address the urgent water infrastructure needs associated with COVID-19," including the rising cost of water. This initial boost would allow for the replacement and maintenance of sewers, stormwater infrastructure and water supply facilities.</p>
Economic Recovery<p>Investing in water infrastructure and healthy rivers also creates jobs. Consider, for example, that <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y9p6sgnk" target="_blank">every $1 million spent on water infrastructure in the United States generates more than 15 jobs</a> throughout the economy, according to a report by the Value of Water Campaign. Similarly, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyvd2ksp" target="_blank">every "$1 million invested in forest and watershed restoration contracting will generate between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs,</a> depending on the work type," states a working paper released by the Ecosystem Workforce Program, University of Oregon. Healthy rivers also spur tourism and recreation, which many communities rely on for their livelihoods. According to the findings by the Outdoor Industry Association, which have been shared in our report, "Americans participating in watersports and fishing spend over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">$174 billion</a> on gear and trip related expenses. And, the outdoor watersports and fishing economy supports over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">1.5 million jobs nationwide</a>."</p><p>After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress invested in infrastructure to put Americans back to work. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act <a href="https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/25941-clean-water-green-infrastructure-get-major-boost" target="_blank">of 2009 (ARRA) allocated $6 billion</a> for clean water and drinking water infrastructure to decrease unemployment and boost the economy. More specifically, <a href="https://www.conservationnw.org/news-updates/us-reps-push-for-millions-of-restoration-and-resilience-jobs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an analysis of ARRA</a> "showed conservation investments generated 15 to 33 jobs per million dollars," and more than doubled the rate of return, according to a letter written in May 2020 by 79 members of Congress, seeking greater funding for restoration and resilience jobs.</p><p>Today, when considering how to create work for the <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10.7 million</a> people who are currently unemployed, Congress should review previous stimulus investments and build on their successes by embracing major investments in water infrastructure and watershed restoration.</p>
Racial Justice<p>American Rivers also recommends that Congress dedicate <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$500 billion for rivers and clean water over the next 10 years</a> — not just for the benefit of our environment and economy, but also to begin to address the United States' history of deeply entrenched racial injustice.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/npdes/sanitary-sewer-overflows-ssos" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">23,000-75,000 sewer overflows</a> that occur each year release up to <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/2020/05/fighting-for-rivers-means-fighting-for-justice/#:~:text=There%20are%20also%2023%2C000%20to%2075%2C000%20sanitary%20sewer,to%20do%20with%20the%20mission%20of%20American%20Rivers." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10 billion gallons of toxic sewage</a> <em>every day</em> into rivers and streams. This disproportionately impacts communities of color, because, for generations, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color have been <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/flooding-disproportionately-harms-black-neighborhoods/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relegated</a> to live in flood-prone areas and in neighborhoods that have been intentionally burdened with a lack of development that degrades people's health and quality of life. In some communities of color, incessant flooding due to stormwater surges or <a href="https://www.ajc.com/opinion/opinion-partnering-to-better-manage-our-water/7WQ6SEAQP5E4LGQCEYY5DO334Y/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">combined sewer overflows</a> has gone unmitigated for decades.</p><p>We have historically treated people as separate from rivers and water. We can't do that anymore. Every voice — particularly those of people most directly impacted — must have a loudspeaker and be included in decision-making at the highest levels.</p><p>Accordingly, the new administration must diligently invest in projects at the community level that will improve lives in our country's most marginalized communities. We also must go further to ensure that local leaders have a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, the Biden-Harris administration should restore <a href="https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401#:~:text=Section%20401%20Certification%20The%20Clean%20Water%20Act%20%28CWA%29,the%20United%20States.%20Learn%20more%20about%20401%20certification." target="_blank">Section 401 of the Clean Water Act</a>, which was undermined by the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/tribes-and-environmental-groups-sue-trump-administration-to-preserve-clean-water-protections#:~:text=Under%20Section%20401%20of%20the%20Clean%20Water%20Act%2C,seeks%20to%20undermine%20that%20authority%20in%20several%20ways%3A" target="_blank">Trump administration's 2020 regulatory changes</a>. This provision gives states and tribes the authority to decide whether major development projects, such as hydropower and oil and gas projects, move forward.</p>
Climate Resilience<p>Of course, the menacing shadow looming over it all? Climate change. <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">More than 100 climate-related catastrophes</a> have pummeled the Earth since the pandemic was declared last spring, including the blitzkrieg of megafires, superstorms and heat waves witnessed during the summer of 2020, directly impacting the lives of more than <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">50 million people globally</a>.</p><p>Water and climate scientist Brad Udall often says, "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQhpj5G0dME" target="_blank">Climate change is water change</a>." In other words, the most obvious and dire impacts of climate change are evidenced in profound changes to our rivers and water resources. You've likely seen it where you live: Floods are more damaging and frequent. Droughts are deeper and longer. Uncertainty is destabilizing industry and lives.</p><p>By galvanizing action for healthy rivers and managing our water resources more effectively, we can insure future generations against the consequences of climate change. First, we must safeguard rivers that are still healthy and free-flowing. Second, we must protect land and property against the ravages of flooding. And finally, we must promote policies and practical solutions that take the science of climate disruption into account when planning for increased flooding, water shortage and habitat disruption.</p><p>Imagine all that rivers do for us. Most of our towns and cities have a river running through them or flowing nearby. Rivers provide clean drinking water, irrigate crops that provide our food, power our homes and businesses, provide wildlife habitat, and are the lifeblood of the places where we enjoy and explore nature, and where we play and nourish our spirits. Healthy watersheds help <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059952" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mitigate</a> climate change, absorbing and reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Healthy rivers and floodplains help communities adapt and build resilience in the face of climate change by improving flood protection and providing water supply and quality benefits. Rivers are the cornerstones of healthy, strong communities.</p><p>The more than <a href="https://archive.epa.gov/water/archive/web/html/index-17.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">3 million miles</a> of rivers and streams running across our country are a source of great strength and opportunity. When we invest in healthy rivers and clean water, we can improve our lives. When we invest in rivers, we create jobs and strengthen our economy. When we invest in rivers, we invest in our shared future.</p>
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