Stop raiding the fridge in the middle of the night
You know gorging on ice cream, sweet potato pie and Doritos late at night leaves you feeling frustrated and guilty. Your head might have the will power to resist the cravings, but your mouth often has other ideas.
What are cravings?
A food craving is an intense desire to eat a particular food. If you are craving cherry pie, eating cashews is probably not going to satisfy the craving (duh!). Additionally, studies show women crave sweets, like chocolate, cake and ice cream, while men crave heartier food like burgers, mashed potatoes and pizza.
Why we crave
Learned behaviors and experiences
Were you rewarded as a child with something sweet when you had a bad day? The learned behavior of having something sweet to boost your mood became a habit that is hard to break.
Certain hormones help control appetite. Ghrelin is the hormone you produce that drives you to eat; leptin is the hormone that signals you’re full. Normally, these hormones act as a checks-and-balances system to keep your appetite in check. But certain physiological conditions, such as sleep deprivation, throw off this system. Other hormones—cortisol, estrogen and serotonin—can play a role in food cravings, too. And when you’re stressed, sleep deprived, or experiencing the normal hormonal fluctuations of your menstrual cycle, these hormones can cause you to seek out fatty, sugary foods.
Environmental factors and sensory stimulation
Some research has found that the sight, smell, taste, or thought of your favorite foods can lead to intense cravings. If you see food commercials on TV or pass a Krispy Kreme shop and smell those glazed doughnuts, food cravings could be initiated.
Why are cravings so strong at night?
The kids are in bed and your nighttime chores are finished. This is probably the first time you’ve had a chance to relax after a long, stressful day. That can be just the trigger to treat yourself with something decadent.
Banish late-night munchies with the following strategies:
Eat breakfast within 90 minutes of waking and every five hours throughout day. This keeps blood sugar level, which keeps you from overeating or bingeing at night.
Eat a fiber-rich dinner. Soluble fiber keeps your blood sugars stable, while insoluble fiber keeps you full through the evening hours. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the meal.
Push dinner back an hour. If you regularly find yourself raiding the refrigerator late in the evening, consider starting dinner at 7 instead of 6. This leaves you less awake time to snack.
Don’t buy high-fat treats. All the will power in the world can crumble in the face of tempting treats in the freezer. If it’s not in the house, you can’t eat it.
Plan your nighttime snack. Plan for something healthy, and you’re likely to crave it.
Keep yourself busy. Exercise, play board games or plan the next day’s outfit. Connect with a friend you’ve been meaning to call. Take a nighttime dance, kickboxing or spin class. The activity will replace the need to munch.