Is having nighttime cravings a living nightmare for you? Are you always asking yourself: why do I binge eat? The reasons for nighttime binge eating could be physiological, psychological or both. Learning to recognize which category your binge eating falls into is the first step toward taking back control of your food habits. Finding the right tools and support to help you achieve and maintain the changes you seek is the next step.
Balance Your Blood Sugar
Being on a blood sugar rollercoaster can cause you to feel driven to eat at less than ideal times. When consuming high quantities of foods containing sugar and other simple or refined carbohydrates, the body must produce more insulin to respond to that glycemic overload. If you subsequently stop eating for a few hours, as is the case when going to bed at night, the extra insulin your body produced may cause your blood sugar to drop uncomfortably low. You may then feel as if you need to go eat something to bring your sugar back up. The blood sugar swings could even wake you to drive you to eat. If what you eat at that time contains a lot of sugar and simple carbs again, the cycle repeats.
Carbs, especially simple carbs, convert to sugar easily and therefore have a higher insulin response. Conversely, protein has a lower effect on your insulin response, while dietary fat’s effect is even lower still and, in some cases, triggers little to no insulin release. Eating a more balanced diet where fat and protein is adequate and carbs don’t dominate can help you even out your blood sugar and insulin cycles. Once you get off the rollercoaster, you may find that you have less hunger and fewer cravings waking you up in the middle of the night.
Do you get busy and forget to eat? Are you on a diet because you’re trying to lose weight? Consider looking at your patterns and investigating whether you are eating too few calories for your needs. Cutting calories excessively may even stall weight loss you may be trying to achieve, so there’s no point in doing it intentionally.
Do you know what your actual, individualized caloric needs are? Many variables play roles in influencing your metabolism, so looking at what the average person’s needs are may still leave you consuming the wrong amounts.
An excellent way to find out how much energy you burn is through a Resting Metabolic Rate test, or RMR. These tests tell you the minimum number of calories you need to consume daily to maintain your body’s current mass even if you do absolutely nothing throughout the day. RMR tests measure your energy consumption either by electrodes on your hands and feet or, for more accurate results, through your breathing.
The goal is to consume a proper amount of healthy food to meet your objective, whether it’s maintaining or losing weight, yet also avoid falling so short on calories that you trigger cravings. Once armed with the knowledge of what your individual RMR is, you’ll have a target number to aim for.
Keep a Food and Health Journal
Journaling about your health, emotions and eating habits could inspire insights and reveal connections you may not have otherwise thought of. As you fill out your journal each day, you may eventually be able to answer one of your burning questions: why do I binge eat at night?
Perhaps you will discover that cravings for sugar always follow bad news, so you decide to start following bad news with meditation instead. Maybe you’ll realize that hearing about others’ successes makes you feel inadequate and drives you to eat, so you start using the time you were emotion-eating to pursue successes of your own that you’ve been putting off. As you keep a record, try to identify what emotions seem to accompany your nighttime binge eating, such as loneliness, fear, envy, anxiety or boredom, and use those revelations as opportunities to grow and improve your quality of life.
Switch to Healthier Versions
Once you have identified whether you are binging at night due to physical imbalances or emotional triggers, correcting the problem may not be instantaneous. Be patient with yourself as you persevere. If you find you are still distracted by the desire to eat more, use it as an opportunity to eat something healthy and nutrient-dense instead.
Replace candy with low-glycemic fruits such as berries. Eat a salad full of crunchy leafy greens instead of crackers. Eat salmon, rich in essential omega-3 oils, instead of greasy potato chips. Until you can get the physical or emotional triggers driving you to eat at night under control, make sure foods that provide nutritional benefit are the ones available to you rather than junk foods full of empty, highly processed calories.
Choosing foods that are rich in micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, healthy oils and sufficient protein as your snacks of choice if you do still feel a need to binge may supply critical components your body needs to overcome the emotional or physical triggers driving you to eat. When you’re not consuming enough of the right materials, your body may not have what it needs to cope sufficiently with stress or regulate your hormones correctly, both of which can drive you to want to eat more.
Seek Support and Positivity
Having goals and interests to pursue and a positive community to engage in can bring greater emotional satisfaction to your life. Leading a happier and more satisfying life can reduce stress and dampen desires to eat for emotional reasons.
Finding a solid support network and gaining control of your nighttime cravings doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. With our Eat Right Now® app, you can learn how to stop binge eating at night by accessing tools that are proven effective for reducing cravings. In fact, a study by the University of California in San Francisco found that the app resulted in a 40 percent decrease of cravings among participants.
Use our app to employ awareness-building exercises, journal and track daily progress, connect with peers to help you stay on track and attend video meetings with experts. Join today to experience the app awarded Best Mental Health Advocate of 2017-18 and learn to stop struggling with nighttime cravings.