Acknowledge the time of day
Researchers at Brigham Young University found that your brain and the time of the day can affect what and when you eat. The 2015 study published in the academic journal Brain Imaging and Behavior looked at how people’s brains reacted upon seeing high- and low-calorie meals at different points of the day. Upon observing MRI scans from their subjects, the scientists discovered that food looks visually less rewarding at nighttime, and as a result you eat more to feel satisfied. So next time you’re thinking of sneaking those extra bites of that cheesecake before bed, keep in mind that your satisfaction level may be all in your head—not your stomach.
Don’t save all your calories for the end of the day
If you eat like a bird or skip meals during the day, you’re more likely to binge out at night. “Balancing your blood sugar by eating a protein-rich breakfast, followed by protein, fiber, and good fats throughout the day is the best way to put the brakes on nighttime eating,” says NY Health and Wellness Nutrition Director Jacqui Justice. These are signs you might need to eat more healthy fats, increase your fiber intake, or get more protein in your diet.
Give yourself a bedtime (and stick to it)
When you don’t sleep well, your body ends up confusing your appetite levels, and as a result, your hunger hormone ghrelin and your satiety hormone leptin end up imbalanced. “This imbalance causes people to not be hungry in the morning when they should be and instead hungry at night when they shouldn’t be,” explains Justice. And if your sleep issues are not resolved, this consistent behavior can even lead to Night Eating Syndrome (NED). To get a better night’s sleep avoid scrolling through your phone right before bed. Instead try reading a book, meditate, or try these tips to fall asleep more easily.