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8 Steps To Stop Your Nighttime Bingeby Mark Hyman, MD
Do you sometimes sneak a late-night snack, even after you’ve had a big dinner? Or worse, do you find yourself binging at night?
You are not alone! Are you hungry after a big meal? Do you continue eating late into the night? Millions suffer from this devastating problem that leads to obesity, diabetes, and depression!
I call this the sumo wrestler diet. Have you ever wondered how some of these men get so huge? They have a giant meal and then go right to sleep—guaranteed to pack on the pounds!
So, if you eat late at night just before bed, you’re on the sumo wrestler diet, and you will gain weight and get pre-diabetes. Your body will store the extra calories as fat instead of processing and burning them.
So, how does this happen? Have you ever thought about why, even after a big meal, you crave more food, more sugar, and more junk, and you want to have chips or sweets or other unhealthy foods? What is the root cause of this, and how do we deal with it?
Balance your hormones
It’s not a character flaw or an emotional issue that you have to fix. It’s not some psychological trauma that you have to get over (although for some, night eating is triggered by stress). It’s simple biology. All you have to do is understand why these changes happen in your body to make you crave food late at night, and then, you can overcome them.
The underlying cause is an imbalance of the hormones that regulate your appetite. These are what I call the four hormones of the apocalypse. There are specific things that trigger each of them, and if you understand how to balance them, you won’t have cravings for sweets and other foods…and you won’t be eating late at night.
These four hormones are the following:
Insulin – A very important hormone that your body produces to process the sugar in your diet. When your insulin spikes then crashes after eating sugar and flour or junk, it makes you hungry. This can even happen after a large meal of “good food.”
Leptin – This is the brake on your appetite. Leptin says to your brain, “Oh, I’m full. I don’t need any more food.” When you eat a lot of sugar, processed foods, and flour, the leptin doesn’t work anymore. Your brain actually becomes leptin resistant.
Ghrelin – A “hungerhormone” produced in your stomach that helps regulate your appetite. Leptin sends the message, “You should eat – I’m hungry!”
Peptide YY – A hormone that is produced in your intestines, and it says, “Hey, I’m full! I’ve had enough to eat. I don’t need any more.”
There is also one other hormone we need to consider: cortisol, the stress hormone. When you’re stressed, your cortisol level goes up, and when that happens, you get hungrier and your blood sugar and insulin levels rise. This sets the stage for pre-diabetes or insulin resistance, and it’s a vicious cycle.
So, all these hormones have to be kept in balance. How do you get them in balance? It’s very simple.
8 steps to end nighttime eating
Here are the 8 steps you should take to balance your hormones, stop the cravings, and end the nighttime binges.
Eat breakfast: This is the key strategy to stop the nighttime cravings. Of course, if you are binging at night, you probably won’t want to eat breakfast, because when you wake up, you’re still full. So, you have to break that cycle, and you have to start with breakfast: a good, protein breakfast. There are two breakfasts that I love and use all the time. The first is eggs in any form you like: as an omelet, fried, or poached. Eggs are a great source of protein that helps balance your blood sugar. Be sure to eat WHOLE eggs, not egg whites. The second is a whole food protein shake that can be made quite simply. I keep all the ingredients I need in my cupboard, so it’s ‘goof-proof,’ and I don’t have to think about it. It’s all there. I put in hemp seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almond butter, coconut butter, frozen cranberries, frozen wild blueberries, and a little unsweetened almond or hemp milk. I put those ingredients in the blender, and it’s fantastic. If you have one of those for breakfast, it’ll keep your blood sugar even all morning and all day.
Don’t drink your calories: If you have sugary, liquid calories in the form of sodas, juices, lattes, sports drinks, or iced teas, it will spike your insulin and blood sugar and will cause cravings.
Make sure you eat regularly: Have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you want a snack in between, that’s fine, but make sure you eat at regular rhythms and regular times. Your body is a hormonal clock, and you have to eat in rhythm to keep it in balance.
Have protein and good-quality fat at every meal: Good fats are nuts and seeds, avocados, coconut, olive oil, or quality protein like chicken, fish, or grass-fed meat. Some combination of these (plus lots of vegetables) balances your blood sugar.
Find your pause button and soothe the stress: Stress makes you fat (and overeat); relaxing makes you thin. Learn to find your pause button and de-stress. I encourage you to look at my blog on reducing stress to learn exactly what to do. Breathing, yoga, and exercise are some of my favorite ways to reduce stress, which helps reset the hormones, balance brain chemistry, and stop the cravings.
Prioritize sleep: If you don’t sleep, you will be hungry, especially for carbs and sugar. Why? Because when you deprive yourself of sleep, ghrelin, the hormone that drives hunger goes up and PYY, the hormone that makes you feel full, goes down. So, if you want to lose weight, sleep it off.
Find your food sensitivities: People don’t realize this, but you often crave the thing you’re allergic or sensitive to. And gluten and dairy are among the biggest triggers for food sensitivity. Try to get rid of these for a few weeks and see if your cravings stop.
Supplement to cut cravings: There are natural molecules that balance your blood sugar and your insulin and help stop the cravings.
Omega-3 fats,especially fish oil—a couple of capsules a day can really help.
Vitamin D also helps regulate hormones and balance insulin.
There is also a super fiber supplement called PGX that’s very simple to take. It’s made from a Japanese root called glucomannan and seaweed. And it comes in a powder or capsules. Take it 10 to 15 minutes before you eat and after dinner, and it will help cut your cravings. It slows the spiking of insulin and blood sugar, helps make you feel full, increases the PYY, balances out all the hormones, and stops the cravings. I’ve seen people lose up to 40 pounds using this simple high-fiber supplement.
Chromium, lipoic acid, N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) can also help cut cravings.
New studies show how branched chain amino acids can also help balance your hormones, stop your cravings and increase muscle mass.