By Jessica Sepel

One of the most frustrating cycles many of my clients describe is the need to snack. They will be super disciplined during the day, and then everything falls apart after dark. Which, of course, will generally stall progress for those who are holding on to excess weight.

Believe it or not, there are very simple reasons this is happening – and it’s not a matter of willpower! In my nutritional opinion, nighttime is for rest. It is not a time to burden our bodies with too much food and to strain our digestive systems. We spend a good part of the day eating, and now our body simply wants to sleep. With these tips, you can make rest and repair the priority.

You’re not eating enough protein. Are you getting enough protein? Probably not, and especially not at dinner. This macronutrient keeps us full and satisfied. Interestingly, protein also contains chemicals, like tryptophan, that help you fall asleep. Fill up on protein at dinner and you’ll not only have less of an urge to snack later, you’ll also be ready for bed at a decent hour.

You’re stressed out. A stressed mind and body will often turn to food. If you’re under a lot of stress, you may find you get a second wind in the evening – this may also tell your body that you want food. My tip? Really listen to what your body wants. Stop and put your legs up against the wall for ten minutes. It will relax your nervous system and help prepare you for sleep. Enjoy an early night!

Your blood sugar is imbalanced. Ensure you’re eating not only enough protein but also good fats at each meal instead of a purely carbohydrate-based meal. Sugar and refined carbs (like white bread and pasta) will cause your blood sugar to crash. I recommend a generally low carb/low sugar diet, but gluten-free, complex carbs like sweet potato, brown rice and quinoa are great staples.

You’re drinking coffee after 3. Not only will the caffeine impact your ability to fall asleep later, it will also have a direct impact on your blood sugar level – which, often leads to those nighttime cravings. Try to cut caffeine by 3pm.

You’re caving to the afternoon sweet tooth. In my clinic, the people who have a sugary treat at 3 or 4 tend to create sugar after dinner too. Instead, enjoy a protein rich snack in the afternoon – nuts, seeds, protein shake or some Greek yoghurt with cinnamon and stevia, if you like. It’s surprisingly decadent and you won’t miss the sugar!

You’re consuming alcohol regularly. Substances like liquor, wine and beer will affect your sleeping patterns – and will also make you likely to snack more, especially late at night when your more susceptible to eat mindlessly. I know I always crave more sugar after a night of drinking!

You’re glued to your phone after dinner. It’s best to avoid computer and phones in the evening as much as possible. The screen time impacts the hormones needed to help us sleep. If you ensure your environment prepares you for sleep, you won’t need the late night snack anyway! Going to bed early is what your body is truly craving.