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Fight the Late-Night Munchies

It's way past dinner and close to bedtime, but you find yourself raiding the fridge. Were you actually hungry, though? Did you really need something to eat?

There are lots of reasons we chow down, and it often has nothing to do with being hungry. When we do that, it can be unhealthy, making us gain extra pounds we don't need. In fact, people who eat a lot after 8 p.m. are more likely to be overweight than people who don't.

Here are some reasons you might be eating late at night and ways you can kick the habit.

You're tired.

When you don't get enough sleep, you can feel hungrier than normal. It's a triple whammy:

1. Without enough shut-eye, your body pumps out hormones that make you feel hungry. You crave high-calorie eats -- often junk foods like ice cream or chips that don’t have a lot of nutrients in their calories. It’s 11 p.m. Mmm, ice cream sounds great!

2. And when you're tired, your brain makes less of the hormone that tells you you’re full. Can't ... stop... snacking.

3. Plus, when you're worn out, it can be harder to resist unhealthy food choices. The chips are calling my name from the pantry!

Fix: Make sure you get at least 8-10 hours of sleep every night.

You're bored.

Sometimes you just eat because it seems like there's nothing better to do. It's a way to pass the time.

Fix: Find something else to keep you busy. Study. If it's almost time to go to sleep, read a book to wind down. Or do some stretches or yoga. Get your mind off food for a while. There's a good chance you weren't even a little bit hungry -- you just wanted something to do.

You're stressed.

When you're worried or overwhelmed for a while, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. It hypes up your body, including your drive to eat.

Fix: De-stress without food. Listen to music, do some deep-breathing exercises, go for a walk, do some yoga stretches, or take a warm bath.

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