I can’t say that I have any idea for the psychological cause of the hunger tha t you explain, but if it’s a way to counter it, my suggestion is two-fold.
First, even if you are not hungry, eat solid meals in the morning and at lunch. Force yourself if you are not hungry. Those first two are key in establishing your new eating pattern. If you were to break up your three meals per day into the levels each should carry in calories, I’d suggest 40% breakfast, 35% lunch, 25% dinner. Preferably, if you can break down those first two into two eating times each (that is, have two 20% breakfasts at, say 7:00 and 9:30 and two lunches at 12:00 and 2:30) you should. You could even break your dinner into two “snacks”, each having 10% to 15% of your daily caloric intake, say at 6:00 and 8:30 p.m.
Second, will. You need to force yourself to not eat in the evenings. You may feel ravaged for the first couple of days (maybe even a few days), but that should pass quickly. Remind yourself as you sit there and feel like you will starve, that you’re not going to starve. If necessary have a single piece of cheese or other high-fat, low-carb snack. The fat will satiate, without requiring a lot of bulk.
I say that within a few days, you will begin to establish a new pattern of when to eat, and your body will quickly learn what it is you want it to do. An adult body acts very much like a 3-year-old child. It will throw little tantrums (telling you that it is incredibly hungry, for example), knowing full well that if it keeps it up, you wil give in. Your body is testing your limits like a child might. Of course, the only way to continue to be “the boss” is to establish what the rules are. If one of those rules is “no eating anything substantial after 8:30 p.m.”, then consistent application of that rule will quickly teach your body that you are boss, not it.
Of course, this takes willpower, just like anything else. And what is willpower, but simply insisting that you be the boss and not your physiological and psychological functions.
I think I have an idea for the psychological reasons now. The very same psychological reasons that make that 3-year-old scream and scream for the candy-bar or new toy, is what makes you starving at night. You’ve trained your body that late-night is when it should be clamoring for food, by always giving it food then in the past. It may well have started innocently, eating snacks or some such thing in front of the TV, but over time, it was sheer conditioning.