Written by Jenn Hand, Holistic Nutritionist, Board Certified Health Coach, NBC-HWC
If you’re reading this blog you’re probably wondering exactly how to stop bingeing at night. Well you’re in luck, because that’s something I’ve helped many of my clients overcome.
I recently received an email from a panicked podcast listener who said:
“I eat so healthy all day and then at night, it all goes out the window! Help! Why do I want to binge at night? And what can I do to stop bingeing at night?”
It can be incredibly frustrating when you’ve been “good” during the day; you’ve made an effort to eat healthy and have stuck to your plan around food…but then come evening, all hell breaks loose and you can’t seem to stop overeating.
Topics in This Article:
- So Why Do You Binge at Night?
- Here are 5 Ways to Help Stop Overeating at Night
- What To Do After Bingeing at Night (3 Bonus Tips!)
- How I Stopped My Own Bingeing Cycle (Personal Story)
- What’s Next?
So Why Do You Binge at Night?
There are many things that can contribute to a binge. Since we are not just machines (It’s not as simple as drink kale smoothies + run 5 miles = weight loss), our relationship to food is complicated.
Here are a few of the biggest reasons why we binge:
Not Eating Regularly Throughout the Day
Often during the day, we try REALLLLLY hard to eat healthy/clean/good. Or we’re distracted and try to eat “as little as possible” and we actually aren’t eating enough fuel for what our bodies need.
(**This can happen a lot of times when we’ve gained weight, have weight to lose, don’t like our bodies and are trying to secretly or not-so-secretly not “eat a lot”)
When evening time comes, we may actually NEED fuel, but our minds say “you shouldn’t be hungry, you just had dinner”.
We go back and forth with an exhausting mind battle, relentless food anxiety and then at some point, we give in to the food because we just want the darn battle to stop!
Not Managing Emotions
Emotions can be directly correlated to overeating.
If we are prone to stress/boredom/loneliness/(insert feeling here) eating, then this can just be exacerbated in the evening time.
It’s always post dinner–when the to-do list is done & the day’s tasks are nearing the end that we sit down on the couch for the first time…and the voice of the cookies call our name.
Our go-go-go world doesn’t usually have time for managing emotions throughout the day and we may use food as a reward, a de-stressor, a comfort or as something to do at night.
But not dealing with our emotions can be a huge factor in a binge.
It’s a Habit
Sometimes, eating can be a habit—we eat because it’s there, we snack because it’s the nightly routine, we turn to food because there’s nothing else to do when we sit on the couch.
If we’ve always turned to food, it’s become a well-worn habit that’s hard to break over time.
Want to halt a binge in it’s tracks?
Grab the free “4 Ways to Stop a Binge” guide!
Here are 5 Ways To Help Stop Overeating at Night
1. Identify your triggers
What sends you to the food? Usually, those of us who’ve battled food have triggers—things that cause us to immediately to want to eat.
Is your trigger when your spouse is upstairs in the shower (and that’s when it’s “all clear” to binge)?
Is it having too many to-do’s?
Maybe it’s an overbearing boss, a partner you feel unappreciated around, a child that’s driving you nuts, a night of nothing to do or another person that causes that feeling of compulsion to the food.
It’s important to identify WHAT actually triggers you, so then you can work on setting up an alternate plan!
2. Seek emotional support (Ask yourself, “Why am I eating?”)
When we aren’t physically hungry and eat, we are using food for a reason.
We eat to relieve boredom, cope with sadness, ease loneliness, comfort our anxiety, and heal a broken heart.
Food can be our reward, our way to give ourselves something, a way to forget our problems that we don’t know how to deal with.
It’s so important to explore your emotions and seek support to help you learn to move through them. Journaling, coaching, therapy and support groups can be helpful tools in the process.
3. Include Protein at Every Meal
The more protein you have, the less sugar you crave. From a physiological perspective, eating protein with our meals and snacks helps digestion to break down the fuel over a longer period of time.
You don’t get the dramatic spikes in your blood sugar you otherwise would if you’re eating a lot of sugar or quick digesting carbs.
Take a look at your protein intake and see if you can incorporate at least 12 grams each meal or snack. Notice how it impacts your sugar cravings.
4. Break Associations & Create Transitions
When eating is a well ingrained habit, it can be helpful to break the association of the pattern and work to create a new habit.
If your association with relaxation is food, what else helps you feel relaxed?
If your association is that as soon as you sit down on your couch you want chips, what other ritual can you create?
Think about where your association is and begin to create a new transition around it.
For me, every time I used to come home from work, I’d drop my purse on the floor and walk to the pantry. It was an association that I needed to create a new transition around.
The old pattern was get home from work eat to destress.
I began working to create a transition from work to “home life” that helped let go of some of the well worn habit grooves of immediately going into the pantry.
5. Distract Yourself
Sometimes a good ole distraction can help you move through the desire to eat. This may not work every time and for every person, but it is something to keep in your toolkit to practice in certain situations.
I once had a client tell me she thought it was “failing” if she used a distraction to get through a food craving. She thought had to always “work through the emotions”.
But the reality is that distracting yourself can be a good tool to try out and see how it works for you.
- Brush your teeth
- Drink a glass of water
- Clean out a drawer or closet
- FaceTime family member or friend
- Do a craft
- Read your favorite novel
- Get outside to take a walk
- Leave the room
- Create art
(If you struggle with eating when you’re bored, check out this video here!)
What to Do After Bingeing at Night? (3 Bonus Tips!)
When I was in the throes of the binge and restrict cycle, I often thought there was something wrong with me if I binged after I “knew better”.
“Why can’t I stop binging?! I know I’ll hate myself after I eat. So why do I do this to myself?! And what should I do if I overeat at night even though intellectually, I know other coping mechanisms?!”
If this resonates with you, you are not alone. Even when we are on the path to freedom around food and healing our food issues, we may still binge from time to time.
(Not to worry! I have an “After Binge” Toolkit that will help.)
So What To Do After Overeating at Night?
Typically, post-binge we go down the self-loathing rabbit hole. We berate and hate ourselves, thinking that criticism will lead us to change.
But it never does. We can’t hate our way into change.
What we need most after a binge is forgiveness.
Forgive yourself for not knowing what else to do. For turning to food even though intellectually you “know better”. For being afraid of dealing with the feelings.
Forgiveness can be a powerful balm to help you move forward after a binge.
Don’t Starve as a Penance (Instead of Restricting, Eat Balanced)
When I used to binge at night, my “old” pattern would be to swear off all food, promise to start over tomorrow, and feel
The problem was that restriction would always inevitably lead to… another binge.
It’s the Law of Dieting. For every diet, there is a bihonge.
What would the middle ground look like for you?
How can you move through the desire to restrict to “make up for the binge” and help you find the middle ground?
Find Nourishment & Balance
After overeating, what would help you feel more balanced?
Typically we think in terms of “making up for”… but what if you focused on feeling balanced and nourishing yourself instead?
Here are a few ideas:
- Focusing on hydration
- Planning lighter meals for the next few meals
- A long walk
- Telling someone what happened (this can help take some of the shame out of it)
- Going to the gym the next day (not to burn it off but to move your body)
How I Stopped My Own Late-Night Bingeing Cycle
I lived almost 1/3 of my life in either binge or restrict mode, and I didn’t know it was possible to eat “normally”. I repeatedly gained and lost weight, each time more drastic than the last. Every night I’d end up bingeing. (This was followed by a lot of “trying to get back on the wagon”)
What helped me the most? It was a 4 pronged approach: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing.
I healed physically. I began eating every 3-4 hours protein and carbs (I teach this in the Normal Eaters Club). Although it was terrifying, I began learning how to hear hunger and fullness. I made sure to keep my blood sugar even and didn’t go long long stretches without eating (this was usually post binge).
Mentally, I worked on my body image and limiting beliefs. I began challenging food rules and learning slowly but surely to let go of the desperate control I thought I needed around food.
Emotionally, I started to learn how to feel emotions and what to do instead of eating over everything that happened in my life (whether it was boredom, anxiety, worry, happiness or sadness).
Spiritually, I went on an “inner” journey, to try to fill the emptiness inside of me without food. I did lots of yoga, journaling and meditation 🙂
In the throes of it, I didn’t know healing was possible. I thought I’d just have to deal with this for the rest of the my life. Looking back, I see exactly why it all happened and just how much I learned on my own journey.
What’s Next? Get the “4 Ways to Stop a Binge” Guide!
Download the guide I created to help you learn how to stop bingeing at night.
Want to halt a binge in it’s tracks?
Grab the free “4 Ways to Stop a Binge” guide!
Work With Me
I’ve been helping women like you become normal eaters since 2015. I’ve worked with hundreds of women, helping them to balance their bodies, let go of the scale, stop obsessing over food, and start feeling amazing again!
While we don’t focus on weight loss, naturally finding your body’s happy weight is a result of working with a normal eating coach. As an accredited health coach with a background in nutrition, I know how to support you into making real positive change that lasts.
If you’re ready to finally see a lasting change and experience true freedom, please schedule a free introductory call with me. Click here to schedule a free 15-minute introductory call to see how I can guide you towards becoming a normal eater.
I read your entire blog & it was like reading my relationship with food. I overcame my night binging by changing my habits. I fall back all the time but I keep starting over & have managed to maintain my weight loss of 60 lbs for 5 years. It’s a lifetime change! My doctors words are always in the back of my head there is No healthy snacking because you should not be snacking! If you’re hungry eat food! Snacking is a habit!
I’m glad it resonated with you 🙂 I love that “eat food”! It’s so simple yet powerful!