Strategies for Overcoming Night Eating Syndrome
It’s 9 pm. How many trips have you made to the refrigerator tonight?
You may know it’s not about being hungry as much as much as boredom or a difficult emotion such as loneliness. Still, you find yourself searching for something to satisfy.
To be clear, if you’re not eating enough during the day, night eating is a normal physiologic reaction. You’re hungry.
But when it’s emotional, these “in the heat of the moment” strategies can help you get beyond the urge to eat when you aren’t hungry.
5 Night Eating Strategies
1. Take 5 deep breaths.
Try it – at the least it will calm your mind and provide an instant relaxation response in your body. Even if you end up turning to food, this seemingly small strategy may take the edge off enough to reduce bingeing to mere overeating. This is moving the needle in the right direction. This is progress.
2. Try distracting yourself.
Often the urge to eat when not hungry may be due to habit, not real need, especially if you’re eating out of boredom or a feeling of restlessness. Finding a non-food distraction can sometimes help divert you from the urge. Plan ahead by having what you need for activities that occupy your hands, such as painting your nails, knitting, crossword puzzles, playing an instrument, for example. Often this is enough to pull you out of auto-pilot with mindless eating.
3. Try Hand on Hand on Heart.
If you’re feeling triggered and “seeing red” – whether it’s angry or panicky – try placing both your hands over your heart and simply take a deep breath. This small act can elicit a feeling of compassion and calm. That can help deter or decrease turning to food for self-soothing.
4. Write in your journal.
Sometimes the simple practice of journaling your thoughts and feelings in the heat of the moment can help you to surf the urge. To begin, take a few deep breaths and ask yourself, “What am I feeling? What do I need? How can I better honor my experience?” Writing can sometimes help people to shift the most challenging of feelings.
5. Sit with what is.
Yep. That’s it. Allow yourself to become aware of what you’re thinking and feeling in the moment and simply let yourself be with what you’re feeling without reaching for something to numb it out. It’s important to give yourself permission to go to food if needed (!). But pressing the pause button first allows you to move from auto-pilot to conscious choice. And who knows – with practice, this pause button may become the stop button.
Experiment To Find Night Eating Strategies That Work For You
The point is to practice being different in the moment – to experiment with alternatives when the urge to eat (when not hungry) strikes.
The key is to find what works for YOU – but hopefully these strategies can serve as a springboard from which to begin practicing being different when in the heat of the moment.