5 Tips to Stop Eating at Night



DO YOU HAVE NIGHT EATING SYNDROME (NES)?

Also known as “midnight hunger,” NES is primarily characterized as an ongoing, persistent pattern of late-night overeating or binge eating.

Does This Sound Like Your Routine?

  • You restrict, deprive yourself or skip meals throughout the day, 
which leads to thinking about food constantly and grabbing random snacks here or there, not really considering
 what your body needs or really wants.
  • You don’t do any pre-dinner planning, so that you pick up take-out on the ride home and then feel guilty
 about what you ate, which leads to even more eating. Or you eat a ton of cheese and crackers while you try to cook a “real dinner,” then don’t feel
 hungry for the dinner. Later, you are hungry again, but just snack more.
  • You have a post-dinner ritual that’s all about overeating and zoning out. You change into loose, comfortable clothes, plop on the couch with your e-reader, book, or laptop nearby and fire up the TV.  Then it’s off to the kitchen for snacks during commercial breaks. You alternate between sweet and salty, so once you’re bored with one flavor,
 you switch to the other. You don’t pay much attention to what you’re eating or how full you’re feeling.

Effects of Nighttime Overeating

Nightly routines such as this are a cause of weight gain for many women. It’s not just about the food that’s eaten, either. Overeating at night can disrupt our sleep, leading to imbalances of hunger and satiety hormones, making it harder for us to recognize when we’re truly hungry or satisfied. Human growth hormone, which plays an important role in weight management, is also suppressed by late night carbohydrate consumption.

What can you do if nighttime eating feels out-of-control? Identify the reason(s) you overeat at night and change the trigger.

Top 5 Ways To Stop Eating At Night

Tip #1:  Eat enough during the day. Not eating enough “sets the table” for overeating at night. Eat more regularly and eat well-balanced meals earlier in the day to prevent overeating at night.

Tip #2: Explore what’s really going on. What purpose is the food serving for you? Is it helping with stress, loneliness, boredom, or procrastination? Determine the need it’s fulfilling and make a point of meeting that need in different ways EARLIER in the day. For example:

  • Add stress management techniques like yoga or meditation to your regular routine.
  • Plan entertaining activities that involve friends/family for the evening to target loneliness and boredom.
  • Work a reward such as a trip to the bookstore into the time frame between finishing work and starting household work back at home.

Tip #3: Add more fun to your life. Is eating at night your favorite way to relax and wind down?  Is it the highlight of your day or your primary source of joy/entertainment/fun? If so, look at what is missing in your life that might give you a sense of joy, self nurture, comfort, etc… and add that in. You may then find you’re less likely to fulfill that need with food.

Tip #4:  Shake up your routine. We all have routines around eating that involve time of day, location, or activity. Changing those routines can help break the habit of eating at night. Example: If you’ve developed the habit of eating while working on your laptop at the kitchen table, move to your office. If TV is the cue to begin snacking, consider whether it’s essential to watch TV at night. If it is, pair TV watching with a new activity. Remember that it will take practice, practice, practice before that new habit feels comfortable, so don’t give up if it doesn’t feel great at first.

Tip #5: Get plenty of ZZZs. Develop a consistent evening routine and follow our tips to avoid sleep deprivation and weight gain. When waking can’t be prevented and hunger strikes, have a small collection of go-to foods that are easy to eat and brush out of your teeth quickly so you can get right back to bed, such as a glass of milk, small yogurt or a banana.

Eliminate Your Top Cue for Eating

Sometimes, it can be as easy as changing just one thing to break the habit of nighttime eating. Better managing the top reason you overeat at night may take care of the whole problem.


11 responses to “5 Tips to Stop Eating at Night”

  1. Stephanie says:

    Thank you. You helped me realize more. I overeat at night when I’m emotionally lonely. I even cry easily on a sad episode. There always TV when I eat everything I’m deprived of. Since I’m an athlete and I do a healthy strict nutrition plan that I enjoy, sometimes when I feel bored after working on many things, even when my day ends with a hard work out, I can’t go to sleep and do this party by myself which I regret profoundly. Maybe the fact that I drank caffeine so I’ll stop completely even thru green tea I’ll stop. The second reason might be that I don’t have a fixed job to motivate me to sleep and wake up for. I’m still planning my future. Thank you. I’ll fight. It’d really bringing me sadness and lead to horror or bad decisions. All from that eating habit.

    • Shiri Macri says:

      I’m glad this was helpful, Stephanie. The line between Night Eating and Binge Eating can be kind of ‘grey’. The the main distinguishing factor is with Night Eating (NES) the circadian rhythm of eating disrupted and the majority of calories are consumed at night. Often this is a result of restriction/dieting . With Binge Eating (BED) there are underlying emotional factors that binge eating will distract from, as well as a sense of loss of control and physical and emotional distress related to the eating behavior. Again, this is a ‘grey’ line because these symptoms related to both NES and BED. Sometimes it’s best to speak with a professional to help sort out what’s happening for each person. Let us know if we can help.
      Feel free to read some of our other blogs related to Binge Eating Disorder and Night Eating Syndrome for more information.
      …wishing you well in the meantime

  2. Ali-Ahmed says:

    Hi…..I need help.I wake up at least about 7 to 8 times every night and I eat myself sick…..I eat anything and everything…its really bad and I don’t know what to do about it..In the morning I feel terrible I wake up with heartburn and feeling tired and bloated…Please assist me…..oh yes and let’s not mention the steady pace that I’m growing sideways….

    • Shiri Macri says:

      Hi Ali-Ahmed,
      I’m sorry you’re struggling. Hopefully you’re able to try some of these tips to help a little. I’m happy to see how I can help. It would be best to talk directly, please email me at shiri@fitwoman.com and we can set up a time to talk.
      I wish you well in the meantime,
      Shiri

    • Krista says:

      Ali, I am struggling with the same thing. For about 2 years now and I absolutely hate myself. I research it everyday and I am still struggling so bad. I wish you the best and want you to know you aren’t alone !

  3. Marge Kenny says:

    I do well with eating in the day. At night i eat a sleeve of crackers or 1.5 qt of ice cream or 1 large qt. of 2%yougurt. I am 74yrs. old. lost 22 lbs and have gained 7 or 8 lbs with this relapse. How do I break the cycle? Marge

    • Shiri Macri says:

      Hi Marge,
      I’m wondering if you might be on a restrictive eating pattern, which would contribute to this “relapse”. Sometimes when people say “I do well all day” it really translates into not getting enough, which is made up for at night by consuming larger quantities of food. So to answer your question: “how do I break this cycle?” I might suggest trying to balance out your consumption throughout the day. In other words, make sure you eat enough throughout the day, having balanced, healthful meals and snacks, that way you’re not overly hungry later and making up for it.
      I wish you well.

  4. Amanda lim says:

    Hi… thank you so much for your post. it helps a lot. But I just would like to ask. I think I have these symptoms for quite some time. I am not sure if I am hungry or anything else. But I just feel like eating after dinner, such as granolas, mueslis, yogurts and some crackers after dinner. I will actually go for the more “healthy” food instead of chocolates, ice-cream. I hate myself from having this as I feel so guilty after eating them late night and the next morning I will sometimes skip my breakfast as I feel full the next morning. just would like to confirm what is it like having enough food throughout the day?

    Thanks. hope to hear from you soon.

  5. Shiri Macri says:

    Hi Amanda,
    Thanks for your question. It sounds like you might be in the “typical” night eating cycel where you consume less during the day and more at night. An effective way to manage this is to begin eating balanced meals and snacks, regularly during the day. By balance, that means that meals and snacks have all of the nutrients our bodies desire (protein, carb, fat, veg/fruit, etc), and are aslo pleasurable/enjoyable to you. By doing this, as well as “shaking up” the night eating ritual (as discussed above), you may find that you’re able to ‘break the cycle’.
    Here’s another blog that you might find useful in getting to know hunger/satisfaction cues: https://www.fitwoman.com/blog/weight-management-mindful-eating/ .
    I hope this helps in the meantime. If it’s an option to you, our program really focuses on helping women with this. Women that come are immersed in classes and experiential activities aimed at working through these very issues. Let us know if this interests you.
    In the meantme, take care of yourself and again, I hope this is helps.
    Yours,
    Shiri

  6. Susan Cooper says:

    Help! These tips seem great but its hard for me to eat a lot in mornings. I ride metro to work (1 hour minimum) and cannot eat much before due to motion illness. I arrive at 8:30 am and can finally eat almost 2 hours after I wake up. But lunch has to be small as well because of the time I leave work and traveling home. I’m so frustrated.

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