Struggling with how to stop overeating at night?. This post will help you figure out why you cave in and help you find a solution to the cycle of endless nighttime eating.
It’s 9 o’clock and she finally has some room to breathe. The kids are in bed, the dishes are done, and the only thing she wants to do is lie comatose on the couch.
But, wait– the truth is, resting wouldn’t be all that enjoyable…
The gnawing guilt of not being “productive” would be anything but relaxing. She gets up to do “something” but finds herself mindlessly pacing the kitchen looking for “something” to eat.
She’s not hungry and she knows she doesn’t need to eat. But, she’s not sure what else to do.
“Help, I Can’t Stop Overeating at Night!”
Overeating at night is a common struggle for busy women who are on the go from sunrise to sunset (and beyond).
It goes something like this: You wake in the morning with a fresh resolve for the day. You’re determined that today will be different. Today you will…
… stick to your diet.
… avoid sugar.
… stop eating so many carbs.
But, then life happens.
A stressful call, an unexpected glitch, or the third diaper blowout in one day shake up thoughts of treating yourself with food. You fight it back because you really do want to take better care of yourself and lose weight.
But, food feels like a reward after a hard day. And, some weeknights, eating is your best worn out attempt at self-care.
I see you. You are trying, mama. You just need some better tools.
Why We Reach for Food
I can vividly recall the first time I went on a diet at age 14. Like many other girls in the 90’s, I was captivated by the idea of supermodels. Dipping my toes into the modeling industry, I was told by a photographer that I needed to lose 15 pounds to have any chance of success.
As I embarked on diet number one-of-many, I remember crying to my mom that “food was all I had.” I just couldn’t bear the idea of what I had to give up. Food was elevated to such a high place in my life that losing it felt like amputating a limb.
I needed food to feel ok.
Of course, that diet solved nothing for me and only strengthened my panicky reach for food. Eating became an even more attractive way to soothe my soul.
Nighttime was where all the day’s stress and food anxiety collided.
If you think about night eating, it really makes sense. By the end of the day, our physical body is exhausted, our brains are suffering from decision fatigue, and we may be dehydrated or undernourished. We are running on empty and have not given ourselves the “luxury” of relaxation or refreshment.
In an effort to make it all better, we eat. Food is accessible, pretty cheap, and it’s always there.
But, it is not hopeless. You can learn how to stop eating at night and lose weight with the right mindset and a little legwork.
Why Do You Struggle With Overeating At Night?
As we have discussed, there is a reason you are drawn to food when the sun goes down. It’s no accident. There is a purpose in seeking that “pleasure” even if you know that it ultimately results in “pain.”
The first step is to unpack why you may struggle so that you can come up with a fitting solution.
This evening, pay special attention to what is going on in your world. Take on the role of a non-judgmental observer and look out for these 3 things:
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR SITUATIONS
- What situations cause you to struggle the most?
- Are there certain days of the week that are most problematic?
- If so, what do these days have in common?
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR FEELINGS
- What emotions are most prevalent on your most difficult nights?
- Are you feeling stressed, anxious, exhausted, overwhelmed? Try to put a name on it.
- What has triggered that feeling?
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR THOUGHTS
- What kinds of thoughts are you thinking?
- Are your thoughts reflective of an outside influence?
- How are those thoughts making your struggle better or worse?
When asking yourself these questions, you’re looking for the reason behind why you’re turning to food when you’re not hungry. You may not figure it out right away, but keep watching and learning from your own patterns.
The clearer the picture, the better your troubleshooting will be!
How to Stop Overeating at Night in 4 Simple Steps
Now that you have had a chance to contemplate why you may eat more than you need or even (truly) want at night, it’s time to unveil some strategies that will help you stop.
stop OVEREATING at night TIP #1: MAKE SURE YOU ARE EATING PROPER MEALS
Let’s hit up the practical tactics first.
Do you skip meals or do you have more than 6 hours between lunch and dinner? While eating when hungry is a “best” practice, heading to dinner with a large calorie deficit will make mindful eating much harder than it needs to be.
If you arrive home overly hungry, consider having an apple or a small handful of almonds before you leave the office or in the car on the way home. Top it off with a bottle of water and you’ll be in much better shape to wait for an enjoyable dinner.
STOP OVEREATING AT NIGHT TIP #2: REARRANGE UNHELPFUL ROUTINES
The next level of practicality is found in changing up your routine. Is there a certain route that you drive home and pick up fast food or a well-worn path you take through the kitchen?
Try mapping out another way home. It may take you a few minutes longer to get home, but it will be worth the effort in setting yourself up for success.
Even if you aren’t keen on grabbing something to eat en route, the simple change of scenery can shake away some of the habitual response. You could also use your time in the car to say a prayer for food or listen to an enriching podcast or book. This is a great time to stack the cards in your favor and… you’re there anyway!
Or, maybe you make a beeline from the garage to the kitchen as soon as you pull in. Break the habit by parking in the driveway for a few days, come in through the front door. Go wash your face or change your clothes first and let yourself wind down in a more productive way.
Oh, and don’t put on the sloppy clothes you wore to paint the house last year. Dress better in something that makes you feel fresh and cute.
STOP OVEREATING AT NIGHT TIP #3: PREPARE FOR DINNER PREP
Whether you like to cook or not, dinner time can be a stressful one. The kids are hungry and your energy is waning. If you dread making dinner, consider what preparation you can do ahead of time.
While weekend food prep works well for many, getting ahead of the game is not isolated to Saturday and Sunday. For example, let’s say you have a low-key hour mid-morning. Can you chop your veggies or set the table? These little things will add up to a much more peaceful dinnertime routine.
If you tend to pick while cooking (this is my biggest challenge), have a sparkling water or herbal tea close by. These drinks will help fill your stomach while still allowing you to be pleasantly hungry for dinner.
If you’d rather have something to chew on, have veggies sticks ready to go and get those nutrients in.
STOP OVEREATING AT NIGHT TIP #4: EAT A SATISFYING DINNER
Have you ever got up from a meal and felt utterly unsatisfied? This dissatisfaction could be physical (your meal was small or not balanced) or mental (your meal was not enjoyable) and you leave the dinner table wanting MORE.
This is a recipe for dinner clean-up grazing or prowling the kitchen after the kids go to bed.
Aim for a dinner that tastes great and contains some protein, adequate fat and lots of veggies. Feel free to add a serving of carbs, just not so much that it will increase your cravings.
Satisfaction will show you how to stop snacking after dinner.
Make a Plan to Stop Overeating at Night
Now that you have a few practical points in mind, it is time to put them into practice with a plan to help you discover how to stop overeating at night.
GIVE YOURSELF SOMETHING ELSE TO DO
To set yourself up for success, it will be helpful to have some non-food related activities in mind for your evenings. You won’t always have to plan what to do, but it can be really helpful in the beginning. Really, anything you can do to create an interruption!
After all, just telling yourself “don’t eat” is not very helpful or nice. Give yourself something else to do that you can get excited about.
Maybe there is a book or a magazine that you save for this time only. Is there a movie or series on Netflix you can save for only 9-10pm? Store up this new “treat” for those difficult moments and you’ll find it easier to swap out your unwanted overeating behaviors.
Of course, overeating prevention is the best medicine. You see, even though it may feel like the desire comes at night, it’s probably been building up throughout the day.
What if you could shake off some of the negative feelings throughout your day so that they don’t avalanche you? Consider taking a minute or two a couple times a day to check in. What is going on underneath the hood? What are you feeling? How are your thoughts?
Maybe you take a moment to list out your anxieties, go for a walk around the block, or just close your eyes and breathe. Stopping the mental mayhem and getting out of your head can make a big difference in the flow of your day.
Prayer for Your Evenings to Stop Overeating
I surely saved the best for last on this one. There is power in weight loss prayer. Whether it’s a daytime lifeline or nighttime reprieve, prayer is the tool that is always locked and loaded. Don’t let its simplicity fool you.
Self-reliance is truly overrated.
You may also use this time to fast… FAST the minutes or hours that trip you up the most. To give God your most difficult hours would greatly benefit both your physical and spiritual health. Commit the time to Him and sow it as a seed of self-control.
Take Home Points
If you find yourself overeating at night, assess your daytime nutrition and stress to see if either of these is compelling your choices. Sometimes the “solution” is simple, other times it’s a bit deeper. Try not to gloss over either.
Enriching, enjoyable activities are the ONLY replacement for eating. If forced to choose between eating and mopping the floor, you are probably going to eat. Be aware of fitting substitutes.
Fill your life with so much goodness and prayer that this unwanted habit is crowded out!
Try This at Home
- Make a date with yourself with food as just a side note. Plan and execute and a truly relaxing evening at home. Daydream about your night like you would a fancy dinner out or a vacation. Really make it great and attach as many positive emotions to the holiday as you can.
Brandice Lardner is a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, Author, and Jesus Girl whose mission in life is to help women ditch the diet mentality and find peace with food and their bodies so that they are better equipped to do the great things God has called them to do.