This article will provide practical, evidence-based strategies and guidance to help individuals effectively curb and overcome night time binge eating behaviors.
Night time binge eating is defined as regular overeating, particularly of unhealthy foods late at night, right before bed, or in the middle of the night.
Binge eating is more prevalent at night for several reasons, namely the psychological and emotional triggers that often manifest at night. Without learning how to stop, binge eating, especially at night time, can have harmful ramifications on your physical and mental health. It can affect your sleep patterns, which can affect your mood, your immune system, and your overall health.
Ten strategies to stop binge eating at night
Establish a regular eating schedule
Night time binge eating can be first controlled by establishing a regular eating schedule. Binge eating is more likely if you don’t have a schedule for meal time because, in theory, without a schedule, anytime can be considered meal time so your body won’t object to you eating in the middle of the night.
Identify emotional and environmental triggers
If you are struggling with binge eating at night, take some time to identify the emotional and environmental triggers.
- Is it something you are watching on TV that is triggering your stress or anxiety?
- Are you regularly watching shows about dessert right before bed?
- Is it something in your night time routine that is causing you to think more heavily about food?
Mindful eating practices
Mindful eating practices can go a long way toward helping you to stop binge eating at night. Mindful eating forces you to slow down and focus entirely on the eating process rather than letting your mind wander and relying on food for emotional support.
The steps might include things such as:
- Looking at your food and taking time to touch it, if it’s something like fruit or bread
- Smelling the food and reflecting on what you smell, such as different spices
- Closing your eyes and feeling the food in your mouth, taking time to examine the different textures or flavors and how they feel in various parts of your mouth
- Thinking about where the food came from, all the way back to the people who farmed and harvested certain components of your food, and then expressing gratitude for all of that
- Mindfully chewing each bite a certain number of times before swallowing and then setting your Cutlery down prior to picking up the next bite
Hydration and its role in curbing hunger
For many people, hydration is a critical piece in curbing hunger. Too often, people struggle with eating more than they need because they don’t realize that they are actually thirsty.
It can be useful to drink a full glass of cold water prior to each meal, as this can help you feel fuller longer and curb your hunger.
Managing cravings with healthy substitutes
Cravings are often misunderstood, but if you can learn to recognize cravings and what their root cause is, you can learn to incorporate healthy substitutions.
For example, when people crave chocolate, it might actually be a craving for magnesium. Incorporating a magnesium pill, a few handfuls of broccoli, or even magnesium spray can help you determine whether that craving for chocolate is something else.
Structured flexibility in eating
It’s important to have structured flexibility in eating as well, where you give yourself the opportunity to incorporate desserts or your favorite drink while keeping with a regular eating schedule.
Addressing underlying stress and anxiety
Several studies have identified that people who struggle with insomnia, for example, consume an additional 300 calories during night time binge eating.
For those struggling with severe stress or anxiety, night time, especially right before bed, is often an opportunity for the mind to relax just enough to start reviewing all of the tasks and obligations or stresses associated with the upcoming day. When this happens, it can trigger higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol and lead you to binge eat as a way of controlling your nervous system and your stress levels.
In order to stop binge eating at night, if the cause is something like stress, anxiety, or insomnia, you’ll need to address your underlying causes.
Establish a soothing pre-sleep routine
One way you can work to address underlying stress and other factors that contribute to night time binge eating is to establish a soothing pre-sleep routine.
Clary starts to prepare for bed after she eats dinner. She does this by putting on comfortable, loose-fitting clothing and watching one of her favorite TV shows, one that calms her mind and keeps her mind away from anxiety about tomorrow’s to-do list.
After one or two episodes of her favorite TV show, Clary goes upstairs, where she turns on soft lighting and follows an online yoga class for good sleep, one that is simple and involves a lot of stretching to promote better sleep quality.
Then Clary gets into bed and listens to a guided night time meditation. Sometimes, she falls asleep during the meditation, and other times, she reads a book on her nightstand for a short while before going to bed.
When Clary follows this routine she trains her mind and body to be less susceptible to night time binge eating because she has physically moved herself away from the kitchen by going up stairs a few hours earlier, and reduced the stress she experiences right before bed.
Keep a food and mood journal
Keeping a food and mood journal is another way to figure out how to stop binge eating at night. When you keep track of what you eat, when, and how you feel at that time, you’ll be able to step back after a few weeks or months and look at the big picture.
Several months after keeping a journal, you might realize that you always binge eat on Saturday nights right before your Sunday choir practice or you binge eat Sunday nights after your weekly family phone call. this information might reveal that you are stressed about your upcoming
Seek support and accountability
If you have tried all of these ways to figure out how to stop binge eating at night, but you’re still struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out for support and accountability.
For some people, this might take the form of a close friend or family member who can hold them accountable by reporting every day as to whether or not they were struggling with night time binge eating the night before.
For other people, this might take the form of professional help from a qualified therapist who might be able to address things like underlying stress or anxiety, even insomnia, which are contributing to binge eating at night.
Learning how to stop binge eating at night takes persistence and patience. With ten strategies, you can learn to stop binge eating at night by establishing a routine, identifying your triggers, practicing mindfulness when you eat, staying hydrated, managing cravings, structuring your eating, addressing any underlying stress, keeping a pre-sleep routine, keep a food and mood journal, and seek support when necessary.
If you are still struggling with binge eating at night, you should not be afraid to seek professional help when and where necessary.