Evening binge eating is all too common. It’s a challenge that leaves many of us feeling derailed, ashamed, and defeated. Left unchecked, it can undermine our mood, our personal momentum, and our life. If you’ve ever found yourself with your head in the pantry once the sun has gone down, take heart. You’re not alone.
The good news is that changing this habit may not be as hard as you might think. Yes, sometimes there are emotional or psychological reasons we might binge or overeat late at night, but before we assume that, let’s focus on these 4 great tips to see if they are the key to helping you prevent night time eating. Sometimes it’s as simply as making a few lifestyle and dietary changes. Here we go:
This may sound paradoxical when we are trying to avoid instances of overeating. But there are many people who equate eating less with surefire weight loss. For some people, being “good” means skimping on food or skipping meals. This can have unwanted implications for nighttime eating. So in order to set yourself up for success, you need to establish consistent eating patterns during the day.
If you find yourself binge eating late at night, consider making breakfast a non-negotiable meal. That’s because it will help stabilize your blood sugar and allow you to make better food choices throughout the day. Eating a combination of healthy fats, lean proteins, fiber and complex carbs will leave you satiated but not over full. An early morning meal is a great strategy if you want to avoid late night overeating.
Listen to Your Body
Here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating we advocate listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues so that you can develop a consistent eating rhythm that’s in line with your own individual metabolic needs.
Putting off meals, getting too busy to eat, or ignoring your hunger can have a boomerang effect later on in your day. Nighttime binge eating can be the direct result of not eating enough throughout the day. The field of Mind Body Nutrition teaches us that we need to do the work to begin to understand when our body is slightly hungry or just full – the sweet spot where we do not underfeed ourselves or overdo it with food.
You may begin to feel hunger as a rumble in the stomach, a feeling of lightness in the belly, or a feeling of heaviness in the head. Slight fullness may leave you feeling comfortable and light in the belly, clear-headed and energized. Your hunger cues will be unique to you. Begin to observe your body’s messages regarding hunger and fullness. Establish a consistent eating pattern throughout the day and the result may be less overeating in the evening.
No, not unhealthy saturated and trans fats. But healthy fats – such as olive oil, avocados, and coconut oil. These are key to helping us stay satiated throughout the day and into the evening hours.
If you’re someone who subscribes to a low or no fat approach to eating, you may find yourself facing cravings, and this will make it tougher to avoid nighttime overeating. Consider putting the low fat craze behind you. It may be contributing to other unwanted health symptoms as well. Use high quality oils when you cook and on your salads.
Snack on nut butters or nuts. Sprinkle flaxseeds or chia seeds on your grains, make a quick guacamole as a snack. Eating high quality fat will help you feel more satisfied for a longer period of time – not to mention it’s vital for health skin, hair, and nails as well as regular elimination.
If you want to let go of overeating in any form, one of the very best things you can do is learn to slow down when you eat. Be present with food. Tune in to your body. Appreciate your meal. Slowing down allows you to begin to connect with your body’s messages. It also cultivates the relaxation response – an important tool in finding your natural appetite.
Stress wreaks havoc on our blood sugar and cortisol levels. It’s much easier to disconnect from our bodies when we are in a stressful state, and we may find ourselves overdoing it with food in the evening hours as we try to integrate the stresses of the day. So consider slowing down in the evening. Eat at a table, perhaps with a loved one. Turn off the television. Set the table and enjoy your food. Light a couple of candles and dim the lights.
Breathe deeply and observe how this impacts your appetite. After a slow, satisfying dinner, you just might find less of a need to eat later in the evening!
Lastly, consider that night-time eating is sometimes a reflection of tension that we carry over from our day. Late night eating can be driven by unfinished business, unfelt emotions, or difficult life challenges that simply need more of our attention, no matter how hard they might be to face.
Here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, we understand that any of our eating concerns can be triggered by nutritional imbalances, or by the challenges of life. And by working on both these dimensions, we have the best chances for success.
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