So, what’s up with nighttime eating? Is this something that you’ve dealt with or are still struggling with? Because it’s definitely something that gave me trouble over the years. Something happens at night. Even when my food was clean and healthy all day, the nighttime is when it would all fall apart. It’s a lot easier when we’re busy with our day, when we’re structured and going about our routine. But at night when everything gets quiet, when we have to sit with ourselves without distractions, it’s sometimes harder to not get out of control with our eating. When I was alone, when I wasn’t in a relationship and my children got older, I didn’t have to take care of anybody. I was lonely and food became my friend. Food became my friend during a lot of different times in my life, but it wasn’t a very good friend. Have you used food this way? For comfort, companionship, relaxation? How do we work through this urge to eat at night? While there’s nothing wrong with eating something nourishing at night if we’re hungry; when we’re eating for other reasons it can become a problem. When we’re lonely, the night feels scary, or we’re bored and can’t sit with our feelings; we need to find some other strategies to deal with those feelings so we’re not waking up in the morning thinking, “What did I do to myself last night?” Bill Cosby has a stand-up routine where he talks about people going out to drink on weekends. He says people decide to go out and drink because they worked hard all week and they feel they deserve it. Then, by the end of the night, they’re hanging their head over the toilet throwing up…because they deserve it. Many times we do the same thing with eating. If we had a hard day, we feel we deserve a treat as our reward. The problem is, like the drinking, we might go too far and then our reward turns into a punishment. We wake up in the morning with a food hangover and think, “I ate too much, I don’t feel well, I feel bloated, why did I do this to myself?” and we feel upset with ourselves. Here are some strategies that have helped me overcome the urge to eat at night and will hopefully work for you:
- Brush your teeth. Brushing away the taste of food and putting toothpaste in your mouth can help lessen the desire to eat and brake that feeling.
- GO TO BED! At the end of the night, if it’s getting late and you feel the refrigerator calling you, go to sleep. It sounds simple, and it is, but it’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s best to just end the day, get some rest, and start a new day tomorrow.
- Do something with your hands…take up knitting, do a crossword puzzle, anything to keep your hands busy. When we’re craving food at night, it might be because we can’t sit still and we’re fidgety. Doing a puzzle or knitting keeps your mind occupied and your hands busy.
- Call a friend. Making a connection with someone and talking gets you out of your head and can help break that urge to eat.
The more we do these little things, the more they become a habit and the nighttime eating becomes a little easier to manage.