How I Broke My Night-Time Eating Habit

I've been a night-time eater for most of my single life. I'd find myself in the kitchen around 10pm foraging for something sweet. I didn't have a visceral need for sugar but rather a psychological need to be satiated.

I assumed it was due to the break-up of a five-year romance. I'd replaced the 10pm phone calls with 10pm baking binges. I took this connection as an epiphany and sought to eradicate it.

I worked with a life coach who imposed a punishment strategy. If I baked, I had to go to work with no make-up, flat shoes and pants. That was horrifying for me. I felt frumpy and unprofessional. It worked... until I didn't impose the punishment.

Perhaps the eating had nothing to do with my intimate love-life? The romance was long-gone but the night time eating was still present. If I allowed myself to think about it, which I didn't, I had been doing this since my early 20s. There was some other insidious trigger that was causing the 10pm eating obsession.

I delved into my nutrition coaching tool box and actively applied the below techniques:

1. I identified my excuses. 

Here's what I told myself to justify my habit: I grew up with dessert, a little bit is okay, I'll be hungry, I won't sleep, I'm bored, I need a break, I want it, I'll reset tomorrow.

2. I talked back to the excuses. 

Here's what I started telling myself instead: Have some integrity. You've committed to yourself that you won't night time eat, so don't. If you're hungry or worried you won't sleep, have an apple. If you need a break or to be nice to yourself, stretch, meditate or create Pintrest vision boards.

3. I used better substitutes. 

I replaced the cookies with an apple dusted in cinnamon, pineapple with rock salt, ginger and honey tea, warmed chocolate almond milk with a cinnamon stick, an almond pressed into a date, or two squares of dark chocolate.

4. I created a different ritual. 

I took a bath with scented oils, meditated for 10 minutes, journaled; cleaned up my wardrobe, spent 10 minutes per day learning French, and I called my family.

All of these strategies assuaged my nighttime eating but there was still a nagging paranoia: I didn't fully trust myself in the kitchen after 10pm.

The awakening arrived in a tweetable quote from Christine Arylo, author of Madly in Love with Me, "part of self love is self trust."

Oh... could it be that this joyful and fun woman was missing a little self-love? It wasn't the obvious answer. I wasn't a woman who distracted herself in men, alcohol or drugs. Nor did I abuse myself with food.

It was much more subtle.

I was nurturing myself with food.

Once I acknowledged this, I was able to release it and I began to trust myself in the kitchen after 10pm. If I wanted to nurture myself, I'd do it in a very kind, loving way. Now, I gracefully make myself a cup of Earl Grey tea by Mariage Frères, add a teaspoon of brown sugar, and transport myself back to Paris where I bought the tea.

(Thinking of French men helps, too!)

Dana James

Dana James, MS, CNS, CDN is a Columbia University-educated nutritional therapist and founder of Food Coach NYC. She holds her Masters in Clinical Nutrition and is trained in nutrition biochemistry, functional medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy. She believes that food should be viewed as nourishing, joyful and fundamental to self-care. Her goal is to help women break their antagonist (and often obsessive) relationship with food and their body. She believes that true beauty stems from grace, dignity and embracing our idiosyncrasies that make us unique and imperfect. Dana created "How to Ditch Sugar" video series for mindbodygreen. Check out the program here: How to Ditch Sugar. Dana coaches one-to-one, runs workshops in NYC and LA, and holds teleseminars on various topics that help women lead a more beautiful and balanced life. To connect more with Dana, check out her Instagram account and sign up for her bi-weekly Sunday evening emails.
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