We’ve all heard these tips to stop overeating at night: brush your teeth after dinner, turn off the light in the kitchen, close your kitchen after dinner, paint your nails — the list goes on.
But let’s be honest; when the craving hits, or the mood strikes and all you want is a cookie, is brushing your teeth really going to stop you?
Below I'm sharing with you my four steps to end your night eating habit for good. So next time you feel like eating all the food in your kitchen, pull out these steps and get started!
1. Eat without distractions.
If you want food at night that is totally fine, but I dare you to eat it without distractions. That means turn off the TV, power down the computer, and don’t you dare look at your phone. Put your food on a plate, sit at your kitchen table, and eat. Does that nighttime pint of ice cream seem less appealing without your comfy couch and a television show along with it? Give yourself full permission to have the food, but make sure you are not mindlessly eating it.
2. Stop labeling foods off limits.
Tell yourself you can’t have something and you want it more. The second we label our nighttime eating as “bad” it becomes one of two things — either a shameful habit we love to hate, or the most thrilling habit to have because we know we shouldn’t do it. Either way, telling yourself you can’t have a certain food after 8 p.m., even if you’re hungry, is just setting yourself up for failure. If you’re genuinely hungry, head back to step one and eat something. If not, move on to step three, but tell yourself if step three fails, it’s still okay to eat something.
3. Figure out what’s missing.
Remove yourself from the kitchen and figure out what's going on. Set a timer for five minutes and really feel your emotions. This isn't simple or easy to do, but it's so worth it. For a long time I would snack at night out of anxiety. I was worried about everything and anything, and if I could just eat something it would take my mind off the worry for a few minutes.
The problem was that when I finished whatever I was eating, the anxiety was still there, and I had no way to cope with it, let alone acknowledge it. Ask yourself what emotion is coming up for you. Are you tired? Lonely? Bored? Anxious? Feeling unloved? Once you’ve figured out what’s up, move on to step four.
4. Give your body what it needs.
So now that you know what emotion is missing, I want you to try to fulfill that emotion by doing something you enjoy based on what you need. No more going to take a walk when you feel tired. If you’re tired, maybe you need to take a nap, or lounge on the couch and watch a movie. If you’re lonely, maybe you need to call or visit a friend. If you’re bored, maybe you need to get out of the house and do a little shopping, or start a fun project you’ve wanted to tackle. If you’re anxious, maybe you need to do something productive like clean your closet, or maybe just a chat with a friend will ease your anxiety.
For me, curling up in a blanket and calling my mom always worked when I was anxious. Continue coming up with activities that will support your emotions and get up and do them. If you follow through with the activity and still want that nighttime treat, then have it for now, but head all the way back to step one and eat it without distractions.
Hopefully this will help you to derail your nighttime habit of overeating or mindlessly snacking. One final tip; be sure to check in with yourself and make sure you're eating enough throughout the day. Coming home starving to a kitchen full of food is never a good idea and may just be the reason you can’t get enough food at night. If you're looking for more support around this area, check out my guide to ditching the diets and ditching the misery, which you can sign up for here.