Do you get to the end of a "good” day with food and it all seems to go downhill after dinner? I've been there. I’d try SO hard to be good and conscious of what I was eating during the day and then all hell seemed to break loose at night. No matter what I did, I didn’t know how to stop overeating at night!
This is one of the biggest struggles I hear from the women I work with. Here are three things I recommend to help you stop overeating at night:
Make sure your meals during the day are satisfying.
There's a direct correlation between satisfaction and eating "balanced" (aka eating "normally"). If you’re restricting at all during the day or eating a lot of light or diet foods, you are much more likely to binge at night.
Why is this? Because when you are restricting, it is freaking HARD. It’s like walking a tightrope—rigid, punishing, no room for error. And realistically, it’s just not possible to sustain the pressure you put on yourself to stay on that tightrope!
Beware of restrictive self-talk.
Restricting doesn’t have to be a full-blown diet. It can be verrrrrry sneaky and can come in the form of thoughts like:
- "I need to eat really healthy today."
- "Today is it. I’m getting back on track, I swear!"
- "I’ve gotta eat perfectly today because I have to fit into this outfit on Friday."
- "I need to eat as clean as I can."
- "This weekend, I’ll be out of town and know I’ll have a lot of junk. I’m going to eat only health foods today/this week."
None of those are that diet-y, but they are forms of restrictions (I told you it can be sneaky!).
So be on the lookout for these thoughts. If you catch yourself thinking something restrictive, replace it with, "How can I eat balanced today?" Shifting into a mindset of balance automatically takes you out of restriction. You no longer look at it as good and bad but shift into "How can I take care of and nourish myself right now?" When you are truly satisfied with what you are eating, you are much less likely to entertain the idea of overeating after dinner.
Look at the emotional component of food.
What do you want the food to do for you? Looking at the WHY behind eating is a great start to begin to let go of bingeing. What are you really wanting from the food?
There are a million reasons why we use food. But look at this situation specifically. What is the big reason you are using food?
Hint: For a lot of women, it's reward. Rewarding yourself for the day being done, working hard, meeting deadlines, cooking dinner, putting kids to bed and finally, finally, finally…the food becomes a way to reward yourself. To actually spend some time on YOU instead of catering to everyone else in your life every minute of the day.
It could also be comfort. Soothing your frazzled nerves from a stressful day. It could be relieving loneliness, filling an emptiness or unhappiness inside, or wanting pleasure.
You see, you don’t just stop bingeing; you do something else instead. You uncover why you’re using food and begin to experiment with learning how to fulfill those reasons with something else. Does that happen overnight? No. But if you commit to exploring the reasons you’re using food and looking at how to get what it is you really want, it can happen.
My view of bingeing is that it ends up falling away as it no longer serves you. You don’t just make another rule to stop bingeing, you learn how to get your needs met on a deeper level so that you don’t need to overeat to fill the need anymore. Make time to transition.
This is something that is often overlooked. If we’re in the flurry and chaos of the day, we continue to feel frazzled, overtaxed, and stressed out. If we never stop and pause, it seems like the day is just one long, endless day of chaos.
We need time to move into the different components of our days. This is how you begin to switch habits. So maybe your transition is to come home from work every day and instead of jumping into making dinner and cleaning the house, you sit on the couch with a cup of tea for 10 minutes. Or you go for a walk, snuggle with your pet, read a few pages of a book, or listen to a soothing song that you love.
Whatever it is for you, it can help to create some sort of ritual to transition into the next part of your day. Creating a few minutes to transition allows you to move from work mode to home mode. Or mom mode to me mode. Or busy mode to relax mode. It gives you some breathing space to pause and get in touch with what it is you really need (and just gives you a few minutes to let go of the day and move into evening).
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Jenn Hand is a food coach, blogger, speaker, and retreat leader at Jenn Hand, LLC, helping clients overcome their struggles around food. She has a bachelor's in communications, advertising, and public relations from Penn State University, and currently lives in the Greater Denver area.
Hand works 1:1 with women, coaching them to go deep inside themselves and emerge with a sense of freedom. She also offers a flagship program, the Normal Eaters Club, where she helps women deal with the biggest themes encompassing food and eating struggles.