Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT
Why does it seem like we get hungrier as the sun goes down? You already had dinner, and you even had a snack at seven, but now it is nine-thirty, and you feel like you are starving. Nothing is safe when you feel like this. Chips, candy, burgers, pizza, it does not matter what. You just want to eat.
Those of us who get hungry at night know the struggle. Maybe you get a bag of potato chips and eat the whole bag. Or you grab a handful of cookies every time you pass through the kitchen. These late-night eating habits can pack on the pounds quickly. Then you feel even worse because you are ashamed that you ate so much. It happens to a lot of people. According to the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), about 30 million Americans have an eating disorder .
Symptoms Of Binge Eating Disorder
But how do you know if you have a binge eating disorder? You can take an eating disorder test online. The description of binge eating is fairly simple, but the disease is not. It is what the experts refer to as uncontrollable overeating. Some people may consume 5,000 calories at a time. And afterward, they feel guilty and disgusted with themselves. Here are some of the main symptoms:
- Eating very large amounts of food in a short time
- Low self-esteem
- Negative self-image
- Feeling guilty, ashamed, disgusted, and depressed
- Gaining weight
- Eating often late at night
- Trying many diets but end up binging again
- Hiding or hoarding food
- Eating in secret
- Making yourself sick from eating too much
- Often eating when you are not hungry
- Frequent snacking all day
- Getting up from sleep at night to eat
- Feeling that your eating is out of control
It Can Also Affect Your Physical Health
So, is there a way to stop binge eating at night? Can you cure that late-night hunger? You may feel like your eating is out of control and feel like giving up, eating whatever you want until you feel sick. This describes binge eating disorder, and it can be a severe problem for many people. Not only does it make you feel miserable and embarrassed, but it also can affect your physical health. Some of the biological effects may include:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Type II diabetes
- Sleep disorders
- High cholesterol
- Gallbladder disease
- Muscle and joint pain
- Intestinal issues
What Can I Do?
You may have asked yourself, “why am I so hungry at night?” But you really are not hungry. It becomes a habit, getting up to grab something to eat or eating while watching a movie. What starts out as a bowl of popcorn with the family can turn into a binge-eating episode for you. And it may make you feel desperate to learn how to stop eating at night.
13 Ideas To Stop Late Night Binging
We have found some clever ideas on how to stop late-night eating that may help. They are things you can do at home. Your first job is to figure out the cause.
Figure Out The Cause: You have to understand your eating disorder. Figure out why you are overeating. It is often caused by some underlying issue like anxiety, depression, or even boredom. Many people with binge eating disorder are trying to make their emotions go away if they feel angry or sad for some reason. It may have started out as a response to a major life event like a death or divorce. But it spiraled out of control to become a full-blown eating disorder.
Find Your Triggers: Once you find out why you are eating so much, maybe you can also find out what may be triggering the binge eating episodes at night. This can be difficult to figure out if you seem to do it every night with no obvious trigger. But there will be a pattern. You just have to find it. Start keeping a journal, and it can help you figure out what triggers your binges.
Get Rid Of Your Favorite Junk Food: There is no reason to have it in the house. Even if you live with others, ask them to keep tasty snacks out of your reach by keeping them somewhere else. It can be very beneficial to remove all unhealthy temptations from the house.
Begin A Routine: Some people eat at night because they do not get the nutrients they need during the day. Maybe you skip meals or eat when you have time. Or maybe you are trying to diet so you starve yourself. But then you get up at night to eat because you are truly hungry. Set a schedule to eat at certain times and stick to it.
Drink More Water: If you drink a lot of water, you will not have as much room in your stomach for food. Even if you eat until you feel sick, drinking more water will make that happen sooner.
Add More Protein: Adding more protein to your diet will curb that nighttime hunger. If it really is hunger that is causing you to get up and eat at night, adding some kind of protein to every meal can help. Try chicken, eggs, nuts, any kind of meat, Greek yogurt, broccoli, and milk.
Plan Your Meals: Make mealtime meaningful. Even if it is just you at home, make a full meal with meat, vegetables, salad, and some kind of healthy fat. Some examples of healthy fats include fatty fish like tuna, trout, and salmon, as well as avocados, olives, and eggs. But plan your meals with things you like, not things you hate; this way, the healthy routine you put in place will be a good replacement for your usual habits.
Try Eating Dinner Later: If you typically eat dinner at five but find yourself getting hungry around eight, try moving your dinnertime to six or even seven. No, later than seven, though, to allow time for your food to digest, this way, it is less likely to get hungry before falling asleep at night.
Buy Snack Packs: Almost every product has snack packs nowadays. Buy snack packs or 100-calorie packs and only allow yourself one snack pack at snack time. You can also make your own snack packs of nuts, raisins, fruit, or veggies. Pack them in baggies and make them easy to just grab and go. Better to grab a snack pack than to grab a candy bar or bag of chips. Here are some ideas:
- One piece of fruit or a cup of berries
- A slice of bread with peanut butter
- Half a cup of ice cream
- Three cups of air-popped popcorn
- Two cups of frozen strawberries
- One cup of low-fat pudding
- One container of Greek yogurt
Distract Yourself: If you find yourself eating because you are bored, find something to do that keeps your hands busy. It is too easy to grab something to eat while you watch television or read, but if you are knitting, crafting, or playing some kind of musical instrument, you will not have idle hands.
Sleep Better: If you are eating at night because you find yourself waking up at night often, you may need help with a sleeping disorder. You may not even realize it. If you sleep alone, you could have sleep apnea or some other sleep disorder that wakes you up often. Talk to your doctor, who can refer you to a sleep specialist. If you sleep all night, you do not have to worry about eating when you get up.
Exercise: The next time you feel like having a snack after your cutoff time, turn on the radio and dance those feelings away. Or perform some other form of exercise. It is not just right for you; it is healthy for your brain. Any kind of physical activity increases endorphins and serotonin, which are the chemicals in your mind that make you feel good.
Do Not Cut Too Many Calories: Trying to diet can make you binge eat. If you are cutting your calories too much, your body thinks it is starving, and it will tell your mind to eat more. This is a real thing. Sometimes, you have to eat more to lose weight; it’s about the type of food you consume. Eating more during the day will help. Add granola to your yogurt or fruit to your oatmeal to consume more in your usual meals.
Talk To A Professional
No matter what is going on in your life, if you are struggling with an eating disorder or a sleep disorder, or even if you just feel depressed or anxious often, talk to a mental health professional. You can even do it online—no need to make an appointment. And you do not even have to leave your house.
Find Out More
If you or a loved one feel like you have symptoms of a binge eating disorder, take this eating disorder test online to find out more.