How to Reverse the Effects of Late Night Eating

It’s three in the morning. As you’re laying in bed, you keep glancing at the clock as if that number will magically change from a three to a seven.

You weigh the options in your head, fighting with all of your might to resist the urge. After minutes of torment, you finally get out of bed and head for the fridge.

Does this sound like you? If it does, you’re not alone. Thousands of Americans suffer every evening with symptoms of late night eating. It is a disruptive pattern of behavior that can affect nearly every aspect of a person’s life.

Night eating syndrome is an actual diagnosable eating disorder and is characterized by: consuming at least 25% of daily calories after dinner, frequent trips to the fridge after going to sleep, skipping breakfast or having a lack of appetite for breakfast, and often eating less during the day. Many behaviors can trigger night eating syndrome, and often these are emotional ones. Depression, anxiety, and prolonged dieting are all factors in setting off a night eating disorder.

If you suspect you have a night eating disorder, there are options and treatments available.

First, get rid of the anxiety in your life. Often, night eating disorders begin because of unresolved conflicts or an onset of anxiety. Determine the source of the anxiety and manage it. This might include lessening your load at work, finding a hobby that helps you relax, or spending time alone meditating.

Next, check with your doctor to make sure your hormones and other bodily systems are in check. This will help you be aware of imbalances that may be facilitating your late night eating.

Along with a check-up, consider exercising. Exercising earlier in the day helps start your morning off right by releasing endorphins and balancing out chemicals in your body. An evening walk can help, too– it allows you to let go of stresses from the day and unwind before bed time.

Night eating disorders are real. They have the ability to control our lives unlike anything else. Take control of your symptoms and reverse your habits of late night eating.

Night Eating and Sleep

Not sleeping well can be not only an unpleasant experience, but influences night eating. People with night eating syndrome (NES) seem to get the same amount of sleep, but wake up more often and have less efficient sleep. They often complain of not feeling rested.

Many people worry that once they are awake, they won’t be able to get back to sleep without eating. They worry about not feeling good the next day, feeling fatigued and the consequences of not getting a good night’s rest.

Eating at night tends to be a way they convince themselves to help them get back to sleep. These night eaters tend to have all-or-nothing beliefs, such as “if I lose sleep, it will ruin the next day.”

Relaxation and imagery have been shown to help people with night eating syndrome to fall asleep and stay asleep more easily. It can also improve sleep efficiency.  Sleep-related habits and how easily you are able to fall back asleep without eating late at night can be affected as well.

1. First, work on your ability to relax and unwind at night. Night eaters tend to find things to worry about, including getting a good night’s sleep.

The more you think about not getting a good night’s sleep, the more it seems likely to happen (self-fulfilling prophecy). Use the Night Eating CD to assist in relaxation.

2. Next, keep realistic expectations about your sleep. If you know that you tend to wake up at a certain hour, accept that as normal. Most people awaken several times per night. The more you worry, the harder it is to get back to sleep.

3. Don’t blame all of your problems on poor sleep and night eating. While you may be unhappy about it, there are probably other factors that contribute to the problem.

You may need to work to decrease your overall stress levels and increase social support.

4. Don’t over focus on sleep, or give it too much importance. This only serves to increase the night eater’s anxiety, which is already high.

5. Adapt your daytime routine to accommodate poor sleep. That is, you may need to adjust your routines, ask for support, and/or do your most demanding activities when you have the most energy.

6. Try to avoid using substances like caffeine to make up for a poor night’s sleep, especially in the afternoon or evening hours. This habit can cause uncomfortable side affects, such as headaches and irritability, which only adds to your stress. It can also disrupt sleep if taken too late in the evening.

7. Avoid alcohol consumption if you want to get a good night’s sleep. Processing of alcohol in the body gives off substances that disrupt sleep. While it may help you to relax and fall off to sleep initially, it often leads to waking up, even for people who are not eating late at night.

Night Eating Strategy: Using Imagery To Stop Late Night Eating

Night eating plagues many people. Night eaters tend to have problems with sleeping, and often get up to engage in late night eating. You may be angry, frustrated and embarrassed if you engage in night eating, since it can be a hard habit to break.

The best interventions for night eating start during the day. Depending on what type of night eater you are, begin with simple, moderate goals. Simply adding a rule that says “stop night eating” will not necessarily work, and you will feel more frustrated in the process.

Record your thoughts about your night eating in a journal. Write down whatever you can remember every day.

If you plan for when you will eat, and include an evening snack, this may help to stop night eating.  But if you eat at random times, then you may feel worse about your night eating, because it doesn’t follow a set pattern.

Eating at night can evoke a lot of feelings. Using strategies to deal with your feelings about night eating, as well as the night eating itself, can help.

Following a structured schedule can help to reduce night eating. Eating at regular times during the day and going to sleep at regular times when you are tired can definitely help.

Using imagery has been successful at helping people to stop night eating. Simply imagine yourself going to sleep at a regular time each night and sleeping peacefully throughout the night.

Imagine yourself falling back to sleep if you wake up. It’s also OK if you don’t fall back to sleep, but try to keep your mind free of anxiety. Just rest and know that everything will be OK whether you fall back asleep or not. The harder you “try” the harder it can be. And if you get yourself worked up in your mind, then it defeats the purpose.

Simply imagine yourself resting or sleeping peacefully (and waking up refreshed) in your mind over and over again. Be as specific about this as you can.

Imagine what you want to think about as you fall asleep. Establish a relaxing routine before bed. You may listen to meditation CDs or EFT  CDs. You can also put these on if you wake up during the night. Meditation can be an awesome strategy to avoid overreacting to stress and anxiety.

Help! My Husband Has Night Eating Syndrome

night_eating_foodIt’s my favorite time of day – the sun is barely up and I am greeted by a hungry beagle.

As I walk downstairs, I wonder what I will find today. I never know what I’ll wake up to find in my own kitchen on any given morning.

Today – uneaten bowl of something in the microwave, bread on the counter, cracker crumbs on the sofa and chocolate on the floor (I scramble to get there before the beagle).

Night Eating Syndrome affects both men and women, with men representing over 40% of all people with the syndrome. It doesn’t seem to matter how many calories were consumed earlier in the day. This is an ongoing, persistent behavior, unlike the occasional late snack or skipped meal that most people have from time to time.

In fact, people with night eating syndrome are often unaware of their nocturnal meals, although some feel they won’t be able to sleep without eating first. (Note: a person falls asleep more easily on a full stomach.) Among those who are aware of their night eating, there is often an emotional component; the diet of the night eater is comfort food.

Night eating syndrome tends to lead to weight gain; as many as 28% of those seeking gastric-bypass surgery were found to suffer from Night Eating Syndrome in one study. In fact, while sufferers are not always overweight (my husband is not), one in four people who are overweight by 100 lbs or more are thought to suffer from night eating syndrome. The disorder is accompanied by what sufferers describe as an uncontrollable desire to eat, akin to addiction, and is often treated chemically.

Half of all night eaters were of normal weight before they started night eating. Night eaters who maintain a healthy weight often feel the urge to exercise compulsively and/or restrict their calories during the day to keep from gaining weight.

My husband often doesn’t remember eating at night. Although he is not overweight, over the last few years, he has lost 80 lb. and certainly doesn’t want to gain it back. So he pushes himself to exercise, even though it takes a major effort just to get up in the morning.

He HATES the night eating habit, but understands now that night eating is not a lack of willpower. He is barely conscious of his behavior.

It seems like he has an unconscious command in his head that says “FOOD.”

Hopefully, the night eating CD will help!

Night Eating And Anxiety

Just knowing that you will face another night of night eating can cause anxiety in anticipation. Night eating is not easy to control, and feeling out of control with night eating is not a comfortable state.

You may have tried many activities to stop night eating – reading, smoking, locking yourself in the bedroom. The longer you have been in a night eating pattern, the harder it is to control.

People who struggle with night eating often feel anxious, depressed and guilty about their night eating behavior. Fears and anxiety tend to surface at night, which only intensifies the desire to eat to calm down.

Worry and anxiety tend to have a negative impact on your life, and the more anxious you feel, the more it interferes with your life. To make matters worse, worry tends to perpetuate itself in a vicious cycle.

Excessive worry and anxiety can have your thoughts racing, heart racing and your stomach tied in knots. In addition, some people feel angry and agitated with their own night eating behavior, so that only adds to the problem.

You may worry about your own health as well as any stress that is currently keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Eating at night tends to stop anxiety temporarily, but it doesn’t really go away. Just like anti-anxiety medication, eating at night only masks the anxiety. The anxiety itself and the desire for eating at night soon return.

Unfortunately, by eating at night and feeling comforted, you only reinforce the night eating pattern.

Many people worry that they won’t be able to get to sleep (or get back to sleep) without eating at night. And they worry about not getting a good night’s sleep, and not being able to function well the next day without a good night’s sleep.

It’s easy to see why people turn to night eating when all of these worries are on your mind. If eating at night comforts and soothes you, then you can focus on the taste and texture of the food, and the feeling of fullness rather than the anxiety and stress you are feeling.

By addressing the anxiety directly, you’ll have a much better chance of breaking the night eating pattern.

Night Eating Patterns

Nancy’s night eating pattern is always the same. She tends to snack during the day and has no regular meal times. She usually doesn’t feel hungry during the early part of the day, and her appetite doesn’t return until she starts eating at night.

As much as she wants to stop eating at night, she feels helpless to change the pattern. She knows that she is sabotaging her health, but she feels a compulsive urge to eat throughout the evening, even waking up at times to eat at night.

After eating with her family, she may have dessert, hoping that it will reduce her need for eating at night. It doesn’t. She keeps going back for more. She keeps eating until late at night, often postponing bedtime so that she can eat more.

Eating at night makes her feel more relaxed, making it easier to fall asleep initially.

Nancy will often sneak food upstairs or keep food by her bedside so that she won’t have to get up and go downstairs. She wants to get a good night sleep, but often wakes about an hour after falling asleep with the urge to eat.

She believes that she will have difficulty falling back asleep without eating. She starts to feel anxious if she tries to go without night eating, and her anxiety is only soothed by more late night eating.

The next morning, Nancy has no interest in food and only picks at her kid’s breakfast. The night eating pattern then starts all over again . . .

Night Eating: Is This You?

unhappy_night_eaterSara is a 48-year-old mother of 2, who is worried about her night eating.  She is never hungry in the morning, so she skips breakfast or only eats a bite during her hectic morning routine. Her job keeps her busy, stressed and running during the day, so she may grab a bite to eat while she is at her desk or on the run.

Toward the middle of the afternoon, she starts to feel tired, sometimes even drowsy, but she grabs a snack and pushes through the day.

When she gets home, she handles the needs of her kids and eats dinner herself too, but doesn’t feel satisfied. She feels tense in the evening and it turns into one long eating fest, sometimes grazing continuously until she falls asleep. At night, she can’t seem to stop eating. She worries that she won’t fall asleep unless her stomach is full and sometimes gets up at night to eat.

Sara feels stressed and depressed about not being able to lose weight, and she knows that her night eating pattern is not good for her health. But she feels helpless to change the night eating pattern.

Sara blames her night eating on poor self-control. She believes that she should be able to control her night eating behavior. She is frustrated and angry that she is sabotaging her health and weight loss goals, but this only adds to her stress.

What’s really going on with night eating?

When the night eating starts, Sara justifies it by telling herself that she didn’t have much to eat earlier in the day. But then she can’t seem to stop. And she always ends up feeling bad because of the night eating, both physically and emotionally.

Even though she desperately wants to stop eating at night, she feels helpless to change the night eating pattern.

What’s really happening is that Sara is soothing her anxiety. She feels tense and anxious and often has trouble falling asleep. The night eating helps her to relax and fall asleep easier. Unfortunately, it just maintains the pattern.

What to do about night eating?

Sara needs to not only make lifestyle changes to try to reduce stress, but also use stress reduction strategies to reduce anxiety. By address the stress and anxiety that drives night eating, Sara will be addressing the problem more directly and have less desire for eating at night.

Night Eating CD

night eating cd

Night eating can be a very serious problem, and can cause serious health problems.

For most people, night eating is very frustrating – if you are trying to lose weight, late night eating can sabotage your weight loss efforts.

Night eating can be triggered by emotion and/or exhaustion. Other times, eating at night is just an habit that becomes an automatic behavior.

Being fatigued at night tends to lead to eating at night, especially if you use food for comfort.

Why Emotional Freedom Techniques for Night Eating?

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) is a psychological form of acupuncture without the needles.

This creative approach to EFT is my own, yet it is deeply grounded in the core EFT principles as taught by Gary Craig.

This Night Eating CD makes it easy!

If you know the basics of EFT or have used EFT for weight loss before, then you know how helpful it is for weight loss and food cravings.

You can use the night eating CD to clear stress, tension and stop night eating with EFT.

Bonus! When you order this night eating cd, you get my special “Night Time Meditation” – it will have you relaxed and confident ready for a great night’s sleep.

1.  EFT For Night Eating 2.  Clearing Stress
3.  Managing Fatigue 4.  Soothing Stress and Tension
5.  Getting “Enough” 6.  EFT For Overwhelm
7.  Waking Up To Eat 8.  EFT And Gratitude
9.  Night Time Meditation
Clear Stress, Tension and Stop Night Eating With EFT

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Night Eating And Stress

Night eating is thought to be a stress-related problem affecting about 2% of the general population, about 9% of obese people, and about 27% of severely obese people.  While night eating is believed to be a response to stress and anxiety, it is not yet clear if it is a sleep disorder or an eating disorder.

What is known is that night eating is often associated with depression, anxiety and stress. Research shows that people with night eating patterns score higher for depression and have lower self esteem than subjects without such night eating patterns.

Late-night eating is a common reaction to everyday stress and tension, which almost guarantees overeating and binge eating at night. Excessive night eating is a recipe for weight gain because the body stores more fat during sleep.

Late night eating is the danger zone for most people. The main problem with night eating is that you don’t stay awake or are active long enough after eating to burn off the calories, and your body stores them as fat while you sleep.

One reason why night eating is associated with weight gain is because many people who eat too little during the day come home starving and the evening becomes one long eating fest. Eating light in the evening is much preferred because your metabolism slows down at night, naturally burning fewer calories.

Your body simply doesn’t have the chance to burn off the fat and calories you’ve consumed in the evening.  For most of us, eating at night is counterproductive to fat loss because your physical activity decreases throughout the evening.  Most weight loss programs recommend stopping night eating 2-3 hours before bed; late night eating is usually mindless munching of carbs while watching TV.

Eating at night is just easy to do; we feel less inhibited, especially if we are alone and no one is watching. You may feel like you “deserve” a treat after a long day.  But when you work on creating new habits for night eating, be sure that the reason you are eating at night is really hunger, not boredom or just a mindless habit.

Night Eating