HELP!!! I Can't Stop Eating In The Middle Of The Night!
Don't let that quote or that refrigerator light fool you! Midnight snacks, binge eating in the middle of the night,
sneaking food in bed, all of these are terrible eating habits that I somehow developed as an adult. Do you struggle with this too? You and I are not alone! In fact, there is even a medical term for night eating. It is called Night Eating Syndrome.
Night Eating Syndrome can be complex with many causes. In some cases, like mine, Night Eating Syndrome combines with Binge Eating Disorder and the amount of food consumed in the night can be large and it can feel like you are out of control. Other symptoms of Night Eating Syndrome included binge eating before bed or in middle of the night, feeling guilty, anxious, or upset while eating, lack of appetite in the morning, severe urges to eat at night, belief that one must eat in order to fall back to sleep, feeling nauseous in the morning, depressed mood, inability to stop eating, and excessive weight gain.
To admit to the whole world that I struggle with this is a but embarrassing. It is not something I like to blab about. However, I started this blog because I wanted to help people. If you struggle with night eating as well, I wanted you to know that you are not alone. I knew this blog wasn't going to be all rainbows and sunshine. Sharing the hard things and the struggles are just as important as the triumphs and victories. While, I don't have the official diagnosis of Night Eating Syndrome from the doctor, i relate to most, if not all of the symptoms above.
From what I have come to understand, night eating is caused by anxiety, depression, and insomnia or a combination of all 3. When my nights sleep is interfered with or I can't sleep, it triggers compulsive eating. The trick is to find other ways to deal with these sleep/hunger problems INSTEAD of using food. While it seems like an easy task, I have worked tirelessly with my therapists and trainer to come up with a list of tools to use and ways to cope with my eating issues. Here is what I try to do. Check them out....
1. FIGURE OUT WHY YOU’RE EATING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT
First and foremost, I had to figure out what was causing my middle of the night eating. I learned it was when i couldn't sleep or when my sleep was being interrupted. I was waking up more than once because I had to use to the bathroom and my dog needing to go out. I found that I could control myself if I got up once as it is natural to do that. But, getting up 2 times for myself and twice for the dog was killing me. Each time I got up, my will power to talk myself out of craving food got smaller. I eventually cracked.
Then there are those nights where I can't sleep or have a hard time falling asleep due to over thinking. I get so frustrated, I would fall into this "screw it" mood and head straight for the kitchen. At this point, I would be so mad at myself knowing that not sleeping was going to cause an awful morning/next day, I would not only have a snack, but completely binge on whatever I chose. My choice of snack was usually something sweet (cookies, donuts) that I had the discipline to avoid all day.
Once I understood my triggers, I found ways to manage them. Right now, i am working on retraining my dog to hold her bladder throughout the whole night. I am being careful of how much water she drink at night and my mom, being the night owl she is, lets her out if she REALLY needs to go so I don't have to get out of bed. I am also careful about how much water i have late at night. Don't worry, I still get in my proper water intake, but I am more mindful of the time I am drinking it. As far as not being tired at night, I take melatonin 30 minutes before bed to help with falling asleep and maintaining sleep.
My advice to you moving forward, is to think and identify the reasons you might be waking up in the middle of the night. I mean, the less you wake up, the less night eating happens. HA! if only it was THAT easy.
2. EAT ENOUGH DURING THE DAY
I learned through my trainer that low-calorie diets can cause late-night eating. It was a no brainer- I was not eating enough throughout the day especially on days I was working out or teaching Zumba. I had to find a schedule on when to have my meals to ensure I was getting the correct calorie intake. This strategy is still a work in progress because I continue to tweak my eating routine to match what I am doing for the day. Most of my days are structured with work, but for the days that aren't, I try to make it a priority to eat enough so that I am not hungry at night. If you are not hungry, it makes food choices MUCH easier.
3. ADD PROTEIN TO EVERY MEAL
I have also learned from Nikki, that eating protein at every meal helps curb hunger and keeps you satisfied longer. High protein foods also cut cravings which reduces night time eating. I have learned that the worst mistake you can make is eating processed foods for dinner. They cause blood sugar fluctuations, which increase hunger after a few hours leading to... you guessed it... eating in the middle of the night. If all else fails and you need a night time snack, protein and veggies should be the only choice you go for.
4. GET SUPPORT
I can't stress this one enough. It is important to get support from a professional or from your friends and family. Overcoming a habit by yourself is extremely difficult. Seeking professional support has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. They have helped me with numerous things including tackling this night eating issue together. With trial and error, brainstorming ideas together, and working out the kinks, we have been able to figure out the underlining issues behind the night eating. It is not easy work, but so worth it if you are willing to open up and speak with someone. If professional help isn't your style, rely on your family and friends. Any support to overcome a habit is the key to success. You don't have to do it alone.
5. REMOVE JUNK FOOD
One of the ways to ensure you don’t get cravings is to remove temptation from your sight. This one is easier said than done, as I live at home with my parents, sister, and 4 year old nephew. It is hard when you live with people who don't struggle with night eating. However, if you live alone, it is less likely that you will binge on the unhealthy snacks, if they aren’t in the house. For now, I do my best to avoid the snack draw. It is far from perfect, but I try. Sometimes, i even write my goals on a sticky note and put it inside the snack draw so if I go for something unhealthy, I see my goals written out. This gives me the chance to pause and make a better choice.
6. KEEPING A DIARY/JOURNAL
One of my favorite tools is my journal. It will help you identify your triggers and help you de-stress if you like to write. In fact, I took it a step further and made a visual for myself. I am a visual learner and like the paper and pen (colored pens) old fashioned way. I printed out the current month and have it hanging in my bedroom. Each day that I don't eat at night, I give myself a "heart". Every time I do eat in the middle of the night, I put an 'x". For me, there is something about the physical action of drawing the "heart" and "X" that helps me stay motivated. I like to see it and the progress I have made. It also points out patterns on the calendar which can be helpful as well.
By the looks of September, my night eating was a bit all over the place. However, it seems weekends tend to be harder for me. I also only had 11 nights where i indulged in a snack. That might seem like a lot to you, but from where i started, 11 days is big progress. I hope to make the month of October even more successful! Who is with me ?!?!?
At the end of the day, the truth is it much easier to lose weight when you stop eating in the middle of the night. Like I have mentioned, this is still a work in progress for me, but I have come a long way. I plan to keep utilizing these ideas mentioned above so I can completely master the night time eating. It will come with time and I will share more about this along the way. What tools or strategies do you use? I would love to hear from you so we can help each other overcome this bad habit!
That is all for now,
All my love,