4 Steps to STOP Your Nighttime "Binge Eating"
You may have heard the old wives tale about eating after 8pm: Don't do it, they say, because the food you eat
will be stored as fat.
While that's not true, night time eating is a real problem for millions of people who just can't seem to stop
bingeing before bedtime.
People who suffer from Night-Eating Syndrome (NES) feel especially compelled to eat a lot of high-carb, high-fat
foods at night.
They might even eat more food after dinner than during dinner. Many eat very sparingly throughout the day, but
stuff themselves at night.
Some sufferers find themselves unable to sleep because they cannot stop thinking about food. Afterward, they may
feel guilty and disgusted, fearful that another binge will soon occur.
NES was studied in 2009 by a team at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center. Their findings,
published in the January 2009 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, linked this newly
designated eating disorder to stress, low levels of melatonin, and elevated levels of cortisol throughout the
Sufferers were also more likely to have other emotional eating
disorders, sleep disorders, and mood disorders such as depression.
If you suspect that you might be suffering from Night-Eating Disorder, speak to your doctor about available
treatments. In the meantime, here are four effective steps you can take to get your night time binge eating under
Step 1: Eat a late dinner.
Sometimes real hunger exacerbates the symptoms of NES. Make sure you never go more than three hours without a
small meal or snack. This might require you to move your dinner to a later time, especially if you tend to stay up
late at night.
If you eat dinner at 6pm but don't go to bed until midnight, you've gone six hours without eating anything. This
long stretch without food can make you more susceptible to bingeing.
Step 2: Get rid of temptation.
People who binge at night almost exclusively crave foods that are high in sugar and fat. These "comfort foods"
cause the brain to release serotonin, a chemical which improves the mood and makes it easier to fall asleep. This
is especially tempting for those who struggle with insomnia resulting from obsessive thoughts of food.
To reduce temptation and outsmart your food cravings, get rid
of all the foods you commonly binge on: cookies, baked goods, ice cream, or any other foods you feel compelled to
eat at night. Don't keep these foods in your house. You're far more likely to binge on readily accessible foods
than to drive to the store and purchase them.
Step 3: Exercise at night.
Some people avoid exercising at night because it makes them feel too energetic before bed. But if you time it
right, you can reap the appetite-suppressing effect of exercise and still get a good night's sleep.
When we exercise, our bodies produce endorphins which give us a general sense of contentment and well-being. Try
ending your workout one hour before bedtime, and follow it up with a warm, relaxing shower. This could leave you
feeling too content to succumb to a nighttime binge.
Step 4: Trick your body into feeling full.
There are other ways to trick your body into forgetting about food. Sometimes a warm drink will leave your
stomach full and satisfied. Try drinking low-fat, caffeine-free hot chocolate before bed. Hot herbal teas are
another good choice. If you must snack, choose high-fiber foods such as raw fruits or vegetables.
Other night time eaters brush their teeth when they feel a binge coming on.
Try brushing your teeth with a strong, minty toothpaste. Then follow it up with some equally strong mouthwash.
Your teeth will feel so clean that you won't want to dirty them again. Plus, the Sodium Laureth Sulfate in
toothpaste makes food taste less appealing by suppressing the taste buds that detect sweetness.
If you've ever tried to drink orange juice after brushing your teeth, you're familiar with this effect.
Note that some over-the-counter sleep aids, such as diphenhydramine, have been linked to increased hunger and
cravings. If your nighttime eating is interfering with your sleep, let your doctor know. They will be able to
prescribe medications that don't have this side effect.