Do you tend to eat the majority of your food after dinner?
Are you usually not hungry for breakfast?
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and eaten a large amount of food?
Do you sometimes feel that you have lost control over eating?
Is your sleep disturbed by your eating habits?
Answering “yes” to any of the questions above, you may be struggling with night eating syndrome (NES). NES is slowly getting more recognition in the medical field as clinicians and researchers are finding that many people struggle with overeating at night, which can contribute to weight gain in many people. Not to mention the guilt, stress and other emotions that may be associated with eating late at night.
NES is a sleep and eating disorder. You are not alone there are many types of night eating disorders including:
- Nighttime overeater
- Anxious eater
- Cravings eater
- Sleep eater
Nutrition Tips to help you manage Night Eating Syndrome:
There are some ways to help you manage your nighttime eating including these nutrition tips for you to begin to manage your night eating syndrome and improve overall health:
- Get a variety of food groups at meals: This can help you to feel satisfied during the day. If you allow yourself to have certain foods (even sweets and salty foods!), it is possible you may begin to crave them less at night.
- Work on self-care. Some people may turn to eating due to emotions or stress. Does this resonate with you? Managing stress and practicing self care is so important in the managing of night eating. Ask yourself, how can you begin to make time for yourself during the day? Maybe reading a book, watching TV, doing yoga, or crafting will help to manage some symptoms.
- Eat throughout the day: When people do not fuel throughout the day, they usually wind up being overly hungry at night, which could then cause them to overeat. Set yourself up for success by preventing extreme hunger from occurring later in the evening by eating throughout the day and honoring your hunger. This habit will definitely be difficult to change, so working with a dietitian can help you improve this habit.
- Plate your meals: Sitting down and enjoying your meals at the dinner table will also help to make you feel more satisfied when you are done eating. If you are truly enjoying your meal, you may find you do not have the need for more later.
- Night Eating Buster Techniques: Working on the above four tips will help to reduce some of your NES symptoms. However, every person is different, so I do recommend to work with a Registered Dietitian as well as a therapist to resolve the symptoms. It is important to seek professional help because experienced practitioners will be able to work with you to find a plan that will fit with your lifestyle and specific situation. Some of these tools may include:
- Journaling prompts- leave a journal by your bed or in the kitchen and track your thoughts before and after eating. Be curious about the urge to eat.
- Delay the urge- can you delay the urge to eat by 30 seconds? 1 minute? 5 minutes? Rate the urge in strength from 1-10. Does the urge become more bearable in time? How much time does it take to notice a change?
- Challenge yourself with fun foods during the day. If there are any foods that you avoid in your daily intake work towards making peace with these foods and having them in your regular intake. Working with a Registered Dietitian that specializes in Eating Disorders can guide you through this process.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as breathing techniques
- Use techniques to make the food less available at night
- Leave a positive affirmation sign in the kitchen
- Prepare a snack to keep on nightstand
These are a few of the many tools we can help you explore to find one that works for you.
If you believe you struggle with NES or something similar, you may want to consider contacting a Registered Dietitian to help with motivation and accountability. She can also recommend some tips and tricks you may not have thought of on your own. Please use the contact form below to help you manage eating at night. You can also call us at 301-474-2499 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blog reviewed and updated August 2019.
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Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients. Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.