Why do we eat so much at night?!

This is one of my favorite memes ever that often comes up on Instagram;

  • 9 am: Egg whites and avocado
  • 1 pm: Kale Salad
  • 6pm: Chicken and Veggies
  • 11pm: 23 Oreos and a tub of ice cream

It’s my favorite because it’s 1000% accurate. Here’s the scenario that happens oh too often for me, the day goes GREAT, I’m feeling great, I’ve even managed to resist a couple indulgences throughout the day. Then, night time hits and the flood gates open. Night time, binge eating, rears its ugly head. No matter how many times I say I’m not going to do it, I do it. I’ve literally been doing it every night for 20 years. And if I do manage to resist I feel uncomfortable the whole time, counting the seconds until bedtime. Like right now, as I’m finishing up this post for tomorrow, I’m thinking about how I want to eat something. Do we have any chocolate in the house I wonder?

For me, night eating usually starts at dinner. I start with a healthy dinner, then I have a second serving. Then maybe a third. Or I sit at the table and pick at the bowl while talking to my husband and the next thing I know I’ve finished the whole bowl and actually don’t have leftovers to take for lunch the next day. I then move to the couch and proceed to eat way past hunger. Cookies, cereal, popcorn, candy. Whatever I am craving, whatever I have in the house.

Night eating for me is one of the hardest things to combat. It’s like an itch I just can’t scratch. I feel possessed. There is no stopping me from walking to the kitchen and opening the cabinets. Willpower does not exist for me at night. Serving sizes and portion control doesn’t exist when the sun goes down. And I do have to admit that I roll my eyes at anyone who suggests that I “brush my teeth” to stop eating. I’ll brush my teeth and then still eat. I’ll brush my teeth again and then eat again.

So what is it about eating at night, after dinner? Why the heck does it happen and why the heck can’t we control ourselves? I’ve thought about this a lot and here are the reasons I’ve come up with.

I think there is an unsettling finality to the end of each day that makes us eat. I think there is anxiety about the day in front of us that makes us eat. I think we replay the day at night, maybe we did or said something that we are stressed about. Maybe we had a conversation with someone that upset us. Maybe we’re waiting on news or a text from someone and another day has gone by and still radio silence. Maybe a family member or friend sent a text or email that triggered us and we’re stirring about it. Maybe we were scrolling social media while watching our favorite show and something or someone made us jealous. Maybe we’re lonely and need food as a friend. Maybe we’re watching the news and feel stressed about what we saw. Maybe we’re bored with our life. Maybe we’re putting something off that we need to get done. Maybe all of these things. Maybe none of these things. I wrote a laundry list out like this on purpose to show myself and you that there can be so many reasons why we eat at night. What I’ve learned is that we are eating for a reason. An emotional reason. And we all know that the reason isn’t because we are hungry. It’s up to us to find the reason. When we find the reason, it can save us from a couple hundred calories each night.

Find your feelings at night. We all know we’re night eating. So the next time it happens, try to think really hard about why you’re doing it. I know why I’m night eating tonight. I’m stressed about going back to work tomorrow after 5 months of maternity leave. I’m using food to numb the anxious feeling I have.

Remind yourself you will eat tomorrow. Many of us about-to-be dieters overindulge ourselves in preparation for the deprivation of the next. When night eating gets out of control we often let it continue to stay out of control because we are prepping to restart tomorrow. If we stop now, we wont have to starve ourselves in the am.

The morning after FILL. I often try to think about how I will feel AFTER I eat. It’s hard to do in the moment but I now try to picture what I will feel like in the morning after eating a ton of food the night before. I know I never, ever feel good. I never ever don’t regret a night time eating binge so I must remind myself that.

I know when you clicked on this post you were probably hoping for tips like, “brush your teeth” or “sew your lips shut.” A tip that will miraculously end night eating. Unfortunately I’ve found that for me those truly don’t exist. What does exist is self talk, and a constant reminder that my emotions are driving my eating. So tonight, if you can, binge Netflix, not food.

Happy Monday!


Leave a Reply