If you eat your way through the night because you’re stressed, anxious or even bored, you are not alone. You have your friends: potato chips, chocolate cookies, ice cream and candy! But are they good friends? I didn’t think so. These tips on how to stop stress eating late at night will help you get a wee bit healthier.
Chewing sugarless gum works for me. I’ll chew anything, even the coffee or maple flavors that come in an assorted package of Simply Gum! Since I’m most tempted to binge eat late at night, I keep a pack (okay, 3 packs) of gum on my nightstand. I know that when I’m tired, my defenses are weak. I just want to dip into a big bowl of chocolate-covered pretzels. But I always feel terrible the next day – not to mention exhausted because all that chocolate disrupted my sleep. Yet no matter how gross I felt the next morning, I couldn’t seem to stop emotional eating at night. So I experimented and found the best ways to stop eating late at night, which I share below. My tips are both practical (such as chewing gum as a way to stop stress eating late at night) and emotional (learning how to manage stress in more productive, healthy ways).
Are you putting on “stress weight”? Weight gain isn’t just about eating more calories than you burn. Shift workers tend to be overweight because their schedules force them to eat at times that conflict with their natural body rhythms. So if you have a habit of eating late at night, you’re more likely to pack on the pounds.
Research from Northwestern University shows that eating at the wrong time of day might be contributing to weight gain. “How or why a person gains weight is very complicated,” said Fred Turek, a neurobiology professor of neurobiology and researcher. “We think some factors are under circadian control. Better timing of meals, which would require a change in behavior, could be a critical element in slowing the ever-increasing incidence of obesity.”
Figure out the cause of your stress eating
The root cause of stress eating isn’t stress. You’ll always have stress in your life. Even when things are perfect, you’ll always have to deal with traffic jams, stubborn children, or disobedient bosses. Stress isn’t the problem. Stress is inevitable.
The problem is your response to stress. What makes me say you have a problem? You searched for “stress eating” and “eating late at night.” You want to know how to stop living with this obsession. Maybe you haven’t learned how to manage stress in healthy ways, or maybe you’re too sad or depressed to explore different types of coping strategies.
Do something else instead, such as chew gum
One of the most important tips on how to stop stress eating late at night is to give yourself something else to do. Don’t just take away your chocolate-covered pretzels. Gum works for me because it occupies my mouth, tastes good, and doesn’t make me feel like I’m depriving myself. I’m chewing gum right now; it helps me think.
Are you eating out of habit, or to avoid your feelings? In When You Never Feel Full and Can’t Stop Eating, I share several tips for dealing with the emotional issues of mindless eating. Those tips might help you learn how to stop stress eating late at night.
Find like-minded folk
I seem to have overcome my tendency towards emotional eating. It was actually worse than emotional eating; I struggled with bulimia for most of my life. What helped me heal with working in an addictions counseling recovery center for men. I learned a lot about how trauma affects the brain, why addictive behaviors develop, and how to cope with different types of addictions.
Don’t try to learn how to stop stress eating at night by yourself. Get help. Join a support group, get counseling, take stress management workshops, quit your job. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself.
Find your passion
My passion is blogging, but it wasn’t enough to stop my late-night eating binges. So why do I include it as a tip on how to stop stress eating? Because it takes TIME to move from behavior to behavior. You’ve been stress eating late at night for a long time, and simply discovering a new love for painting or playing the flute won’t “cure” you of your compulsion to eat.
So, don’t just find your passion. Nurture it, develop it, go further into it. Find others who share the same passion (for instance, I created an art group for women that meets twice monthly). Fan the flames of your love for that passion so it burns brighter than the stress you feel.
Go deeper and higher
How’s your heart, soul and spirit? Even better: how are you and God doing? There is a deep, strong, delightful life current running through you. A divine spark, a flash of energy that only God could give you. Find that higher and deeper source of life. Look for a source of emotional and spiritual freedom. If you are stress eating at night, you’re missing something vital. Love! Life. Light.
You are a holistic woman, which means focusing on either practical tips or emotional healing won’t stop the stress eating. Instead, try a combination of both.
Practical tips on how to stop stress eating late at night:
- Chew sugarfree gum
- Make meals that take a long time to eat, such as a big bowl of salad
- Eat a big, bulky, light dinner late at night (if I’m done eating dinner at 7:30 pm, I won’t indulge in my chocolate-covered pretzels because I get ready for bed at 8 pm)
- Experiment with different ways to manage your stress
- Remember that it takes at least 30 days to set a new habit. Give yourself time
- Accept setbacks. Every day brings a new chance to learn how to stop stress eating late at night
- Keep the faith
For more tips, read How to Be Healthy When You’re Stressed and Depressed.