Kick the Nightime Eating Habit

Monday, April 5, 2010
Nighttime, for some people, is a time for enjoying dinner, relaxing on the couch or falling asleep with a good book. Yet for others, it can be a time filled with anxiety, loneliness and hunger.

Often this can lead to chronic overeating to numb feelings of isolation or anxiety, many times with foods containing large amounts of refined carbohydrates such as chips, cookies and candy. The reason these high-calorie items are often picked for night eating is because they promote the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that causes people to feel both calm and full.

If this scenario sounds like your personal habit, consider the underlying cause of your urge to eat at night. Are you sad, lonely or anxious? Do you "fill" a missing part of your life with food or numb a feeling that has become too scary to work through? Do you restrict calories during the day, feel famished in the evening and binge to feel full? Do you find that eating something will help put you to sleep? In any of these cases, proactive steps can help reduce night eating.

To help control overeating at night, consider becoming mindful of why you are eating by asking yourself the acronym "HALT B," which stands for, "Am I hungry, angry, lonely, tired or bored?" Eat regular meals throughout the day so that you are not famished at night.

Know that you may not be able to do this alone — and that is it okay to ask for help. Consider scheduling an appointment with a registered dietitian, who can help restructure your meals, or a counselor who can work with you through the emotional aspect of night eating.

- Katie Southworth, MS, dietetic intern, and Debra A. Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University

FALL 2017
Have questions about a program?
Request information »

More Health Tips

  • There are ways to help treat IBS using safe, natural products, and life-style intervention. 

  • There are many ways to monitor and change your individual risk of heart disease.

  • Purchasing food grown closer to your home will provide great health, economic and environmental benefits.

  • With the number of Type 2 Diabetes patients quickly rising, it's time to start preventing this disease by changing dietary and exercise habits. Dr. Jennifer Pilon sheds some light on how to prevent this disease naturally.
  • Get help decreasing your pesticide exposure without going over budget with the Environmental Working Group's lists of the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean Fifteen."
  • Adding delicious and healthful anti-inflammatory foods to your diet can help give your body a fighting chance if you suffer from seasonal allergies.