Linda Melone
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How to stop eating at night

I have a thing for coffee. To fully comprehend what I’m about to say, it’s helpful to know something about me: I tend to get obsessed with things, I do them to excess, burn out, then I move to the next thing and never look back. 

I do this with music, too. I hear a song I like, listen to it 800 times a day, until that love slowly morphs into hate. Then I never want to hear it again.

But apparently my obsession with coffee has not yet reached critical mass. I drink too much of it and make no excuses for it.

“It’s my one vice,” I say, like all people who know they’re in a death spiral with a bad habit they can’t stop.

So when I woke up the other morning to find the coffee (on a pre-set mode to be ready when I wake, of course) has overflowed out of the pot and onto the floor, Houston, we have a problem.

I instantly go through all five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — within a span of five minutes, realizing I will need to clean up this mess without the aid of caffeine. 

Although my husband, a worse coffee addict than me, drank a cup of the remaining sludge anyway, saying the grinds gave it “texture.”

Coffee spillage: surf’s up

And if you’ve ever experienced a clogged up coffee pot incident, you’ll know what I mean when I say the volume of liquid that flows out of the pot is exponentially greater than the original amount poured into the machine.

By gallons.

It’s not just on the countertop, but on the floor, in the cutlery drawer and into everything, like a tsunami that’s pulled everything into its surge, knocking over houses and sucking VW buses and telephone poles into its dark and foreboding grip.

After all was said, done and cleaned up, I made the following note-to-self: Clean the coffee pot more often than every decade.             

You would think this was a clear sign from the Universe that maybe I should step away from the coffee for a bit.

Maybe. But I’m not ready.

Do you say that about certain things you know you need to stop as well?

For example, I get emails about eating at night. Questions like:

— “How can I stop eating at night? I’m like a woman possessed!”
— “Why do I have no problem eating very little during the day but then at night it’s like I haven’t eaten for a week?”
— “Do calories count if I eat in front of the refrigerator standing up and no one sees me?”

Okay, I may have made up that last one, but it’s a legit question. (The answer is yes, unfortunately.)

I’ve mentioned in prior posts that I credit my 15 lb weight loss (which I’ve kept off for more than seven years) on cutting out nighttime snacking. And it’s the absolute truth, regardless of all the exaggerating I do on these posts.

I decided that cutting out those calories would eliminate a few hundred and, may, over time help me lose weight.

And it did.

Keep in mind, however, it took about a year because we’re talking about 200 to 300 calories at the most. It wasn’t as if I polished off a sleeve of Oreos and half pint of Chunky Monkey each night and then suddenly decided to eat nothing after dinner.

But I’d snack a bit. So it wasn’t hard.

It’s why I advocate making small changes instead of vowing to never eat chocolate, cut out bread, ban the booze and a hundred other things you know you’ll never be able to maintain.

Skipping a small snack at night? Doable.

If this is your issue, I have a few tips that may help you, too.

1. EAT MORE DURING THE DAY

This may sound counterintuitive, but if you’re “starving” at night and didn’t eat much during the day, chances you didn’t eat enough during the day, which is exactly why you’re ravenous at night. If you eat enough during the day you simply won’t be hungry at night.

Do not allow more than four hours to pass between meals so you avoid becoming too hungry to make sensible dietary decisions.

2. INCLUDE PROTEIN AT EVERY MEAL  

Lean protein — fish, eggs, dairy, lean meats, beans, etc. — does a bunch of wonderful things. Protein revs your metabolism, keeps hunger at bay and fills you up. Strive to include 20 grams with each meal (approximately 3 oz) and about half that with snacks.

Cream cheese frosting does not count for protein

Plus, as we age (not that any of us are doing that, ‘cause we’re ageless, right?) our bodies become less efficient at processing protein. We need an ounce or two more each day than we did in our formative years.

Swap out any carb-loaded meals (I’m lookin’ at you, bagel for breakfast) with a protein to fend off hunger longer.

3. SET SMALL GOALS

Ideally, you want to stop eating two, preferably three, hours before you go to sleep. If you typically eat up until you turn off your nightstand light, begin with a half hour and “train” yourself to gradually go for longer periods of time between your last meal and sleep.

The side benefit: You will sleep better, too.

4. FIND A HEALTHY, NON-FOOD SUBSTITUTE

Cutting out snacking may also mean you’re cutting out something to do with your hands. A hot, calorie-free, comforting beverage at night fits the bill.

I sip on herbal tea. The downside? Pee dreams. You know, the dreams when you spend half the night looking for a bathroom because in real life you have to go. Those.

So maybe knitting or coloring may work better for you. Just make sure it’s non-food related.

5. ADJUST YOUR MINDSET

I talk a lot about mindset because we often see these types of changes in a negative way. And telling yourself you “can’t” have something makes you want it even more.

Flip that switch. Know why you’re making this change and give yourself time to adjust. I’m talking about a month or two, not a couple of days.

“Oh, well, I tried this for a week and it didn’t work for me, so I may as well go back to my bad habits and forget the whole thing,” is an excuse. Stop doing it.

You can do this! I did it, and I don’t possess any superpowers. At least none that I’m aware of yet. That could change any given moment.

Until then…

Do YOU tend to eat at night — or do you make a conscious effort to stop before sleepy time? Let’s chat! Leave a comment down below to get the conversation going… 

Other posts you may enjoy:

How to motivate yourself to exercise when you hate it

3 counterintuitive weight loss tactics that really work

How to break the rules and still see results

Your Ageless Body Coach,

   P.S. Hey there! Are you a part of the Ageless Army yet? If not, you’re missing out on a whole heap of great info, interviews with experts (including an upcoming video interview with a neurologist, who will tell you what’s happening with your brain over time), exercises, recipes, and more. Click HERE for more info and to sign up!

About the Author Linda Melone

Linda Melone is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, certified trainer and award-winning health and fitness writer. She specializes in helping women over 50 get in shape and lose weight.

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Leave a Comment:

Karen says

I eat every single night even when there’s nothing in the house desirable to eat. It’s awful. I don’t know why I do it. It clearly isn’t hunger. I like the suggestion to set time increments prior to bed that I can’t eat and work backwards. Fingers crossed.

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Eating at night is often a comfort thing, a time to relax and unwind from the day. So the key is in not having food be a part of your nightly routine. Just remember change won’t happen (literally) overnight. It takes time and a bit of backtracking and moving forward before it sticks. You got this, Karen!

    Reply
Kate Mahar says

Thanks, Linda! This was a timely post for me. I’m wavering between diet programs, knowing full well that diets have always been short term fixes for me that eventually lead to gaining more weight. It’s such a vicious cycle. So – I’m not jumping on the latest bandwagon (knowing full well I’ll fall off in a week or month or so). Stop eating after dinner. Make sure meals are satisfying with a healthy serving of protein. Makes sense. I’m in. Now I need another cup of coffee . . . .

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Great, Kate! You can do it :).

    Reply
Joyce says

I know if I eat after 8at night I won’t loose weight but can’t stop myself ::eg go make a cuppa eat a couple biscuits take tin in for hubby and have a few more ,take cups out and risk having just one biscuit more after all 1more can’t do any harm can it ,I’ve tried not going into the kitchen to make a drink but then it’s like a little devil on my shoulder saying eat eat eat ,tried doing a bit of exercise but that only makes me want more after all I must have used up loads of calories while excercising

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Joyce, It’s important to take a look at the things you say to yourself and start there. For example, you say you “can’t stop yourself” but you could if you created a compelling enough reason. As an extreme example, if you broke out into hives every time you bit into a biscuit you’d stop, right? Because it’s no longer enjoyable. So what is a compelling enough reason for you?

    Reply
Ruth Fouts says

Help

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    How can I help, Ruth?:)

    Reply
Patricia Scott says

Great post, Linda. Nighttime eating is my vice. As I told my daughter today… it has been a ritual for me since I can remember. Tea and toast, milk and cookies, etc.
I have upped my protein, eat more times than before and am learning to allow for my occasional slips.

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Sounds like you’re on the right path, Pat!

    Reply
cindy says

I have a big problem eating at night. During the day I can’t enjoy a meal. It’s interrupted with can you get this or that. There goes my meal it’s cold. I know that’s what keeps my weight on. It’s really doing my head in. HELP

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Hi Cindy, It’s tough for me to say, since I don’t know exactly what or who interrupts you. But it sounds like work…? Is there a way for you to get away from that environment to eat, where you can be undisturbed?

    Reply
Susan says

Thanks for this Linda. I am going to try eating a bit more during the day and adding more protein…as well as trying tea in the evening❤

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Great, Susan! Let me know if it helps.

    Reply
Helen says

I eat a cookie at night because my husband loves cookies and they are always in front of my after dinner. I’ll try to go down to half a cookie and then a quarter. Sounds funny but these are the big double chocolate Pepperidge Farm cookies. They are to die for.

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Hi Helen, If you really love the cookies just don’t eat them every single night. That’s where the calories add up. It’s not ONE cookie, it’s one cookie every night that adds the pounds. 🙂

    Reply
Karen says

Hi all. I am also a night time snacker, I get on track for a while then slip back into old routines. My wish would to be more consistent.

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    Are you hungry at night or do you eat more out of habit?

    Reply
Aviva Ishai says

when i first heard you say that you don’t eat after 8 p.m., i thought to myself “i could never do that!”. but several times lately, when i wanted to nosh on something in the evening, i have glanced at the clock and seen that it’s after 8 p.m. and said to myself “well, Linda isn’t eating, so i won’t either” and succeeded in stopping myself.

Reply
    Linda Melone says

    lol! That’s awesome. Glad I’m a good influence, Aviva.

    Reply
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