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5 Tips To Help You Stop Bingeing At Night

Jan 19, 2021
plate of cookies

Bingeing at night - let’s set the scene:

You woke up feeling groggy and tired in the morning after a big binge the night before. You also feel full of guilt, with panic setting in as you start desperately planning what you’ll eat today to counteract the binge. Maybe you skip breakfast, or just have something small like a piece of fruit - even though your stomach still feels pretty full from last night. Lunch is also restricted - probably a salad or something low-carb. After work/class, you head to the gym for an hour or two - mostly punishing yourself with cardio - maybe this will make a dent in the excess calories from last night. You get home feeling stressed and anxious, and try to hold off from any bingeing with a healthy dinner - sushi! Only then at 8pm chocolate is on your mind. Everything inside of you is screaming “CHOCOLATE!!!”, but you decide you’ll be good and have a square of 90% dark chocolate. (You keep it in the fridge to curb your sweet tooth and stop yourself from bingeing on brownies). But bingeing is still on your mind and it’s hard to stop it from happening once the idea is in your head. So you rush to the supermarket and pick up your favourite binge-worthy food - excitement is rushing through you. You get home, tear open the bag of food, and eat and eat and eat. Probably watching TV at the same time so it’s even more mindless. You eat far beyond feeling full but just can’t stop. Once you’re finished, reality sets in and you feel overcome with disgust, guilt and shame. You feel gross and just SO full. You’re either so full of energy (from the food) that you stay up late, unable to sleep. Or you pass out quickly from a food coma. The sun rises the next morning, and the cycle repeats.

 

DOES ANY OF THAT SOUND FAMILIAR?

If yes, keep reading as I share 5 tips that helped me overcome night bingeing!

1. DON’T RESTRICT CALORIES THROUGHOUT THE DAY

After a big binge, most of us try to restrict calorie intake the following day (or several days) to counteract the excess we consumed in the binge. It can often seem like a daunting task the morning after a binge - sometimes we’ve consumed thousands of calories in one sitting!

For me, this was an exhausting part of the cycle: I would often come up with a game plan for the next few days food-wise, and literally write down in my Notes app on my phone exactly what I’d eat for every single meal, drink and snack. I would list out how many calories each meal was, and try to limit my daily intake to 1000 calories! I’d then factor in exercise too, trying to get my net calories in at 500 a day! I would then calculate how many kg per week that would help me lose. Talk about setting yourself up to fail, right?!

That’s just the physiological side of it - calories in mustn’t be greater than calories out on average therefore we restrict. But there’s also an emotional aspect to this. The act of restricting can also have an undertone of punishment. We feel like we don’t deserve food after the sins of a binge, so we’ll essentially try to starve ourself for a bit.

So restricting leads to bingeing and bingeing leads to restricting. It’s an endless cycle. I know it’s so hard to not restrict after a binge because you’re not doing any damage control, so then you’ll definitely gain weight, right? But here’s the thing, you have to break the cycle somewhere.

The day after a binge, think of it as a completely new day independent of yesterday’s actions. Start fresh. Eat 3 meals a day with no restriction. Have snacks. Have whatever you want! Once your body realises it is no longer in starvation mode, it won’t physiologically be crying out for food by the time 8pm comes around.

 

2. BE THE BOSS

Are there certain foods you don’t have in the house so you don’t binge on them at night? I’ve been there! There were sooo many foods I literally could not trust myself to have in the house. And it’s not your fault - you’ve been told by so many diet plans and gurus things like, “Out of sight, out of mind” and “Just don’t have unhealthy food in the house”. The problem is you’re letting FOOD control YOU! You have zero trust in yourself and your own power.

“What you try to control, has control over you”


Try this out: take one of your typical binge foods this week and stock it in your kitchen abundantly. In plain sight! Try to eat it during the day - maybe as a snack after lunch. Make it NO. BIG. DEAL.

It’s this whole “forbidden fruit” (okay, it’s probably not a fruit that you’re bingeing on) thing that makes you want to binge more. You want what you can’t have. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes! And remember, it might not work out the first time - it’s a journey. But you will get there! YOU have the power.

 

3. ADDRESS THE EMOTIONS TRIGGERING THE BINGEING

For most of us, the cause of bingeing is a combination of emotional and physiological issues. The physiological side is related to putting your body into starvation mode, only for the cave woman part of your mind to binge on calorie-dense foods to stockpile energy for fear of another period of starvation.

Emotionally, we can go to food as a means to distract or numb ourselves from a ‘negative’ or unwanted feeling we have. We mask it temporarily with the joy and excitement of eating something yummy. This emotion can often be anxiety, stress or loneliness (amongst many others, of course). That is often the reason the desire to binge builds up through the day and erupts at night. The evening is when these emotions are reached their peak and we have done nothing to deal with them because we’re constantly go-go-go during the day. We have not stopped to take a breath.

The first step to dealing with this is identifying what the emotional issue actually is. This in itself can be difficult as we can often be so unaware or even in denial.

As the urge for a binge is building, ask yourself what you’re feeling in that moment. Why do you want to binge right now. Look deeper than just, “I could really do with some cake’.

For some, the moments before a binge can be too blinding - all you’re thinking is ‘F*ck it, I just need to binge!”. If that’s the case, think about the ‘why’ after the binge, or just during the day. Think about what you feel like you’re missing in your life. It may be purpose, or love, or deep connection with others. Becoming aware is a huge first step - it can make the whole bingeing struggle much less confusing. You’re no longer some out of control monster - you’re just someone in need of deeper healing. And bingeing is just an outer symptom.

4. INTERRUPT YOUR HABIT TO BINGE AT NIGHT

As discussed, bingeing starts off due to an emotional and/or physical issue. But as with any repeated behaviour, it soon becomes a habit. This only adds fuel to the fire, making it even more difficult and demoralising of an endeavour to try to solve. Something that worked for me (in unison with all of the tips above) was breaking the habit of wanting to binge at night. I did this by changing my environment. I had always binged at night alone at home.

I decided to spend more nights out of the house doing activities that bettered my life - things like going to dance classes with friends, meeting new people at office parties, and enjoying dinner with family. I didn’t do this every single night, but at least 3 nights a week (whereas previously I’d spend most of my evenings alone). The nights that I spent out didn’t meet my criteria for bingeing (at home and alone). So I wouldn’t binge. This then lead to me only having the ‘chance’ to binge 3-4 nights a week.

Over time, I didn’t even feel like bingeing on the nights I was at home, because I’d broken that circuit in my brain (night time = binge time). I also realised that life was way more enjoyable without the binges and the guilt!

Give it a try - change up your patterns. Replace bad habits with good habits.

5. FORGIVE YOURSELF!

Shame, guilt and self-hatred is so entrenched in the binge-restricting cycle - we become so hard on ourselves. I definitely tried to hate myself to my dream body and out of bingeing. I’d try to starve myself as long as I could before another binge. I would tell myself constantly how much of a failure I was - how could I not get this one thing right? It’s one of the most basic human functions - eating! Everyone else can get it right, why can’t I?

But that will never get you anywhere.

I know it is so much easier said than done, but you HAVE to be kind on yourself in this healing process. C’mon - life is hard enough as it is!

So every time you succumb to a binge, treat yourself the way you’d treat a little girl. You wouldn’t say “Oh, you’re pathetic. Another binge. You’re going to be stuck like this forever"'! That little girl would likely give up and feel like a failure. Instead, you would be compassionate and loving. You would say ‘It’s ok, I know you’ve been going through a difficult time and are struggling with this. But you will get there! Keep pushing and keep learning!”

And, hey, if you need a little bit of external support - you can always DM me on Insta for a dose of motivation!



I hope these 5 tips have been helpful and inspirational - please put them to the test and let me know in the comments below or on Insta how it’s worked for you!

 

Remember - stay positive, patient and forgiving!

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