5 Ways to Stop Overeating at Night

Nacho Chips

As a ravenous pregnant person, I spend more time than the average eater daydreaming about food. Dinner is my favorite meal of the day. It’s a time to relax and unwind, forget the worries of the workday and spend some quality time with the husband. Unfortunately, it’s also the time during the day that I love pigging out.

I’m aware of all those typical tricks and tips out there to prevent overeating: fill up on wholesome foods like protein and fiber, eat an apple before your meal, use a low-cal soup as a starter, yadda yadda yadda and snore.

Why Do You Overeat?
Overeating for me has very little to do with hunger. My issue is not solved by filling up on low-calorie foods, or paying attention to satiety or hunger cues. My issue, and I’m sure a lot of peoples’ overeating issues, have more to do with enjoying the act of eating and not wanting to stop — regardless of how one’s tummy feels. Now that I’m knocked up, I don’t have much of a satiety signal anyway.

In fact, I would venture a guess that for 90-something-percent of people out there, overeating is pretty much unrelated to hunger and means that you are eating to the point of OVER fullness; hunger is long gone, and yet you’re still packing it in. There are probably as many reasons for overeating as there are people, but a lot of people overeat because the food in front of them is delicious, or they had a bad day, or they are procrastinating getting up from the table and ending an enjoyable meal time.

Yeah, sure this can mean eating too fast and too much before satiety kicks in, but the point is, when one overeats, one is cramming their gullet with food they don’t need. If eating slower were the end-all-be-all, there’d be a lot fewer chubby people out there.

Notice What Happens When You Are Overeating
Have you ever noticed that when you have the urge to overeat, you are mentally consumed by food? Your mental focus keenly becomes about the act of eating. You might not even taste the food at this point, but your brain is telling you, “Keep eating, don’t let this moment of pleasure come to an end.”

But when you do pull yourself away and rinse your plate before putting it in the dishwasher, you often feel satisfied and like you don’t need any more food. As soon as you turn your focus away from the food at hand, it loses control over you and you’ve snapped out of the spell. But how do we consistently control the experience so that we are reminded that meal time is over?

How to Pleasantly End Meal Time
Instead of looking at the end of dinner like it’s the end of the best part of the night, let’s look at ways to distract ourselves from food when it’s time to stop eating in a fun way. What else could grab our attention and be an appealing diversion?

I’m ready to revisit some tricks that have worked for me in the past, along with a handful of new ideas.

1.    Cup of Tea. Choose an end-of-meal signal to place in front of you when you sit down to dinner. A cup of chamomile tea usually works for me, but I have to brew it before I sit down to dinner and actually have it cooling and ready to drink when I’m done with my meal. That way the signal to stop eating is right in front of me. I don’t need to tear myself away and walk into the kitchen for my tea, which could tempt me to go for seconds.

2.    Sweet Tooth. Do you enjoy something sweet at the end of the meal? What about a popsicle? If I put a frozen treat in front of me that I can eat when I’m done with dinner, the fact that the pop is going to melt if I linger too long over extra food is an incentive to move on to the sweet ending.

3.    Minty Fresh. There’s nothing like the taste of mint in your mouth to destroy the urge to stuff a Dorito in there. Keep a pack of mints or gum in front of you and pop one right after your last bite so that there’s no time for second thoughts. Or keep your toothbrush on the table, and head to the powder room for a vigorous tooth-brushing as soon as you put your fork down. Do it before you even clear the table.

4.    Get Outside. Now that our days are becoming longer and it might still actually be light out when I’m finished eating, a lovely evening stroll can help me break my focus on food. If walks aren’t your thing, what if you set up a comfy outdoor seating area for your balcony, patio or yard? Getting out there after dinner to watch the sunset or to enjoy a few moments of outdoor evening conversation could be a great new spring and summertime tradition.

5. Use a Timer and have a planned activity. I know, I’m a bit crazy with the timer, but if you have a plan for your evening activity or routine, then you can time your dinner. They say it takes 20 minutes for satiety to kick in, so that could be the perfect amount of time to enjoy your meal. At the end of 20 minutes, know what comes next: your favorite show, a bubblebath or a great novel perhaps.

If you like to overeat at dinner, what are some tips that have helped you stop eating in the past? Your thoughts are welcome in the comments.

3 thoughts on “5 Ways to Stop Overeating at Night

  1. Thanks Katie. :-) It’s been a hell of a ride! Congrats to you too on the bun — very exciting!

    And love the new blog, incredibly helpful conversations. If I can just do one of these things on a regular basis, perhaps my hair will retain an ounce of blonde (real blonde, that is).

  2. Hi there Anne,
    Looks like you and I traded places — you moved from DC to NYC to be with your man, while I moved from NYC to DC to be with mine. Congrats on your engagement and pending nuptials!
    Skinny Cows are awesome. Good point on the cutting back on carbs past 4pm. When I wrote this post on Friday, I was at the point that cutting back on carbs was a finer point and I needed to cut back on everything, but I think I’m ready to consider some finer points at this stage … I’m already mentally prepping myself for making a tea AND bringing a Popsicle to the table tonight so I don’t attack our mashed ginger sweet potatoes like it’s my last day on earth.

  3. I love this. I have such a problem with eating at night. Our kitchen is a floor above our living room, so I’m going to start allowing myself just the one trip up to make dinner and then that’s it. If I want a Skinny Cow (super yum) then I have to bring it down with me.

    Also, I try to knock the carbs off after 4. I don’t always succeed, but when I do, my weight comes off much faster. Stupid bread tastes too stinkin’ good….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>