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Friday Q & A- I can’t stop binge eating at night, help!

i'm binge eating at night

Question: Submitted via email by Theresa in Marrero, Louisiana

At least once or twice a week, late at night I binge eat.  I feel as if I cannot stop and it’s everything unhealthy that I can get my hands on.  Afterwards I feel horrible about myself, worthless.  I am 50 years old and up until five years ago weight was never really an issue with me.  Going through menopause and making the big “5-0″……is terribly depressing not to mention the unpleasant symptoms of menopause in and of itself.  I often think why bother, I’m old, middle aged, what does it matter anyway?  I realize though that all women, no matter what stage of life they’re in wants to feel good about themselves.  I don’t have to be 20, 30 or 40 again…….I just want this self destructive binge eating to stop completely.  I can go a few days with no binge eating and feel really great about myself, fight those urges, wake up and feel good that I “beat it”.  I’m usually extremely tired when I do this also.  Although not always. I do computer work and often up late at night. It’s embarrassing because very often I have to hurry and replace the foods I’ve completely emptied out, like ice-cream, chips, peanuts.  For example last weekend my husband bought some ice cream.  He ate a small bowl of it. Later on that night, when he was sleeping, I kept eating and eating and eating on this ice cream and realized it was almost all gone!  I had to hurry and replace it even going as far as to make it look like it did when he took some out!  I’m amazed at how my husband and daughter can open a bag of chips and eat maybe five and close the bag up and maybe not even eat anymore for a week or two later. I on the other hand, keep thinking about it……and not satisfied until I’ve killed the rest of the bag! I never realized how very hard it is to actually fight these binge eating urges.  Any tips on how I can fight these urges.  I’m not usually hungry when I do this, sometimes maybe a little hungry but not starving enough to tear into food like I do!

Hi Theresa,

Thanks so much for your question. It sounds like you’re really struggling and adding the symptoms of menopause into the mix can only be compounding your issue.

First off, I think that it’s important for you to open up to your husband about what’s been happening. It’s certainly not his job to control your eating or fix it. However, it’s obvious that you are going through a tough time and getting support around it and talking about it rather than having it locked up inside and trying desperately to hide your tracks is a great way to begin to work through it.

You’ve also identified that you do this at night and often you do this when you are very tired. When you’re tired, it’s really difficult to fight the urges. I wonder if you can perhaps put post-it notes on your computer or on the pantry or freezer that say something like, “remember to rest,” and when you are about to grab some food, tell yourself that you are allowed to eat, but first you have to lay down for 20 minutes and rest your body.

You can also elicit a support team for yourself. Here are a list of Overeaters Anonymous meetings that are online and many are in the middle of the night so they’re right there when you need to reach out get support.

Make sure that you eat a good healthy dinner each night, and make sure that you have adequate amounts of protein (like chicken or beef) at your evening meal. This will keep you sated.

You say that you work until late in the evening. Is it possible that eating is a distraction? A way for you to take a break or procrastinate work? You might try giving yourself non-eating breaks during work. You might stretch a bit or take a walk, or watch tv, or do something enjoyable that gives you a break from working.

Let yourself stop working and do something relaxing before you go to bed, such as taking a shower or bath, or knitting, or reading a fun book. You need some separation between work and bed. That is often difficult to get when people work from home. It’s super important that you let yourself unwind and find non-food ways to do that.

Drink warm milk when you are wanting to put something else in your mouth. It’s an old remedy for sleep and relaxation, but the fat and the protein will help curb your cravings as well. The ritual of sitting and doing something relaxing will help alleviate the compulsive urge. Brush your teeth afterwards and try to let yourself relax a bit. Sometimes just interrupting the binge can help stop it.

You might also consider talking to a naturopath or acupuncturist to learn about some ways to relieve the symptoms of menopause. You can also find some tips here and here and here.

Good Luck!

Do you have a question about binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or anything associated with eating disorders? Send an email to bingeeatingtherapy  at gmail dot com. All questions will be kept confidential. Include your first name or the name you want to be referred to as and your location.

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