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How to Stop Overeating at Night (from an Eating Disorder Psychologist)

Updated: Apr 29

eating disorder psychologist, eating disorder therapist

You restrict, deprive yourself, or skip meals throughout the day, which leads you to think about food constantly. You grab random snacks here and there to try to satiate yourself, but you’re not really considering what your body needs or wants. You’re busy and just haven’t got the time to really think about healthy food choices. Meal planning has always been difficult and a lot of effort to bother making, so thoughts of dinner are always last minute. You often resort to take-aways and ready meals, feeling guilty about it but push those thoughts away and shrug it off.

You have a post-dinner routine which involves constant grazing and zoning out infront of the tv to escape the stress from the day. The start of every ad break is met with an almost automatic head to the kitchen for snacks, not really paying any attention to what you are eating or how full you are feeling. Food is there filling a void.

Does this sound familiar?

As a fully recovered eating disorder psychologist I see this pattern as all too common with many of my clients. This has very little to do with the amount of self-control or willpower you have to avoid the foods you love and tend to gorge on. In fact, you may be struggling with something more specific; night eating syndrome or ‘midnight hunger’. This is primarily characterised as an ongoing, persistent pattern of late-night overeating or binge eating.

And you’re not alone. Over 5 million people are dealing with overeating at night. This is called 'night eating syndrome'

eating disorder psychologist

Aside from weight gain, this behaviour can cause a whole heap of problems. It can disrupt our sleep, leading to imbalances of hunger and satiety hormones which in turn make it more difficult for us to recognise when we are truly hungry or satisfied. Essentially, eating in this way can throw our body’s natural rhythm way off balance and cause various health issues as a result.

So, what can you do if night time eating feels out of control and you want to regain some balance? The truth is there is a reason why you’re experiencing what feels like a loss of control at night when it comes to food and why you find yourself overeating at night.

Here are 5 ways to stop overeating at night from an eating disorder psychologist

1. Eat enough during the day

Many people attempt to ‘be good’ during the day because they have either overeaten at night and ‘need’ to make up for it, or are saving themselves for later in the day when they know they will go overboard. The thing is, when you restrict your intake for hours on end, this sends a signal to your brain that food is scarce. Your brain will send out stronger and stronger hunger signals and urges over the day until it gets to evening and you just can’t ignore them anymore. This then leads to bingeing or overeating because your brain is thinking it doesn’t know when it will be next fed!

Give yourself permission to eat more regularly, understanding that there isn’t anything virtuous or self-controlled about skipping meals. Make sure to eat balanced meals over the course of the day to prevent excessive overeating at night.

2. Break associations and mix up your routine

We all have routines for almost every part of our day and this includes food. For example, types of food, time, location, way of cooking, and way of eating. Think about how you order popcorn at the movies- not necessarily because you want it, but just because you are at the movies! We all fall into these daily routines and associations.

Mixing up those routines can help to break to habit of night eating or binge eating at night. For example, if you have developed the habit of eating whilst working at the kitchen table, create an office space away from the kitchen. Or if TV is your trigger to start snacking, consider changing up the time or location, pair it with a new activity or even consider another activity all together.

3. What is really going on?

Mixing up those routines can help to break to habit of night eating. For example, if you have developed the habit of eating whilst working at the kitchen table, consider changing up the time or location, pair it with a new activity or even consider another activity all together.

When you feel the urge to overeat at night, build in a 10-minute pause. Ask yourself; what am I really hungry for? What do I need? Satisfy yourself with self-knowledge instead of food, and act on it.

4. Build some toward motivation

Map out your evening, food choices, dinner preparation and how you want to think, feel and behave. The more details you can create around this future state the better. This is based on the principle that all things are created twice. We first have to mentally create what we want in our minds which then acts as a blueprint to guide our physical actions.

5. Build more fun into your life

Night time eating is often used as a way to relax and wind down. Just knowing that a pint of ice cream or a bag of sweets is waiting for you when you come home from work can help get you through a really challenging day. It can even turn into the highlight of your day, your main source of joy, entertainment and fun. However, this is when it can turn into a problem.

Ask yourself: What are you missing in your life?

Are you craving joy? nurturing? Comfort? It might not be the chocolate brownie after all. So, add in what you really need more of – and then you may find that you’re less likely to fulfil that need with food.

I often see in my eating disorder clinic in Sydney that night eating is often a response to something going on inside. Sometimes, redirecting that response by changing just one little thing can be enough to break the behaviour. Eliminate your top cue for eating and see what changes. However, sometimes there can be deeper issues going on, such as emotional blockages and negative belief systems which may need time and attention.


Need some help?! 

If you are interested in taking that next step and are ready to speak with an eating disorder psychologist in Sydney please get in contact with Hannah Myall, who has also fully recovered from an eating disorder and has since spent the last decade helping individuals and families work towards eating disorder recovery.

Book a free consultation with Hannah and find out how she may be able to help you,

Got a question? Send Hannah an email at

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