The Binge Monster Comes Out at Night

Sometimes I'd wake up from a dead sleep with one thought..."FOOD."

Bingeing used to be worst for me at night. Once the sun would go down, it was like all my fears and anxieties came out, and of course, what did that make me want to do? Eat (and eat and eat). The bingeing didn’t even always end after I went to sleep! There were some weeks where I would wake up out of a dead sleep (usually right around 2 a.m….weird) and feel the need to eat. I’d shovel in some cereal straight from the box, or a few pieces of buttered bread, then fall back into bed.

There’s a disorder called night eating syndrome that has been more talked about lately; and after receiving this note from a reader, I felt like it was time for us to talk about nighttime eating:

“Recently I have been having more and more ‘binge days.’ I eat a healthy breakfast (usually oatmeal) and I drink a lot of water. However when it’s 6pm and onward, the green eyed monster comes out. During this time I usually eat from sweet, to salty to spicy till I’m so sick I can’t even move. When I’m done (finally) I feel guilty, not angry though I just try to be optimistic about the next day. My question is, is  my behaviour typical or am I going completely loony?” —Stacey, 18

Let’s all tell Stacey together: NO, you’re not loony. I mean, are you acting normally with food? No, but neither did any of us! I daresay this is an experience that every binge eater has had. The good news is, you can recover. To get started, I’m going to point you to several previous posts here where there’s been a ton of great tips and personal experience shared on how to get started on recovery:
What’s Your Advice For This Binge Eater?
What it Takes To Go From Sick and Stuffed to Strong and Healthy
The Book That’s Helping One Binger Get Sane About Food

Now, to the rest of you HealthyGirls…has night eating been a problem for you? Did you find that it faded as you began to recover or did you have to take particular precautions or actions to help ward it off? Please share with me, and with Stacey!


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13 Responses to The Binge Monster Comes Out at Night

  1. love2eatinpa says:

    morning, noon and night eating were all a problem for me, but yes, in my recovery, it has definitely faded. i had to remove certain foods from the house at first, but now i can have most anything in the house and have it not be a trigger. it took therapy, OA, and a lot of effort, but i did get to the other side.

  2. rc1001 says:

    When we are tired our bodies look to quick sources of energy to stay awake. The easiest source of simple energy is food.

    I always try to remind myself of this because once I start to get tired in the evening I also get STARVING, because my body wants to stay awake and finish off the days “To-do List”.

    Before I discovered this, late night binge eating was a huge issue for me. I still struggle with it from time to time but thinking about this (and visiting your blog regularly) help me a lot!

    Thanks for this post!

  3. Olivia says:

    That’s definetely the biggest issue for me too. Before I started my recovery (granted, I’m not very far along, but there is improvement), I’d have all-day binges. I’d binge from when I woke up until I went to bed.. (Needless to say the calories consumed in those days were incredibly (incredibly!) large.) I’d also have days when I’d binge in the afternoon.
    Now, I’d say about 95% of my binges occur after 9pm. They’re sooo hard to get rid of. I’m still working on it, but one solution I’ve found, as simple as it may sound, is to just GO TO BED. Because as rc1001 stated, often our body is just tired and looking for some energy in the form of food (often foods high in sugar). And also, I’ve noticed that my self-control goes waaayy down when I’m tired, and all my negative emotions get amplified.

  4. Katie says:

    My first question after reading Stacey’s note is: What do you eat after breakfast? If you are trying to eat only one meal per day, you are GUARANTEED to binge at night.

  5. Kate says:

    Nights used to be terrible for me. I bounced from either too hungry or too stuffed. I would be fine during the work day (because I could only eat the foods I brought with me) but once I got home it was an all night feeding frenzy.

    I realized one the reasons why this was happening, for me at least, was not eating enough during the day. It was hard, but if I ate a decent breakfast and lunch (with two small snacks if needed) I could eat my dinner and not feel the pressing need to keep eating. Also, I try to relax and shift from work to being at home. I’m I’m stressed at night or feel like I have a ton of things to finish, I’ll eat more.

  6. People, you are not alone.

    I wouldn’t say I have a problem with binge eating (insert obvious joke here), but this is mainly because I eat all the time. I eat maybe 4 or 5 small (small!) meals a day and those are topped off with snacks. I find if I choose my eating times and foods right I’m not looking for inappropriate foods at inappropriate times.

    The times I DO binge is around holidays and family get-togethers where we have a huge meal, then I’m stuffed for awhile, then I spend the rest of the day picking at little things here and there even though I’m not really hungry. It’s like my stomach is confused or something…

  7. Lacy says:

    I’m only just realizing that I was definitely a binge eater as a teenager (it is much more in control now) and this brought back memories for me. I would wake up at night and go to the kitchen. My go-too food was Archway soft molasses cookies. I would eat half a package at a sitting with a big glass of milk—in the kitchen, in the dark—and then go back to bed. Sometimes it was a comfort thing, and sometimes…. who knows! I just needed cookies?

  8. Dominique says:

    Night eating has become a problem for me during recovery. I went from ana to overeating at night and excessive working out, etc. I tend to shift disorders in recovery but at least now I am at a place where I do not throw up or use laxatives…however…insomnia from disrupted sleeping fuels my eating disorder by causing stress and emotional strain….

    • Emersyn says:

      I went from ana last year, to eating a small amount and urging. and then basically everything else in-between till now. What I eat during the day varies major, and is definitely not regular or healthy and I’ll tend to eat hardly anything or eat absolutely everything. No matter what though, I bing pretty much veery single night. I have started doing things which help me get i control of myself which sounds weird but I’ve started going for a walk every evening at 6;30. I work on staying at a steady pace and controlling my breathing and walking the same way back as I did there. Still, The problem has not been well resolve. As i write here I sit in bed at 11:30 at night eating a big bowl of cheese and pasta. Soeone advise me

  9. Kaki says:

    Night eating is like a storm cloud that follows me. I go through phases. Sometimes I wake up out of a dead sleep and will start eating. I feel out of control with my eating mostly but night bingeing is worse, I feel even weaker against it. Sometimes the darkness and (seemingly) loneliness of nighttime is too overwhelming. My advice…well not that I’ve done it but taking a pause to meditate for a bit seems like it would help. I am in my right state of mind at the moment so that seems like a rational answer…I will try it next time and let you know if it works…:)

  10. Emily says:

    I don’t wake up at night, but coming home from work, being exhausted and wanting to relax quickly is a classic binge time for me. I’m working on it.

    This reminds me of something Geneen Roth says, though. When you binge you’re hungry for something that food won’t satisfy. And you can be hungry for rest.

  11. Kaki says:

    Thanks Emily,
    Yes you are TOTALLY right! It took me a long time to realize but it is not just emotional stuff that makes me binge. If I am tired or sick even with a cold, I have this urge to eat. I get consumed with the thought that a certain food will make me feel better. Maybe it is just a fear of negative feelings

  12. Chantelle says:

    I know this post is very, very old but I have these same problems!

    I’ve started working out for at least half an hour a day and dieting this week, well, it’s not so much a diet, as just having some self control, you know?

    I was doing great, and it felt good, but I feel like I’ve totally thrown my week’s work out the window tonight. I bought some chocolate covered biscuits which are pretty high in calories, which I shouldn’t have, but I thought hey, if I have one a day or something, you know, well, did not happen. It’s like a shark to blood, once I get the taste of it… I’ve easily added 1000+ plus extra calories tonight. How shameful!

    I agree with the poster who said just to go bed, totally works to curb late night hunger, though for me, if I stay up after midnight, find myself starving.
    I still feel okay, as normally I’d eat like this every night (which is so embarrassing!), but it’s still somewhat discouraging. Like was said, I am generally optimistic for the next day, so we’ll see!

    Totally sucks, but what’s done is done. Just gotta work harder to make sure it doesn’t happen again any time soon!!

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Sunny Sea Gold

About the Author

Sunny Sea Gold is a media-savvy advocate and commentator specializing in binge eating disorder, cultural obsessions around food and weight, and raising children who have a healthy body image.