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Why Do I Keep Repeating a Pattern of Night Eating?

By January 24, 2013

I have been overweight for 30 years. I have lost the weight and put it right back on. Why do I do that? My time to eat is at night. When everybody goes to sleep, I eat and eat. When I begin to fall asleep I go get more to eat. I have been through counseling. I know that I am the only person that can change myself. Why do I keep repeating the same behavior over and over? – Ann

Dear Ann:

Thank you for writing and sharing some of your story with us.

Your cycle of losing and gaining weight is extremely common. I don’t know what methods you’ve tried, but a dieting approach would explain the lack of long-term success. With diets, we develop an “all or nothing” mindset — either “on” or “off” each diet. A couple of “bad” days and we feel we’ve blown it, get discouraged, quit, and go back to old habits. Or perhaps you’re stuck in a daily pattern of “being good” all day, then losing control at night from that same sense of failure and helplessness once you “give in” and eat a snack.

Also, if you are overly restricting calories all day long, you could be experiencing extreme hunger in the evening that results in uncontrolled overeating. The only effective solution is to adopt lifestyle changes that are healthy and realistic over the long haul. Read the article “Eleven Keys to a Healthy Lifestyle” to get an overview of what that means.

What concerns me most, however, is your pattern of night eating, particularly getting up when you start to fall asleep. Have you explored “Night Eating Syndrome” with your counselor? You will also want to read this short article about Night Eating Syndrome, which also includes an excellent book we recommend. You may very well be struggling with this form of disordered eating and need to treat it as such. This condition is definitely something that can be overcome, so have hope!

Ann Capper, RD, CDN