Can you go all day, sticking to your diet and exercise plan, but when the sun goes down you head for the frig?

Do you find that your attitude towards your weight loss plan “suddenly” changes at night? Are you continually telling yourself “I’ll start over tomorrow morning”?

I’ve found that the time that I am most vulnerable to eating when I’m not hungry, emotional eating, and/or binging is at night.

UPDATE 2013: Note the date on this post (5/3/2007). I wrote it 6 years ago. I’m happy to say I don’t have these issues today because I solved what is 90% of the challenge for all overeaters: Your Mindset. Once you get a weight loss mindset then you’ll finally make doing the 10% (healthy eating and exercise) super easy for yourself. Grab my Free 5-Day E-course to learn more.

During the day I can be just fine, cruising along with a positive attitude, however after the bulk of the day is done, I have the urge to eat. Even though I am intently focused on my weight loss goals during the day, I can end up sabotaging my best efforts if I give into the thinking “a little won’t hurt”, or “I deserve it” at night.

Here are 5 ways that can help you to get out of this self-destructive habit of night eating that have worked for me:

1. Exercise. – I’ve read many recommendations for starting out your day by working out. I have never taken to this myself, and even when I could fit it in my schedule to exercise in the morning, I have purposely avoided it to “save” my workout for the evening. This greatly helps me to avoid nighttime emotional eating, which could lead into a binge.

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Exercise gets my mind off of food and focused back on to the goals that I wish to achieve. The increased oxygen to my brain energizes me, and I benefit from the endorphins released during exercise.

After I am done exercising, I no longer even want to eat (unless I’m physically hungry, of course 😉 ). If I am hungry, I go for my healthy food choices rather than the food that will sabotage my weight loss efforts because I almost always feel more motivated and focused on my goals after working out.

2. Journaling. – If I don’t have time to exercise, or I do still want to eat for reasons other than hunger after working out, I reach for my journal and start writing. I write down what is bothering, the reason I want to eat, and any solutions that I can come up with for the problems I am having that are driving me towards food.

The food isn’t going to solve my problems anyway, so what will? For the most part, I don’t even need to go that far before I have talked myself out of emotional eating. The simple act of pinpointing what is bothering me is usually all that I need.

3. Relaxation. – I have often experienced going all day at work, sticking to my eating plan, and then at night “blowing it” because I’ve been stressed all day. I have used food as a way to relax.

Instead of abusing food in an attempt to relax, I can turn my attention towards activities that will not sabotage my weight loss. This brings me back to point #1, exercise, and I also use relaxation/visualization CDs.

What works for you to relax? Gardening? Playing with your kids or pets? Talking on the phone with a friend? I even find cooking relaxing, and surprisingly, it doesn’t cause me to obsess about food. I actually find a great deal of inspiration in cooking healthy dishes with whole ingredients.

4. Banish boredom. – I’ve found that boredom is a red flag for me because I tend to want to eat when I am bored. If you have a stimulating job that keeps you busy all day and then you come home and eat because you are bored, it can help to get involved in something that interests you.

Watching TV doesn’t usually fit in this category (especially with all of the junk food commercials), but if you have a specific show that you absolutely love, then it could work. You could pick up a book, or start a home-improvement project. If you cannot think of anything that appeals to you, then perhaps you need to work on discovering what does.

Look inside yourself and discover what you can do that will get you involved and excited at night if you are eating out of boredom. Get out your journal and start writing about it. Think back to when you were a child, what interested you? Can you turn that into a stimulating hobby?

5. Go to bed. – When all else fails and you still want to eat when you aren’t hungry, go to bed. It helps if you are tired 😉 , however if you are not, you could put on a relaxation CD and perhaps you will end up falling asleep anyway (I do this sometimes, although it’s better to stay conscious if it’s a visualization CD).

This is the simplest solution but the one that I fight the hardest. I want to stay up and push myself to get as much accomplished in the day as possible, however I can end up sabotaging myself by doing so. For me, being overly tired is yet another reason that I want to reach for food. Yes, it’s true. Have you ever found yourself doing the same?

I hope that my experiences can help you to avoid night eating and keep you on track to your goal. Out of all of these solutions, I would have to rank exercise as the #1, most helpful tactic for keeping me on track in the evenings.

If you have other tactics that have worked for you and helped you avoid night eating, please leave a comment and share them!

5 Tips to Avoid Night Eating and Sabotaging Your Diet