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How do I stop feeling out of control around food? (especially at night?!)

This is a question I get all. the. time. Here are my top five tips:

1. First and foremost, make sure you're getting enough to eat during the day. In my work as a dietitian, I see people under-fueling every day. A small breakfast plus a salad for lunch is going to leave you FAMISHED when you get home from work, even if you're sitting at a desk all day.

Furthermore, if you're dieting or you've dieted in the past (I'm looking at you, Noom & WW!), you're used to eating very small amounts. That means you probably have a very distorted view of what a "normal" amount of food is. Time for a reality check! The calorie goals that those diets proclaim are NOT AN ADEQUATE AMOUNT OF FOOD FOR A GROWN ASS ADULT. I don't care if they're points or macros or calories, it's restriction and it's going to leave you physically empty at the end of the day.

Feed yourself during the day. Eat every 2-4 hours. Watch those evening cravings melt away.

2. Include fun and satisfying foods on a regular basis. If you're only eating "healthy" or "allowed" or "good" food all day, you are going to be slightly unsatisfied all day long. This adds up to feeling deprived at the end of the day, which might leave you searching for something to satisfy you when the sun goes down. Think of this as psychological restriction (as opposed to #1 above, which is physical restriction).

Another sign you're psychologically restricted is if you're thinking "but I ate enough! I filled up on fruits and vegetables and was full after each meal and snack!" There's a difference between being full and being satisfied. Include fun and satisfying foods like chips, sweets, high-fat ingredients like full-fat yogurt, chicken with the skin, etc. to up the satisfaction factor.

3. Check your negative self-talk. If you're including fun and satisfying foods but at the same time feeling guilty or thinking "this is so delicious, but I really shouldn't be having it," that psychological restriction is going to stick around. Guilt --> psychological restriction --> out of control eating later on.

4. I'll also throw this out there: maybe your evening snacking is completely normal! It might be a part of your routine, or how you feed yourself after a busy day at work. If you give yourself permission to have some snacks in the evening, that out of control feeling might just go away.

Maybe it isn't even emotional or out of control, and it's just diet culture that has told you otherwise. However, if you try all of the above and still feel guilty or out of control, proceed to step 5.

5. Seek help from a HAES, fat positive, non-diet dietitian/nutritionist. If you're stuck in a restrict-guilt-binge cycle, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. There are tons of amazing resources out there for you. Find one near you via the "Find a HAES Expert" tool.

If you don't have one in your area, lots of dietitians provide virtual/online services (me!), or you can check out an intuitive eating online course like the one from Christy Harrison. Find someone who listens without judgment and provides a welcoming space. Reaching out for help can be a really really scary step, but you'll be so glad that you did.



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