How to stop overeating in the evening

Managing your eating throughout the day can feel easier, due to distraction and busyness. You may feel less prone to out-of-control eating or mindless snacking. But, evenings can be a whole other story!


After an exhausting day of homeschooling, Zoom work calls and housework, you might be feeling at the end of your tether. What to do with this final hour or so before you go to bed? You may be in the pattern of: sofa, television, "time for me now - let’s see what’s in the cupboard."

Five helpful reflections to help stop evening overeating

1. Is this a long-standing habit?

A large part of your evening eating might well be down to plain habit alone. You associate food with winding down and taking take of yourself. If you identify with this, explore different ways to relax and unwind. 

Understandably, this may initially be a struggle, as nothing is as appealing as your favourite packet of salt and vinegar crisps or other preferred snack. Instead, begin by experimenting with a small change to your evening routine. Say yes to something you normally wouldn’t do and see what happens.

2. When food is your number one pleasure

In a busy and overwhelming life with a never-ending to-do list, food can be the pinnacle of pleasure and the thing you look forward to the most. 

Instead, work hard to increase your pleasure quota by finding other ways that bring you happiness and contentment. Make sure that your self-care bucket is full to overflowing. I appreciate how hard this might feel during lockdown times! But the little moments can count for a great deal, whether it be a socially distanced walk or a quiet cup of tea.

3. Being too restrictive with daytime eating

Are you being too ‘good’ in the day and feeling understandably deprived by the evening? If you are counting calories or restricting foods, your meals may be boring and not satisfying enough. A common pattern is avoiding carbohydrates, which can result in intense rebound eating. It’s not surprising that you’ll then lean towards tastier alternatives in the evening. 

Instead, permit the doughnut or biscuits to be eaten earlier on in the day. Sit down and enjoy every tasty morsel of it without guilt. Don’t confine certain foods to the evening, as this will exacerbate their seductive and ‘forbidden’ qualities.

4. The blood sugar rollercoaster 

If you are munching on sugary snacks throughout the day, your blood sugar will naturally be on a rollercoaster, and you will be physiologically craving additional sugar. 

Don’t ban sugary foods, but also be wise about keeping blood sugar stable and not getting over-hungry. Remember that nothing better stimulates a huge binge than sugar consumption on an empty stomach.

Eat all foods group and a balance of protein, slow-release carbohydrates, good fats and vegetables.

5. Emotional coping

If you want to eat something but know you are doing it for craving or emotional reasons rather than hunger, stop, take a pause and reflect.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you feeling lonely or overwhelmed?
  • How are you coping during these lockdown times?
  • What purpose is food serving? What do I really need?

It is tough right now and healthy outlets for coping are restricted. Be patient and kind with yourself in these challenging times. Breaking habits takes time, and a self-compassionate approach is needed.

If food is filling a void for you, then removing it might feel extremely uncomfortable at first. Remember to show yourself understanding and kindness for how it is meeting your needs.

Experiment with baby steps and do reach out for additional counselling support if you are feeling stuck.

This article was written by Harriet Frew.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Cambridge, CB1
Written by Harriet Frew, MSc; MBACP Accred
Cambridge, CB1

Harriet Frew is a counsellor specialising in eating disorders and body image. She has worked in the NHS and private practice since 2003, and is passionate about supporting and educating others through therapy, writing and social media.
Instagram: @the_eating_disorder_therapist; Podcast - The Eating Disorder Therapist

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