Rules to Stop Emotional Eating At Night
This is for
people who have a strong need to stop emotional and night eating habits.
just a guide, a set of rules to help you stop emotional eating. We think these
rules help bring clarity and a guide to help solve things.
One thing is very clear that emotional eating here is that 85% of the
trouble with emotional eating is done in the home.
Whether it’s at
home nibbling and snacking while you’re making dinner, (or right after work),
or it’s snacking all night while the TV is on. It some times happen
when your mind is racing with thoughts from
the day while you stuff your mouth with
potato chip after potato chip.
A few of the people say it lowed , "I know, I am missing the point
entirely. I LOVE food. I will find any excuse to make crème
Brule. I get lost in Gourmet magazine during work dreaming of what I’m
going to have for dinner and when my family is together, the second our omelets
and croissants are finished in the
morning, we’re planning lunch. Food is the most wonderful thing in the
We know you guys have trouble at parties and trouble when donuts have been put
in the office kitchen that you have to walk by at least 20 times during the day
but we are going to focus on something that you have complete control
over. “Your home”. And we are going to give you a set of
rules. The rules will seem outlandish to most of you and we can say with
99% certainty that we will get a lot of pushback and be called maniacal.
This reminds us of a book called “The Rules".
It was a popular book about “how to get a man” and it was a basic set of rules
that “turned back the clock on the feminist movement” (that was the popular
outcry). ” The modern version is something like “She’s Just Not Into You” but
what We liked about "The Rules" book is that it was very clear and
easy to follow.
The premise of the book was guys that fall in love - head over heels in love -
need a chase. They need to win you. So forget calling them, asking
them out. Let them take the lead. Just like they went out and did
the hunting and gathering, let them “hunt” you. When you go back to the
way men used to date, they asked you out, they pursued you and you made
yourself busy and didn’t obsess about them calling and didn’t call them, you’d
get the relationship you want.
The book was on Oprah and many people used this book as their bible and many
women turned around their dating lives.
Many women were outragedsaying, how could you recommend that women become powerless? That they
take a backseat? That’s basically urging women to become inferior!
But the “Rules” women and the people who liked the rules thought the
contrary. They perceived this as getting their power back because as hard
as it was to be disciplined and not call, they were getting a greater payoff –
the man they always wanted.
Call it archaic, sexist, call it whatever you want but here’s my point:
were clear rules to follow and if you followed these rules you would be
“successful” in getting what you wanted. There’s something to
that. When you have a clear set of rules that you know you can’t break
(kind of like the commandments), you have a greater sense of how to get your
So….here are my rules for the home. They may seem harsh. You may
want to throw them out the window. Or you may find that they might work
for you. Many of them are based in common sense and it's easy to
1. You’ve Got To
Clean The Junk Out Of The House
I’ve heard – but I can’t do this, I have teenage boys in the house! Or,
why be such a zealot, I can just learn to have a small portion and still enjoy
myself. Or I love food and no one can make me do this!! You’re
absolutely right. I can’t make you do this and this is all up to
You have a choice
. You can keep doing what you’ve been doing for
the last 20 years or you can make some changes and get a different
result. The truth is, you can have a house junk free even with teenagers
in the house. Your teenager will still love you if there are no cookies
in the house (or will still argue with you, still throw fits).
This is a choice
. You can do this. When there is junk in the
house, the emotional eating binge becomes VERY EASY. Almost effortless.
You need to make it a little harder on yourself. Especially at 2 am in
the morning. Many of you have insomnia and sleeping problems. No
shocker there. Sleep problems can start at a very young age when it was a
struggle with your parents and you could always get them to let you stay up
just a little bit later. Or you’re drinking too much caffeine during the
day and the stress is taking over.
If it’s easy to eat junk, you’ll eat it at 2 am in the morning
it’s hard, it will make it that much harder. The other day I was talking
to a client who eats after dinner and I asked, what are you eating and she
said, I start off with a square of unsweetened chocolate, then I move to a
large Lindt bar of dark chocolate and then I start on the cheese. I said
what kind of cheese? She answered, "Oh, I have the best cheese in
the world." There was pride and delight in her answer. She has
every kind of cheese she can think of and it’s all there right when she needs
it most, when she’s trying to stuff down her emotions.
You have to mix up your patterns.
A tough fight with your husband
means your favorite bag of sour cream and onion potato chips that sits “right
there’ on the counter. In your mind, this has become as absolute as the
concept of 1+2 =3. It’s almost as etched in your mind as solid as
mathematics. Fight with husband + potato chips on counter = a typical
night in the household. The only way to make a different variable is to
change the variable. And the easiest way you have at your disposal to
change that variable is to GET RID OF IT. GET RID OF IT.
I’ve been told I’m harsh from therapists
. You can’t get a patient
to let go of something and not give them a replacement is what I am told.
I will be giving you replacements in rule #4. I’m not telling you
to not have food. I’m telling you to GET RID OF THE JUNK. Even Dr.
Andrew Weil, in his book
8 Weeks to Optimal Health
has you strip your entire cupboard and refrigerator of all partially
hydrogenated oils, and corn syrup and a variety of other “bad foods”.
What you don’t have in your house, essentially, what you don’t see, you won’t
have. Remember your mind sometimes, is an easy thing to understand:
whatever it focuses on, it gets.
gives a great example of
this. His analogy is that our mind is like a camera. It takes
pictures. And those pictures become the memory. Let’s say you go to
a party and your mind sees a couple fighting. You go home, and you think,
wow, people really weren’t having a good time. Your mind took a picture,
it focused on the people fighting and that became your impression of the
party. Now if you go to the party and you see 2 people getting it on the
corner, you go home and you say, "Wow, that was a hot party!! People were
REALLY getting along! " Again, that’s what you took a “picture” of with
your “mind” camera.
Whatever you see, this becomes your entire impression of life. If you’re
always seeing cupcakes and potato chips and triple crème cheese in your house,
you’re going to eat it. Why wouldn’t you? It tastes good and you LOVE
it. But have you ever found yourself really feeling good and strong and
happy about your choices and then, suddenly, you pass by a chocolate croissant
and you can’t stop thinking about it? You weren't thinking about it
before. You only thought about it because you saw it! And
then you couldn't get it out of your mind.
There is a chance that you’re on your emotional binge at times in your home
simply because you SAW it. It became your focus.
Time TO GET RID
OF THE JUNK in your home.
Discipline is key and we all have it
and we all exhibit a great deal of it but I want to ask you a question: life is
already hard at times and requires courage and discipline every day of your
life. Why make it even harder on yourself by having junk food around, all
the time, at your fingertips?
You may be thinking, yes, I get this but I’m not going to be able to convince
my husband to do this. Thanks, but this is just not helpful. I
deeply understand this frustration. When we first got married, Habib
would not stop bringing Entenmanns coffee cake and pints of vanilla chocolate
swirl into the house no matter how much I begged, cajoled and pleaded. He
said, "This is your problem and you’re trying to STARVE ME. "
just don’t understand insane man hunger
I never stopped asking. And bit-by-bit, he stopped bringing it in the
house. One thing at a time. I started to buy pretzels because
pretzels were never a weakness of mine, I never even wanted one and he’d start
to eat them instead. It took a long time – over 2 years
– for him to understand how important this was but he finally did. I
could have given up so many times and there was a lot of anger inside me.
How could he not understand how badly I needed this?
emotional eating mini course
talk a lot about Daniel Goldman, author of
. He talks about empathy.
talks about “seeking to
understand’. When you seek to understand, you can get what you
need. Instead of staying in my anger of “how could he not understand”, I
started asking questions and I sought to understand. His dilemma was that he
was hungry. And he needed quick access food. And if he had pineapple and
cantaloupe cut up, he’d eat that too. He was also resentful that I always
seemed to have food for the children but his food needs seemed to be last
Once I started to
this and he started to see efforts towards
his needs, he began to understand my needs. This might be different in
your house but there’s sometimes a deeper issue that can be addressed that can
bring you both to an understanding and get you both what you need. And
what you need is to GET RID OF THE JUNK!!!
2. No leftovers hanging out in the refrigerator.
What is your first thought?? How could she be recommending no
leftovers??? I have to have leftovers, it’s the only way I can get
through my week and make sure we always have food for everyone.
I grew up in a house where there were never “leftovers” in the fridge. I was
raised by a single mom and things like meat, or fish were bought in very small
quantities. If she made a casserole, the 2nd half was going straight to
the freezer for another night’s dinner. She served food on a plate
and whatever was there was what we ate. There wasn’t a big casserole dish
for 2nd and 3rds, it was restaurant style, and whatever you were served is what
Do I sound like I’m being harsh? What will happen if there aren’t
leftovers hanging out in the fridge? You won’t eat them unless you’re
absolutely hungry. It takes more time to prepare something from the
freezer and if you’re hungry you’ll do it.
Remember, I’m giving you rules to make things easier for you TO NOT EMOTIONALLY
EAT and if things take more time, that might be just enough time for you to
take to take a breath, or focus on why you’re upset. The space that you
create for yourself between the emotions and your reaction is critical.
This is a rule that helps create more space.
When you have that space,
you have a lot of time to make a better decision.
3. You can’t eat
anywhere but sitting down at kitchen, dining room table.
TV dinners became the must have in the 50’s. I remember my father-in-law
telling me about his first experience when TV dinners came out. His mother
put them in the oven, with all the tin foil and they all sat around the TV with
trays and she came over and plopped the foil dinner in front of each of them
and they all went “oooohhhhh”. He has a huge smile on his face as he
tells me the story and remembers every detail of what was on the TV and what he
I’m sure it was a relief to mothers everywhere!! I’m a mom and I know
what it takes to have to have a sensible dinner on the table every single night
after I’ve worked and the last thing I feel like doing is cooking.
And for some of you, eating with the TV on might be a cozy memory of being
surrounded by the deep love of your family or the only time of the day you
weren’t fighting with your sister.
But I’m telling you that eating in front of the TV, (and you already know this)
leads to mindless snacking that never ends. Never ever ends. I have
a strange reason for why I never ate in front of the TV: it was a rule in
our house to only eat in the kitchen or dining room because my mom didn’t want
crumbs anywhere else in the house. The fear of bugs and the thought of a
stray crumb going behind the sofa or bedroom was way too much for my mom to
deal with so eating anywhere else in the house was a big NO. So I guess
I’m lucky in that respect because that was never a habit that had the chance to
I’m asking you to make a rule for yourself. If you’re only eating sitting
down in the kitchen or the dining room table, you’re mindful of what you’re
eating. You’ve prepared something. The “Mindless’ part of the
equation doesn’t have a chance to form a deep grove.
4. The “readily
available’ food, food that takes less than 5 minutes to make must be good for
This is a requirement. When food that “tastes good” and is bad for
you takes so little time to prepare, it’s the first thing you’ll go for when
you’re starving and home from a hard day of work or school.
Things like apples, pears, tabouli, celery with almond butter, carrots with
hummus are all things that are “quick” go to foods that won’t ruin everything
you work so hard to do. This is an easy rule for yourself and it’s
really just an extension of rule number 1 to get rid of all the junk but I
wanted to give you suggestions of what you might have in your house as the new
“junk food”, meaning the new readily available food you have on hand when your
emotions have gotten the best of you.
Because working on emotional eating and your responses and developing the habit
to stop acting on your impulse is a process. You have to have a food
environment in the meantime that will support you. These are readily
available foods that will support you.
What were other foods that you had with your mom besides chocolate ice
cream? Did she always put an apple in your lunch? If this just wasn’t the
case, find emotional foods that do bring about care and love and happiness that
are good for you. Start to form those emotional connections with love and
health in the same way that the ones of love and comfort foods were
5. Food is a
luxury, treat it like a luxury.
Remember the movie American Beauty? Kevin Spacey and his wife (Annette
Bening) had little love and emotion left in their marriage but one day, they
start to reminisce about their younger years and when they were dating.
They start to emotionally connect and began to kiss on the couch while Kevin is
holding a beer. Suddenly, Annette notices the beer and says, "STOP!
Don’t spill the beer on the sofa." Kevin replies, "But its just
stuff. These are just things". And she replies that it is a
$4000 dollar hand made Italian couch and she’s incredulous that he could be
calling it just “stuff”. And he answers, “but it’s just
The reality is that it is just stuff.
The stuff in your home might
be luxurious and beautiful, but it is just stuff. But it’s not the smile on
your partner's face. It’s not the love you feel when your child comes
home from school and shouts “mommy” and runs to you with delight. It’s
not your dog that’s always there for you, right next to you when you’re
alone. It’s just stuff. You might treasure it. And that’s
ok. But having the perspective that it’s just stuff and you’re lucky to
have it is an important one.
Food is the same way. I don’t have to go into details about starvation
throughout the world. You know it and it’s an ugly thing and you may
choose to block it out of your mind. But we are a very lucky culture to
have so much food readily available at the grocery store and easily procured
and brought into your home. It is a true luxury to be able to have the
I remember once reading about a Russian woman who came to this country and
couldn’t believe that restaurants put all of the garnishes of tomato and
lettuce and onions on the side. Many of us just ignore it and she ate it
hungrily. She explained how hard and expensive and rare it was, a
complete delicacy to have extra vegetables on her plate.
I also recently read a response from Olivia Palermo, a socialite, on how she
stays thin. She answered something to the effect of what a luxury it is
to have food.
Treat the food you have with kindness and respect and have a full understanding
that it is just ‘stuff'. You are lucky to have it. If I’m making
you depressed because this “stuff” is the love of your life, meaning food is
the love of your life, I don’t mean too. It can still be the love of your
life but treasure it and understand how lucky you are.
6. Buy different
foods than you already have for your home.
Remember what I said – these deep emotional eating foods have made a very deep
groove in your brain. They have formed a “math equation” and your brain almost
goes on automatic drive to make 1+2=3. If you always have a cup of coffee
with a cranberry scone, just the scent of coffee will most likely make you pick
up a cranberry scone.
You need to make different equations in your brain. This is the new
you, the one who takes different actions to get a new result.
mean that I’m asking you to get tasteless celery and suffer through your
life!!! No way. That is NOT sustainable and I could never suffer
eating things I didn’t like.
This means finding healthy alternatives in your home that you like as
well. Maybe it’s raspberries. Maybe it’s tomato sprinkled with
fresh basil and a little olive oil and lemon. I know there are things out
there that you like and I want you to buy different things. Don’t just
start eliminating the junk without making new purchases because if your brain
still sees the same food, it’s still going to make associations with ice cream
that used to sit right next to that frozen broccoli in the freezer.
You need to make new associations.
Start of with some frozen
raspberries that sit right next to that frozen broccoli. If you’re trying
to quit coffee, then “quit” something else you use to eat with it. Make
new connections in your brain, a new “1+2=3.”
7. Create small
little treasures throughout your home that make you feel loved and give you
This is my favorite rule because even if you don’t have a problem with
emotional eating, this should be something you do anyway! Pictures of
things you love are a great, inexpensive way to have instant feelings of love
and happiness. Music that you love is another great way.
It’s amazing what one beautiful, scented candle can do for your bath.
It’s late, you light a candle around your bath, you close the door and you get
maybe the only time you’ve had for yourself that day. A plant that
reminds you of a plant you had in your living room growing up, or a hook that
you hang all your necklaces on or a letter than someone sent that brings you
extreme pride could work.
In undergrad, I was incessantly mocked for my drawer of “things that I
loved”. I shared a room with a roommate and it was tiny. I had no
space; nothing that felt like it was mine except the wall above my bed and my
drawer. I had pictures above my bed and a poster of
who I was a fan of at the time but I
always loved my drawer. It had big velvet hair bands and my favorite pen,
and scarves that I thought were beautiful.
It really was all the “little things” that brought me a total sense of
identity. Many times we fill our house with stuff that other people will
like, or kids toys, or we don’t have enough money to decorate in the way that
we like so we throw up our hands and we don’t do anything. I’ve been in
houses that have absolutely no personalization, only a cold decorators
While I’m sure there is pride in having the money to have the house look
exactly the way you always wanted, remember that having deep personal things
that bring a sense of clarity and love around you help you feel calm.
Whenever a family member dies, we all cling to the personal things left behind
and when we want to revisit that person; we usually look to pictures or those
personal things. It makes us feel closer to the person we lost.
Having personal things around you that help you feel love creates an
environment that helps you be kind to yourself.
Making a different choice - other than binging out of emotions - is a big step
in being kind to yourself. I know you might feel a sense of control when
you eat what you want and be damned with everyone else, but afterwards, the
guilt and emotions surrounding the incident make you beat yourself up
incessantly. Take the opportunity that you have to be kind to yourself
and surround yourself with things that make you feel good. You
can’t control the environment out of your house but you are lucky enough to be
able to control your environment in your house. And when you do this, you
start to feel good on the inside too.