I'm going to be 800 lbs if I can't stop this :(
November 27, 2008 8:30 AM   Subscribe

I have no idea how to stop my late night eating. I've battled it for years. For the last few months, it's caused me to gain back ALL of my weight that I busted my ass to lose in 2006. I went from 200 to 175 and was quite proud of myself. I wanted to lose about 5-7 lbs even back then but I was fairly content. I'm so so frustrated with myself. Half of the time I seem to sleep eat and then I wake up in the morning thinking hey maybe i didn't eat the house this time and then I taste my breath and it smells like f'in food.

My problem isn't quite as simple as just "eating in the middle of the night when I wakeup". It's mixed with years of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Then again though, I suppose that's what a lot of "late night eaters" have. Otherwise you wouldn't be eating at 2 and 3 am right?

That's my theory at any rate. I'm trying to deal with the anxiety, depression, etc the best I can. I take anti-depressants, I have sleeping pills to help me sleep. I do talk therapy roughly once a week or every two weeks depending on my psychologists schedule. I have a very very impressive armada of self-help books, you name it and I've probably got it. I very often lose interest in doing a lot of things and low self-esteem blows balls. I have a dog too. I thought she would be the source of fixing all my problems, but it turns out that's not the case. I mean, I'm doing everything you're supposed to be doing when you're trying to tackle this , so why in the **** isn't it helping my life? I want this solved now. I'm tired of taking this shit day by day, TIRED OF IT. I've been doing day by day for 3 f'in years now. I'm 22, I shouldn't have these problems. I could understand if I was 45 and my wife just left me and my kids hated me, but that's not the case!

Back to my eating for a second in my diatribe. I'm so sick of losing the battle of eating in the wee hours of the morning. I would honestly consider stomach stapling or some other drastic measure but I'm 22 and I live at home and ever since my dad passed away 8 months ago, we have to watch our money. Not that something as ridiculous as those options would ever be approved with my dad still here anyway, lol.

I don't know what to do. I'm very much an emotional eater and every time I make plans to battle it even during the day, it doesn't work. I always give into the hunger because I feel like that's all that can comfort me sometimes.

Just to list the self-help/self-improvement books I have

Feeling Good (David Burns) <---- read 1/4th
Stumbling Upon Happiness (Stephen Gilbert) <--- read 30 pages
Happiness (Tal Ben-Shahar) <---- read 50 pages
Undoing Depression (Richard O'Connor , reading now, on a grand total of 150 pages now)
Dealing With Depression Naturally (Syd Baumel) <--- not read
Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness (William Styron) <--- not read
100 Ways To Motivate Yourself: Change Your Life Forever (Steve Chandler) <--- partially read
Breaking the Chain of Low Self-Esteem (Marilyn Sorensen) <--- not read
Life Was Never Meant to Be a Struggle (Stuart Wilde) <--- read completely, but it was 50 pages, lol.
Friends and Lovers: How to Meet the People You Want to Meet (Steve Bhaerman) <--- unread
The Art of Mingling: Proven Techniques for Mastering Any Room (Jeanne Martinet) <-- partially read, the book seems f'in useless though
52 Things You Can Do to Raise Your Self-Esteem (Jerry Minchinton) <--- completely read
Maximum Self-Esteem: The Handbook for Reclaiming Your Sense of Self-Worth (Jerry Minchinton) <--- read about 60 pages
How to Click With Everyone Every Time (David Rich)
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (Richard Carlson) <--- read entirely
The Complete Book of Questions: 1001 Conversation Starters for Any Occasion (Garry Poole) <--- read most of it.
How To Start A Conversation And Make Friends: Revised And Updated (Don Gabor) <--- read about half
Attitude is Everything (Jeff Keller)
Conversationally Speaking : Tested New Ways to Increase Your Personal and Social Effectiveness (Alan Garner) <--- read half maybe
The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook (Edmund Bourne)

For what it's worth, I hate doing exercises in depression books. Just seems f'in useless.

What do I do me-fites? What... do... I .... do?

posted by isoman2kx to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you taking Ambien as your sleeping pill? Sleep eating is a known side effect of Ambien. This doesn't help you with the psychological component of your problem, but certainly this could be a contributing factor.
posted by biscotti at 8:42 AM on November 27, 2008

Response by poster: And just to add, you know how every depressive feels that their situation is hopeless and unique? I do. I truly do. N-O-T-H-I-N-G will help.

Screw positive thinking, I can only do it for like 5 minutes at a time and then it fails.
posted by isoman2kx at 8:43 AM on November 27, 2008

I'm so so frustrated with myself. Half of the time I seem to sleep eat and then I wake up in the morning thinking hey maybe i didn't eat the house this time and then I taste my breath and it smells like f'in food .... I'm trying to deal with the anxiety, depression, etc the best I can. I take anti-depressants, I have sleeping pills to help me sleep.

What sleeping pills? Sleep eating is a known side effect of Ambien and similar sleeping pills.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:44 AM on November 27, 2008

Response by poster: biscotti

I'm taking Restoril right now with Seroquel to combat the insomnia aspect of it all.

I've never subscribed to the medication theory though. I've been doing this sleep eating for years, and I just started sleeping pills from my psychiatrist within the last year basically. It could possibly be making it worse, because I seem to eat more, but the basic problem is still there of overeating.
posted by isoman2kx at 8:45 AM on November 27, 2008

Regular exercise will certainly help with anxiety, depression and sleep. You don't mention anything about getting any exercise.

If stopping the late night eating has you at wits end maybe a different approach is required. Don't try to stop it. Instead work on what is available for you to eat. If you have nothing but carrots, celery, water, maybe one or two pieces of fruit or a half-bowl of leftover soup in the fridge then, hey, go nuts, eat it all. You've minimized the damage you can do.

And self-help books are neither. DTMFBA.
posted by pixlboi at 8:49 AM on November 27, 2008

> It's mixed with years of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

I strongly recommend seeking talk therapy. Talk therapy, in conjunction with anti-depressants, has been proven more effective than either done alone. If you've tried a therapist and didn't find it valuable, try another one. Repeat as required.

Good luck!
posted by espertus at 8:50 AM on November 27, 2008

Stock your kitchen with filling low-cal foods for midnight snacking runs - pickles, kim-chee, hot-air popcorn ...

Having these foods on-hand and ready to munch may help.
posted by zippy at 8:58 AM on November 27, 2008

Did you try the advice people gave you when you asked about this back in May? What worked and what didn't?

Seroquel is known to cause weight-gain for a large percentage of people who take it. This is associated both with its metabolic effects (it can screw with your glucose and lipid metabolism), but also with behavioural changes (ie. people taking seroquel tend to eat more). So yeah, Seroquel could definitely be making this worse. Frankly, it horrifies me that people get prescribed a powerful anti-psychotic as a sleep-aid, but aside from that, if weight-gain is a problem for you then it's definitely not the right medication.
posted by xchmp at 9:05 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

1) Don't leave food in the house. The pain in the ass of going to get food might slow you down.
2) Drink a lot of water.
posted by notsnot at 9:06 AM on November 27, 2008

I also would suggest exercise and if possible, do it first thing in the morning or at least before 6pm (dinner time). It will help with your sleep and will also help regulate your hunger. In addition, you'll get the endorphins and the increased self-esteem of seeing positive changes in your body.

Having healthy snacks handy is an excellent idea.

As for anti-depressants, see if you are a candidate for Wellbutrin. Doesn't have weight gain in it's side effects profile. As a matter of fact, many people lose a few pounds on it.

Lastly, if you drink, be aware that it is full of empty calories, will affect your quality of sleep and it is a depressant.

Good luck.
posted by jmmpangaea at 9:27 AM on November 27, 2008

What do you typically eat late at night? I would consider not buying whatever it is and not keeping it in your house. Keep around veggies for salads, some fruit, and more complicated food you need to take some time to cook. Don't keep easy snack food around.

If the food's not there, it's harder to eat it no matter how much you want to.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:28 AM on November 27, 2008

Best answer: Find something else to do when you wake up with the munches. Focus on how bad you feel after you do binge and how much you want to CHANGE it, and channel that energy into something physical. Get a resistance band and do exercises with it. Keep a drinking cup in the bathroom so you can get water without going to the fridge.

Exercise period would help for many reasons: 1, most people could use more anyway, 2, it'll tire you out and you'll have less chance of waking up during the night, 3, when you do snack it won't be so bad since you've expended some calories.

If this doesn't work, I'd go for something more drastic. Start making it painful and not desirable to get to the food at night. Put up a baby gate in your hallway and hang tin cans from strings above it, so it'll be annoying and you'll make a lot of noise trying to get to the fridge. Heck even padlock the fridge if you could.
posted by Meagan at 10:16 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A bunch of my friends have gone on Seroquel recently and have had similar problems - it basically makes them extremely hungry, causes them to eat everything in the house and have little ability to stop. Very unpleasant. They have to take Seroquel because it's the only thing that curbs their bipolar disorder. Maybe you could take something else? Also, one friend has had some success with topomax somewhat canceling out the hunger-inducing effects of Seroquel.
posted by lunasol at 10:43 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

It was mentioned above but, I also avoid keeping much food around my house. I find that sometimes I will eat just out of boredom. I've identified a few things I don't mind eating but am only likely to eat unless I really need some fuel (canned green beans for example) which I'll keep in the pantry. I also make sure not to keep anything around that I know I will eat whether I'm hungry or not, you will never find peanut butter or ice cream in my house. It's pretty easy to do so long as you live alone.

I keep protein powder and skim milk in stock so I'll have something to dump in my stomach for breakfast.

I seldom go out for lunch during work and keep protein bars in my desk in case I really get hungry midday.

For my dinner I stop by the grocery on the way home from work and just get those items I need for whichever decent meal I've decided to have that night.

Basically, I've just surrendered to my know weakness. If it ain't handy I'm not usually going go and make a special trip to the store just to get something to eat out of boredom.

I'm a little more than twice your age and I started these practices 20 years ago when I ballooned to 220. Hasn't worked perfectly, I weigh about 185 and would rather be at 175 but it's helped keep me closer to a weight I'm more comfortable with.

This is almost certainly not the complete solution. I expect therapy, medication adjustment, exercise (best therapy for me) etc. are part of the complete solution if there is one but, making food less available has really helped me.
posted by Carbolic at 11:12 AM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

It seems in these answers a lot of people seem to have the idea that the Original Poster just has a hard time resisting their midnight snack.

Half of the time I seem to sleep eat and then I wake up in the morning thinking hey maybe i didn't eat the house this time and then I taste my breath and it smells like f'in food.

Sleep eating is like sleepwalking, where the person isn't lucid.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:35 AM on November 27, 2008

It would help to have more information than "eating in the wee hours of the morning"... I'm not understanding if you usually stay up late and eat before you fall asleep, or if you actually are waking up and raiding the refrigerator... so I'll take a guess. As someone who has a little extra weight and am making slow, steady progress dropping it, I propose two things that will help:

1. As others said, keep the food out of the house. If you're single it's even easier to do this.

2. You're probably doing this out of habit or comfort. You can break this by finding something else new and fun to do, and keep food out of the mix. Whether it's a 30 minute break of Civilization 3 or reading a new genre of books, this can help.

An extra thing that will help is tank up on water. When you get cravings, try drinking a liter of water and force yourself to wait and re-evaluate in 10 minutes. You'll find your attitude is little more ambivalent about food.
posted by crapmatic at 12:04 PM on November 27, 2008

Not sure how lucid one is when sleep eating, but how about a lock on the fridge?
posted by ye#ara at 12:06 PM on November 27, 2008

Stop taking the sleeping pills. I think they could be contributing to your feelings of depression. Sure, they knock you out but you don't get 'real', refreshing sleep. They make you feel groggy and unmotivated in the morning. It is probably preferable to sleep a bit less but not be under the influence of a drug that certainly won't make you feel better.

And yes, exercise can do wonders but you have to pick something that you might enjoy after the first two weeks of your body screaming at you 'oh my god what are you doing to me?'.

You have some really good books on your list but just too many. It would be better to pick one and really work with it (preferably with a therapist). You have do the exercises though, you can't learn anything without practicing.

I feel for you man, depression is the worst...
posted by dinkyday at 1:44 PM on November 27, 2008

Just do one thing that you like to do. You are so deeply depressed that you don't want to do anything to make it better. Dick Cavett said that in his darkest moment, if someone had offered him the mother of all solutions on a table across from his bed, he wouldn't get up for it. It's a temporary feeling, although it's huge right now for you and with all your books, you even know a lot of tricks about how to nudge yourself out of it. Exercise, eating healthier, meditation, just taking a walk; all great ways to jump start but out of the question right now for you. So, just do one thing that you like to do today that's not going to hurt you. It's about baby steps. I'm so sorry and I do know how it feels. You have a lot going on in your life. Keep going to your appointments too and I hope you can be brutally honest with your therapist, shrink, doc, etc. Someone gave me a CD called 'Getting Unstuck' by Pema Chodron at exactly the right moment in my life and it honestly helped me. Sometimes, when the heart breaks open, you can allow things in that wouldn't normally resonate. Good luck.
posted by lois1950 at 2:14 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Try Overeaters Anonymous. Through OA I learned two things:

- that when I binged I was 'eating my feelings'

- that there are certain 'trigger' foods that, if I eat them, set off a binge. If I avoid those foods, I don't trigger the binges. Everyone's trigger food is different. Mine is bread. Other people have a problem with cheese, or chocolate or potato chips.

OA is based on the same 12 Steps as AA, but was set up in the 1970s, I believe, so its literature is a little less archaic than AA's. I found its workbook extremely helpful in understanding why I overeat.
posted by essexjan at 2:14 PM on November 27, 2008 [3 favorites]

Seconding the above suggestion of Overeaters Anonymous. It can really be a lifesaver. I hope you don't find it presumptuous of me to say this, and obviously I'm not a doctor, but it sounds as though you are suffering from a fairly serious and ongoing eating disorder. Maybe you would find some of the suggestions in this post helpful?

Also I HIGHLY recommend Dr Christopher Fairburn's book Overcoming Binge Eating.

I really feel for you Travis and I sincerely hope that you find the help you need and the strength to put it to good use. Best of luck.
posted by Weng at 5:28 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow. Thank you to everyone who replied to my original post. It really really means a lot.


It's definitely partly out of comfort and habit that I eat. I've been doing this more lately with my seroquel/restoril combo but I've been late night eating for a few years now. I go to bed usually around 11 pm to 12:30 am depending if it's a weekend/weekday. The eating is occurring at any time between 2-5 am depending on how many times I wakeup in that span on any given day.


that's a possible, but I've been doing this longer than my dad has been passed away for. I feel like while it's probably exacerbated the problem a little bit, it hasn't heavily influenced it.


In general I do exercise. I exercise at least 4-5 times a week with 2 days of 2-3 hours of tennis, 1 day of yoga, and 1-2 days of walking my dog for at least. The problems lie not with the amount of exercise, because I get a fairly good amount of it per week, but saving the caloric losses from those workouts and not losing all of the calories burned off from exercise constantly at 2-3 am in the morning.

I also am currently doing talk therapy and have brought it up with my psychologist and psychiatrist that I see every few weeks but it was never a huge issue for me until a few weeks ago and I downplayed it to myself saying I'd get better at late night eating and that delusion lasted for a few weeks and now my appointments are coming up again and I hope to address the issues in more concrete terms this time.

Maybe it is my seroquel + restoril combo I'm on. Some in this thread have suggested that Seroquel in particular can cause weight gain and maybe that's true. I've looked it up on the internet and that is confirmed so I'll bring that up next time too.
posted by isoman2kx at 5:36 PM on November 27, 2008

Response by poster: not that it's a huge deal but, meant to put walking my dog for at least 30 mins*
posted by isoman2kx at 5:39 PM on November 27, 2008

I don't know what to do. I'm very much an emotional eater and every time I make plans to battle it even during the day, it doesn't work. I always give into the hunger because I feel like that's all that can comfort me sometimes.

I can sympathize with this. Overeating and low self-esteem can be a vicious spiral.

There are lots of good answers to break that pattern, but they key is to find a strategy that works for you. For me, it was a combination two things. First, I eat the same calorie controlled meals every single day. Second, every time I have the urge to cheat, I spend a few moments visualizing the body I want to have. I've lost 30 pounds in the last three months. My strategy works for me, you have to find one that works for you.

Possibly you have some drug side-effects, as noted by previous posters, but clearly you're motivated to change, and taking positive steps like talk therapy and drugs. Don't get discouraged. It's hard to loose weight. It's even harder to change self-defeating behaviors. Just know that you can change.
posted by paulg at 7:33 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hi Travis,

I don't have medical/psychology training, but I've lost a parent, just as you did this year. Since your dad died, you've been posting about feeling unhappy, perhaps lonely, and worrying about your weight. Here's what I would try: Really acknowledge that this year is going to suck. The holidays will suck. Next March will suck. But things will get better. It'll always hurt a little, but over time... I don't know how to explain it, but over time your memories of him will be more of the good times than the loss at the end.

You've said in some of your postings that these were problems you had before he died, so you think they are unrelated. Losing a parent is really, really hard though. For this first year, I would only work on dealing with that loss. I would not at all be surprised if your other problems fade as you work through the grief.

I don't know if you remember, but we chatted via MefiMail a few times. I'm getting a little worried about you. You can always Mefi me if you need to talk.
posted by Houstonian at 8:07 PM on November 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hey Travis. You should give yourself a pat on the back for being so savvy to see what's going on, want to change it, asking advice, and do all this work to make things better - getting exercise, going to the therapist, getting treatment, all that stuff is hard when you're depressed! Very, very, very hard. I hear you that it hasn't done as much good as you expected.. I'm sorry..

When you see your doctor next time (who prescribes you medications) and your therapist, can you make sure to specifically tell him/her what happens to you at this hour that you're going and eating all this food? For instance if you are in an OK mood and make smart plans during the day, and all of a sudden at 2am you're a different person and obviously doing something that's making you even more unhappy. I don't know what is a solution, but make sure you tell your doctors this is going on - exactly what is happening and how you are feeling at different times of the day - I see your last reply suggested that you were not really telling them that much about it.

I sort of cosign the posts that suggest trying an overeaters anonymous group.. but I think first thing is to really get specific about what you tell your doctor. I don't know anything personally about OA but it just struck me from your description that this could be an addictive behavior to stop from feeling sad/depressed/anxious. So if you switched to a food that wouldn't in any way cause weight gain, if you only ate lettuce and ice cubes, it wouldn't actually help with the underlying problem. Also it might just be helpful to talk to other people who struggle with similar issues. Or if not that, what about a depression/anxiety support group.

Hey good luck and take care. And don't be so hard on yourself, you are doing a lot already and especially since your father just passed away, be patient and give yourself a break, let yourself have some time to get well.
posted by citron at 10:24 PM on November 27, 2008

Response by poster: @citron

An excellent post with lots of solid advice. Thank you.

I've tried a few of the depression/anxiety support groups online (ex: beating the beast, wings of madness, healingwell.com, dailystrength, and a few others) , but they are REALLY depressing. I know, DUH, they're supposed to be a little bit of a downer. That's why they're support groups. Yet, I get on there and there's people with all kinds of problems and no one seems to get any better and I just don't want to deal with their problems too. I swear to God, the positivity on some of those boards is next to zero. NO ONE seems to get any better. It's all complain, complain, complain about how their lives suck. I don't want that, my life is so so as is, I don't want to bring my day down by supporting 80000 people with MORE problems to add on to mine. Does that seem selfish? Is that how these groups work or am I just in the minority on this experience?

Maybe it would be better if I had a group to go to in real life, I don't know. Let me know please citron.
posted by isoman2kx at 11:08 PM on November 27, 2008

Response by poster: Oh and to add, I forgot to say not enough people reply on those boards. You would think with a few dozen thousand members people would actually REPLY. As selfish as it sounds, I want attention when I post something and not a measly 3-4 replies saying "oh hey, it's going to get better" because I get more out of posting on ask metafilter than those boards if that's the case.
posted by isoman2kx at 11:10 PM on November 27, 2008

As someone with no real experience in this (but you want replies, right?) but I'd say that Carbolic's advice is solid. I generally buy veg from meal to meal, so when I've not been shopping, all I really have in the cupboards is rice, pasta, spices and oils. Snacking isn't really an option.

Have you considered sugar and caffiene free herbal teas? Maybe have some of those kicking around so you can make yourself one if you need to do some night time consumption.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 1:48 AM on November 28, 2008

Hey.. thanks!!! Yeah I was going to suggest a group in real life. My HMO at my old job organized those, maybe yours does? YMMV, I have not been to one and if it is just all complainy, that's not helpful. But it might be nice to speak to people in person, being online only can be kind of a bummer, also a group would have a facilitator who would hopefully steer everyone in a more productive direction.

Also I am really grateful for your mention of taking Seroquel here, I got prescribed that myself but only a very small dose as a sleep aid, I will keep a real close eye on side effects especially with appetite!
posted by citron at 7:11 AM on November 28, 2008

Response by poster: @cantdosleepy

Well replies sure, if they are helpful :). Sugar and herbal free teas you say? That's certainly an option. On the beverage side of things, when I wake up beverages usually aren't a big problem. I tend to stay away from the caffeine drinks and either drink some sparkling flavored water (no calories, carbs etc) or like a propel or regular water. Thanks :)


Maybe I will do that citron. My job's kinda strange as I'm not with an official "9-5" job in the sense that I work part-time as a waiter for a catering company. I'm the standard broke college kid at 22, lol. Yet, what I can ask is between my psychiatrist for medicine and my psychologist for talk therapy, I'm HOPING one of them knows a support group that's pretty good for depression/anxiety. I can't tell you how awesome it would be to be in a room of people that understand what I'm going through and offer constructive advice each session. I wouldn't even be able to put a price on how much I would pay (yes, even pay) for something like that. I'm actually excited about this suggestion, my appointments with both are in about a week so I'll do some research on my own until then. Thank you :)
posted by isoman2kx at 8:16 AM on November 28, 2008

Have you considered hypnosis?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 11:47 AM on November 28, 2008

You say you live at home... sounds like you might live with your Mom? In this case, I can see how it'd be difficult to purge the house of food, etc.

Have you tried talking to your Mom about this? Seems like she'd be invested in helping you out, both for your health and your shared grocery bill.

If your mother (or whoever you live with) keeps similar hours to you, you could try replacing the lock on your bedroom door with one that locks from the outside and having her lock you in when you go to bed and let you out in the morning. Sounds harsh, but it would keep you from damaging yourself in your sleep and help you break the cycle.

You could also try only keeping ingredients in the kitchen, not ready-to-eat food. Make it so there's nothing -- or nothing unhealthy -- you can simply open the fridge/pantry and eat. Convenient items like bread/rolls, sandwich meat, cheese, leftovers, etc. can be kept in the freezer and thawed as needed, with the fridge saved for things like raw eggs/meat, fresh vegetables, and condiments. It's one thing to eat in your sleep, and another thing to cook in your sleep. If you're doing the latter, maybe the lock is the way to go. Even when you're awake, having to cook before you eat will slow you down from the binge and give you time to consider what you're doing.

And yeah, add my voice to the Seroquel-will-make-you-gain-weight chorus. My ex has always been scrawny in the extreme, and once they put him on Seroquel, he ballooned.
posted by Gianna at 9:21 PM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Re: Support forums...

Yeah, depression is depressing, and makes narcissists of... most of us.

With the replies, often it's the social reinforcement and communication we're seeking when we want replies. It turns out, replying to other peoples posts, actually serves this need quite well also - and people often reply to replies, building conversation.
Keep in mind, if you're wanting more than 3-4 replies, you should have made at least than 3-4 replies to other people's posts. Especially on depression forums, there's a lot of fly-by-nights. The regulars would be overwhelmed if they replied to every single new person.

Overeating groups would probably be more helpful (relative to depression support groups).

But, really - the only thing that's ever helped me for depression has been radical change. Good luck.
posted by Elysum at 4:10 PM on November 30, 2008

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