There are a lot of rules out there that tell you not to eat after a certain time of night. But what if you get hungry after nursing your baby at 1 am? Or if you find yourself so busy or end up stuck in traffic so that dinner doesn’t happen till 9 pm or later? What happens then?
Like most restrictive rules around losing weight, these rules don’t always take into account what your life is like. So I want to break down some of the effects of late night eating and how you can start to hack them so that you can start to reach your goals.
The high-level truth is that your body is more concerned about how much you eat over the course of the day and less about when you’re eating. But as with most answers I give, there’s some nuance… and I explain three areas that impact late night eating or are impacted by it.
Late Night Eating and Fat Storage
When you eat too much food, whatever your body doesn’t need gets stored as fat. So if you eat a lot of food at night, the extra calories that your body doesn’t need go directly to stored fat. The hack here is that if you’re going to eat late, don’t eat too much food. If you find that you normally don’t know that you’ve eaten too much till it’s too late, one thing you can do is to slow down at mealtime. This can be as simple as putting down your fork from time to time to check in with yourself to see if you’re satisfied or if you need a little more food.
Late Night Eating and Food Choices
As the day wears on, your body doesn’t need as much raw energy to keep you going and this is particularly true when you’re about to go to bed. But this doesn’t mean that you should go to bed hungry because that will cause a whole new set of problems. Eating foods like white bread and white rice right before bed will trigger your body go store fat even if you don’t eat too much. That’s because these high carbohydrate foods trigger the release of the fat storage hormone, insulin.
To hack this, go for non-starchy Vegetables and Animal or Plant Protein if you need to eat before bed. These food types are the first two in the eating pattern I teach called VAFs and they’re less likely to drive your body to store fat than their starchy carbohydrate and whole grain counterparts. To increase the chances that you won’t sabotage your efforts to lose weight by eating late at night, cook these foods using healthy cooking methods like steaming and boiling.
Late Night Eating and Sleep
The last nuance is the relationship between late night eating and sleep. If you go to bed with a rumbling stomach, your sleep quality will probably be low. And if you eat too much before you sleep, you’re likely to feel bloated and uncomfortable to the point where your sleep quality is negatively impacted. So the key is to find the right balance instead of starving or overfeeding yourself to sleep.
To hack this, eat something if you’re really hungry before bedtime. You’re no good to anyone after a night of bad sleep because of an empty stomach. The issue is not just the empty stomach here, but also the effects of regular sleepless nights on your weight and your health. When your sleep quality is lacking, your willpower will be lacking as well because you’re spending it to make up for impaired judgement that comes from a lack of sleep.
Also consistently bad sleep quality increases your body’s release of cortisol – a stress hormone that signals your body to store fat around your tummy. So rather than mess with your sleep and cause other problems, why not eat the right foods in the right portions instead? Are you unsure of what these are? You can always check out my free Quick Guide where I teach the four types of food to help you Start Losing Weight Today.
Now that you understand some of the effects of late night eating and you have some ideas on what you can do to hack these effects, it’s time to choose the action that you feel you can start taking today.
I shared three negative effects of late night eating and two hacks you can take action on to handle all three. What I want you to do is pick one hack from the two possible actions and commit to doing it consistently. If you’re so busy that you struggle with late night eating, then I don’t want you to fracture your focus by trying to do too much. Here are the hacks summarized:
Slow down the pace of your eating to allow you to minimize the chance that you’ll overeat
Choose non-starchy Vegetables and Animal or Plant Protein if you have to eat before bedtime
So pick one and go from there.
Next time, we’ll dive into unhealthy food habits and how to start to break them…
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