For decades, many Americans have believed that eating food late at night is bad for you. But, if you try to pin someone down to find out precisely why eating late at night is a bad thing, you probably won’t come up with anything substantive.
Most people who think that eating late at night is bad hold their beliefs for the following reasons:
- “Your metabolism slows down late at night.”
- “All of your energy goes to digestion so you won’t sleep well.”
- “Your body doesn’t need calories at night, so they turn to fat.”
As it turns out, these superstitions are not true – at least, they’re not true enough to hold water in the argument. Though the Mayo Clinic advises to stop eating at least two hours before bedtime, you don’t have to totally cut nighttime snacking habits from your life in order to lose weight!
How Eating Late at Night Got a Bad Rap
The popular belief that you can’t eat before bed largely stems from the teachings of 1970s-era dietitian, Adelle Davis, who famously wrote, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
This “common wisdom” is something you probably grew up hearing. Maybe you even tell your own children to follow this basic rule of thumb. And, while it’s not bad advice, it’s definitely not the only way to approach meal portioning and scheduling. There’s a common, natural eating pattern in the world of mammals that you’re probably familiar with. However, you might not have ever considered that it applies to you…
Late Night Eating & the Natural Order of Things
When you eat a large meal, how do you feel? Satisfied? Check. Hungry for more? Of course not. Sleepy? Yes! We acknowledge all of the other post-meal feelings as valid, but for some reason we have bought into the myth that eating shouldn’t make us sleepy. Why?
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Feeling sleepy after eating is totally normal and definitely not a bad thing. Pretty much every mammal in the animal kingdom feels this way after eating a large meal. Why not humans?
The reason is that dietitians came to confuse cause and effect. Many dietitians came to believe that the reason so many late night diners were putting on weight was because of their eat-and-go-to-bed lifestyle. This lifestyle isn’t the problem…
The Real Problem With Night Snacking
The real problem is that most people who eat late at night tend to overeat. Overeating – no matter what time of day or what your sleeping habits – is always a bad thing. When you overeat late at night, of course you’re going to put on weight. BUT you’re also going to put on the same amount of weight when you overeat at 7 o’clock in the morning!
So, remember: don’t focus on time of day. Focus on portions!
What’s your take on the late night eating debate? What have your personal experiences with late night eating revealed to you?