Have you heard that you should stop eating by 7 p.m. or you’ll gain weight and have trouble sleeping? Maybe you read it in a magazine or a helpful friend told you the “secret” to losing weight. Timed eating has been around for hundreds of years thanks to cultures that fast intermittently, or the Western myth that late night snacking is what causes weight gain. The truth is that scheduled eating can prevent overeating. But most of the time it is what you eat, not when you eat that causes you to gain weight.
The thought behind not eating past 7 p.m. is based on calorie restriction. In truth, calories don’t care when you consume them. By eating later at night, it is assumed that you are adding additional calories to your day, causing you to overeat. Late night snacks are often unhealthy and feature high-fat content and simple carbs, like ice cream and potato chips. If you eat a handful of nuts instead, you may actually be able to sleep better. Poor sleep has been linked to a heavy meal, and quality sleep is a key component of good digestive health.
Keep in mind that many people do better by consuming 4 to 5 smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large ones. Make sure to incorporate a variety of nutritional values into each meal to avoid bloating. For example, intake fiber at each meal to avoid bloating, gas, and discomfort. You should also be sure to eat at the same time each day to keep your body regulated and prevent it from going into starvation mode.
Many holistic health experts say that you should enjoy fruit first thing in the morning. This way, you have the entire day to burn off the sugar. Other advice is that you should enjoy your largest meal of the day in the morning to avoid getting extra hungry later in the day and snacking excessively. And yet another option is to skip breakfast, in favor of intermittent fasting. However, for some people fasting, even for a short period, can cause headaches and other health problems. It is best to know your body and do what works for you.
Rather than focus on not eating after a certain time, it can be helpful to focus on staying fueled throughout the day to prevent late night binges or raiding the office vending machine during the afternoon. Both can contribute to weight gain because you tend to make unhealthy choices when you get too hungry.
Remember calories don’t have a clock; but that doesn’t mean that if you skip breakfast, it’s okay to binge at night. Make healthy, conscious choices and you will prevent overdoing it any time of the day or night.