So the other night I was snacking on some chocolate about 9:30p.m. and I thought to myself…I really shouldn’t be eating so much sweets this late. Really, my thought should have been…I really shouldn’t be eating so much sweets [period]. It got me thinking about a lot of the weight-loss tips and fad diets that claim you should stop eating at 8:00pm or 6:00pm and I even met someone once who didn’t eat anything after 5:00pm!! So, it begs the question…does having a food curfew really help with weight loss?
My first response to this question is a huge, emphatic NO. Weight loss and maintenance is all about calories in verses calories out. You need to burn more than you take in to lose weight and keep it about even to maintain. For all intents and purposes, weight-loss is about what and how much you eat, not when you eat it. However, I would say that there are a few situations in which it might not be a bad idea to consider setting a closing time for your kitchen.
If you are snacking on unhealthy junk late at night, you might want to consider a food curfew. Do you eat your dinner and then grab some popcorn, chips, candy, cookies, etc…and park it in front of the TV for the rest of the night?? Consider if you really need the snacks or if it is a mindless habit that you do on autopilot. If you eat a healthy and filling enough dinner, you shouldn’t really need any additional foods. But if you absolutely must snack then try switching to healthier items like air popped popcorn (no oil, no butter=lots of food for little calories!), sliced fruit, or veggies and hummus. You could even make a miniature fruit smoothie or some banana soft serve.
If you can’t stop the late night snacking once start, I would definitely think about setting a curfew. Do you sit down with one cookie but end up somehow eating 7 or 8?? Do you bring the entire bag of potato chips in with you so you can eat as many as possible? Does one scoop of ice cream leaving you wanting more so you go back for seconds? If you cannot control your snacking, consider nixing it all together. You just need to pay attention to your habits to learn whether you eat a lot because you are truly hungry or just because the food is there.
Probably the most important reason (to me) for having a food curfew would be to allow your body time for proper digestion. Ideally, you want to eat your last meal 2-3 hours before you go to bed. This gives your digestive system enough time to start breaking down your dinner before you crash and your body’s functions slow down. Nighttime is when your body repairs itself from all of the damage that has happened to it during the day. If you go to bed with a full stomach, then your body’s processes are slowed down even more. Think of it this way: your body can do a few things really well (as far as repairs, hormone balancing, resting goes) or it can do a lot of things poorly. Digestion takes a lot of energy so it i s a good idea to give your body a jumpstart on this by letting digestion really get going before bed. Do you suffer from constipation or irregularity? Do you have bowel movements very infrequently? Do you not go right away in the mornings? If any of these apply to you, I would suggest trying out a food curfew to see if that helps relieve some of your digestive troubles.
So…how do you go from eating to your heart’s content until you close your eyes to effectively enforcing a food curfew? After dinner put up your leftovers, wash the dishes, clean the kitchen, and consider it closed. To try to control late night cravings, wait 30 minutes after dinner and then go ahead and do your brush/floss/rinse routine. No food tastes good when combined with minty fresh flavor. If it’s an oral fixation issue (meaning it’s mindless and you just need something to do) try sipping hot tea or lemon water. Just like any new habit, it will take a while to get used to but you will be forgoing the late night treats before you know it, and who knows…it might even help you lose a little weight!
**Check it out**
- You don’t need a Vita-Mix to enjoy the benefits of a green smoothie– video by Diana Stobo (warning: this video will cause immediate and urgent green smoothie cravings!)
- Tons of Vegan Sandwich Ideas from Healthy Happy Life
- Spicy Roasted Cauliflower from Eat, Live, Run (can’t wait to try this soon!)