Late Night Eating


     You ate a healthy diet and lower calories and carbs throughout the day.  You had a very reasonable dinner.  Later in the evening you settled down on the couch, turned on a favorite TV show and during a commercial break went to the kitchen and grabbed the cookies or chips.  You didn't mean to load up on high carbohydrate calories, but before you could come to your senses, the deed was done.
     Late Night Eating is actually a syndrome.  It is related to many factors, but contributes greatly to gaining weight and metabolic dysfunction.  Surveys show that the calories generally consumed in Late Night Eating are high carbohydrate and fat laden foods.  They are snack foods with empty calories and the muscles that burn a high percentage of our daily calories should be at rest at night, but are now called on to process and burn fuel.  This has a negative effect on our metabolic function.
     Late Night Eating alters sleep function.  People with Night time Eating Syndrome experience insomnia and difficulty both initiating sleep and maintaining sleep.  Evaluation of patients in a sleep lab who consume night time calories demonstrate low sleep efficiency.  Sleep is even more greatly affected by post-eating issues such as heartburn and acid reflux.
     Causes of night time eating can be linked to dealing with emotions, hunger as a result of an overly restrictive diet during the day, boredom, or even habit.  Whatever the cause, night time eating negatively affects metabolic function and body composition.  There has been a study that shows that an identical meal eaten at different times of the day has varying effects on our metabolic response.  The lowest metabolic response occurs after eating late at night.
     A Japanese study revealed a direct correlation between night time eating and elevated Body Mass Index, waist circumference, and metabolic syndrome.  These three measurements are linked to a greater risk for Diabetes, Hypertension, Dyslipidemia and the resultant cardiovascular disorders associated with them.  
     Usually, night time eating results in consumption of more calories than the body can use.  This leads to fat production and added body weight.  When one is attempting to lose weight, night time eating will sabotage this effort.  Any successful approach to weight reduction must address night time eating.
     Now that we know that night time eating is detrimental to our health, what can we do about it.  First, we must make sure not to overly restrict our eating during the day.  Next, we must be able to wean ourselves off of the night time eating. One way to do this is to find appropriate healthy substitutions and plan an evening snack that will be satisfying.  A piece of fruit, some nuts, veggies, a protein drink or bar can all be a good substitute as an evening snack.  
     Eliminating bad snacks from the cabinets and refrigerator can help us make better choices.  Planning a snack at a specific time can also be a help so we can get ahead of any hunger.  Some studies have linked low levels of serotonin to hunger and cravings, particularly of unhealthy "feel-good" foods.  To combat low serotonin levels the use of 5-HTP can be considered.
     Another treatment that might help with night time eating may be to use a Quick-Fill supplement.  These supplements can expand in the stomach to create a physical feeling of fullness to help reduce snacking and overeating.  Staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water can also reduce hunger and cravings.
     Daily exercise can be another treatment for night time eating.  When we exercise our body becomes more efficient at processing our fuel.  We better utilize our calories and reduce cravings.  Getting a slightly higher level of protein in the diet is also a way to reduce night time cravings.  Protein is converted to fuel more slowly than carbohydrates and will maintain our "fullness" for a longer time period.  Healthy fats will also reduce hunger.  A serving of nuts, or an avocado serving can assist with cravings and provide healthy nutrition.
     For many people attempting to lose weight, the night time eating issue is their major problem.  If focus can be placed on this single problem, the likelihood of weight loss success will dramatically rise.  Planning and prepping for this troublesome time period can create new habits.  Once these new habits are in place, weight loss will become more easy, and the ability to maintain a healthy weight can be achieved.
     Using an eating log will also provide valuable information that can be used to get control of eating at night.  Logging everything we eat and the time that we eat it can establish our current pattern and allow us to change to a new healthier pattern over time.  Evaluate your current eating patterns and see if this Night-Time Eating Syndrome is a negative pattern for you. 
     This may be the very thing that is standing in the way of achieving your healthy, optimal weight.  If you find this problem a difficult one to beat on your own, be sure to reach out for help from a weight loss Doctor.  This problem can be solved.  Beating this habit can not only help you lose weight, but can add years of good health to your life.  Start the healthy process Today.

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