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eating late: a controversy

Posted Jun 20 2010 7:47pm

it never fails. every Friday at approximately 7:45am,  i step on the scale and find myself at my lowest adult weight ever. i smile to myself, feeling thin and all, feeling like i can put on my skinny jeans and concur the world. (well no, i could never actually wear skinny jeans, but you know, in theory.) i know this happiness is fleeting though because it happens like clockwork. in a mere 24 hours, i will have added 2-3lb to this frame, only to spend the rest of the week battling to lose the additional poundage gained.


it’s a vicious cycle. a cycle i call – weekends are not your diet’s best friend.


see, the husband and i have got into the habit of dining out every Friday, which don’t get me wrong, is super enjoyable. super fun, super food, super friends…unfortunately, not so super on the waist line. obviously this means heavier meals, drinking more calories, eating so late in the evening that i’m just as full when i wake up. it’s sick really, but oh so good in the moment.


this weekend would not be the exception.


Friday afternoon: the husband asked if i wanted to go out for dinner, and naturally i said hellsyeah. the plan was to hit somewhere at 7 o’clock, but first, we’d have “a quick drink” with some friends at a nearby bar. sounds good, i said, already accepting my diet rules would be shattered. but you know when you tell yourself you’ve “been good” all week and “deserve it”, that voice is LOUDER than any silly whisper that says you’ll be fighting off that bloat for the next 7 days. oh well, louder voice says, you’re eating relatively early, maybe it won’t be so bad. you’ll still have time to digest before gramma’s bedtime.


at 8:45 our “quick drink” was still going strong. dinner hadn’t been served yet and already i’d surpassed my calorie limit for the day.


at 9:30 we made it to the restaurant. (‘Sake’. best place in Sydney bar-none.) 


at 11:30 we were in bed, our bellies filled to the brim with raw tuna, edamame, salt and pepper tofu, and chocolate to boot. needless to say, i didn’t sleep so great that night.


so. let’s recap where i went wrong, shall we?

1) drinking my calories. according to the daily plate, one martini equals 200. ( hypothetically speaking of course, if i had more than one, that’s like having an additional meal.)

2) eating a heavy meal right before bed.

3) eating a heavy meal right before bed.


now we could talk about how restaurant food has more calories and fat thanthe average dieter can afford, but that would lead to a monster post and i’ll save that for a later date. for now, let’s concentrate on the main reason i feel like a bloated whale.


i know for me, eating late is bad news, however, this is a subject the experts can’t seem to agree on. one study by Northwestern University is on the “eating late is bad” side. after examining 2 groups of mice over a 6 week period, they found the ones who were fed during the time they should’ve been sleeping gained twice as much weight as those who were fed at normal times. Deanna Arble, PhD student and the study’s lead author, says, “We speculate that it’s the interplay between body temperature, metabolic hormones such as leptin, and the sleep-wake cycle.”


don’t worry, i’m with you dear readers. mice are mice. mice are not humans.


another study, however, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition watched 94 individuals (humans this time) with 29 of those being night time eaters (those who ate between 11pm-5am.) after 3.5 years, the night eaters gained 13.6lbs while the non-night eaters only gained 3.7.


but of course, i wouldn’t be doing my job if i didn’t offer both sides of the story. truth be told, i found even more experts who argued the other side of the fence: in a nutshell, a calorie is a calorie – it doesn’t matter what time you eat it.


“The time of day a person eats is not as important for overall weight gain as the amount of calories eaten during the day,” according to Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo Ph.D., R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. “However, the danger in eating late at night is that it tends to be mindless eating, of calorie-laden foods.”


is it bad when you can see both sides?


based on my own experience, i know if i go to bed within 2 hours of eating, i wake up just as full. that can only mean i haven’t burned off that meal, and that can’t possibly be healthy. iwasn’t even hungry Saturday night when i met for dinner again with some other friends (at 8:30, to top it off.) that being said, i’m pretty sure eating late wasn’t the only reason i felt really fat: the considerable amount of calories probably didn’t help any. in that sense, the latter argument wins.


so it’s pretty obvious my diet hasn’t been on target as of late. i know what you’re thinking - it’s only one day, don’t feel so bad. but i swear, all weekend longi physically felt like garbage:  bloated, cranky, tired. and i couldn’t even run it off because my foot may be injured (long story, won’t get into it.) i can’t wait till Friday again when i feel back to normal.


what’s your experience been? does eating late affect your body or mood at all?

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