Is eating late at night linked to food compulsions?
The evening is well underway and you suddenly want to eat something. After a tour of the pantry and the refrigerator, you choose the foods you like for a snack. So far, so good, but guilt creeps in.
I shouldn’t have eaten tonight: I ruined my day. I will probably gain weight because of this. I have no will…
The belief that eating in the evening is detrimental to our health and maintaining our weight is widely held, but what is it really? To dissect the question, let’s discuss the four main concerns that we hear in consultation:
1) “In the evening, I am less active than during the day and then I go to bed, so my body stores and gains weight. »
In the evening and at night, even if we are well settled in our couch or in our bed, our body is not dead! Our heart continues to beat, our lungs breathe, our brain functions, etc. These unconscious biological functions, which we call the basic metabolism, require a lot of energy from our body. Thus, the evening meal or snack can be made available as a source of energy for these vital functions.
In addition, if you avoid eating at night despite being hungry, it will be more difficult to fall asleep with an empty stomach. You might even wake up in the night or too early in the morning due to hunger; another sign that your body needs energy, even at night!
2) “Foods eaten in the evening are more fattening than those eaten during the day. »
First, it is important to mention that no food is more fattening than another. Second, there is no mechanism that transforms the nutritional value of food in the evening. A bowl of cereal in the morning or a bowl of cereal in the evening provides exactly the same nutrients!
Maybe you feel like you crave richer or sweeter foods in the evening. If so, you could take the time to think about your different evening needs. First, check if you are eating enough during the day. Maybe your body has an unmet biological need. It is also possible that these foods are associated with comfort, appeasement or a reward. You may have emotional needs to be met in the evening. If you feel lost in the face of these observations, the help of one of our specialized nutritionists is suggested. It will be our pleasure to accompany you.
3) “When I eat at night, I always lose control. So, it is better to avoid eating. »
Have you ever heard of the vicious circle of food restriction and excess? The more we prevent ourselves from eating or the more we judge our behavior negatively, the greater the chances of overindulging.
Reading this blog, you will understand that there is no risk in eating at night, that it is a food myth. So, if you feel like eating or if you are hungry, choose the foods you like and enjoy them. You will see that over time, by allowing yourself to eat in the evening without conditions, the loss of control will decrease.
4) “Eating at night disrupts our hormones. »
Among the scientific literature, some animal studies suggest that eating at night – and not in the evening – could disrupt the circadian cycle (hormone cycle of wakefulness and sleep) and thus increase the feeling of hunger. However, these studies are preliminary and do not allow recommendations to be made for humans. Moreover, they do not discuss the effect of eating in the evening. It is therefore not true to say that an evening snack would be harmful for the hormonal balance.
You may find yourself waking up at night to eat. If this happens to you frequently and you are concerned, you may have nocturnal binge eating. A nutritionist from our team could help you understand and deconstruct this behavior.
You may find it difficult to work on your eating habits at night. The help of a professional qualified in the anti-diet approach, such as one of our nutritionists, may be advised.
In closing, whether you are hungry or just want to eat in the evening, choose a food that makes you happy and enjoy it!
Catherine Panneton Dt.P., M.Sc