Do our bodies process calories differently after dark? Will you pack on the pounds in the form of fat if you eat at night?
There is a misconception that it's not the number of calories we eat, but when we eat them that makes us fat. However, just the opposite is true. Our bodies need a certain number of calories, and it doesn't matter when they receive them or whether the calories come in the form of food or beverages.
Weight loss will always come from eating fewer calories than your body burns throughout the day -- and night. But there are some problems that can arise from eating late at night, and they can lead to excess calories and weight gain.
Starving yourself all-day and gorging at night can lead to weight gain. By skipping meals or going longer than four to five hours without eating, you set yourself up to overeat when you finally do eat. So plan your day with three meals and at least one or two snacks.
When eating at night, people tend to dive into chips, cookies, ice cream, chocolate and other high calorie foods and beverages. The result is likely to be an excess of calories that leads to weight gain. Instead, choose fruits, vegetables, and other low-calorie foods for your nighttime snacks.
You should also know that there are certain night eating sleep disorders that may thwart your weight loss efforts. Symptoms of Night Eating Syndrome are a ravenous appetite in the evening followed by insomnia and a loss of appetite in the morning. Nocturnal Eating Syndrome is defined as eating after you have gone to bed.
If you think you may have some of these symptoms, talk to your physician and ask for a referral to a sleep-disorders treatment center. Help is available.
And remember, it's not when you eat -- it's what you eat.
Megan Porter, RD