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Does Late Night Eating Cause Weight Gain?

8:01 AM, Apr 20, 2011   |    comments
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The following article is provided by Emily Hoffman, Clinical Dietician at Memorial Hospital.

Truth or Fiction: Late night eating causes you to gain more weight.

After a long day you get home and realize you haven't had dinner. Its 9 pm, and you are starving! Then you remember your friend telling you that you should not eat late at night because you will gain weight.  You don't want to gain weight, but you haven't eaten since 11:30am and you are so hungry. So what do should you do?

First of all, a calorie is a calorie, is a calorie. The same meal eaten at 6pm or at 10pm will contain the same number of calories.  Since your body never shuts off; you continue to burn calories and use energy even while you are sleeping.  Ultimately, your weight is affected by the total number of calories you consume in a day and the amount of exercise you do. 

You did wait too long between meals however, enough time to leave you with a raging appetite.  Eating regularly through out the day, about every 3-4 hours, will help control your appetite and keep you from gaining weight. It will also help keep you from feeling "starved" late at night and then eating a huge meal.  Research has shown that people who eat 4-5 times throughout the day have a healthier weight than those who do not. When you eat large meals, your body will use what it needs and then store the rest as fat.

In other cases, at night, you may find yourself snacking, even after you eat a satisfying dinner.  A whole bag of Doritos while watching a TV show or a huge bowl of ice cream will add a lot of extra un-needed calories. Generally the cookies, chips and ice cream you eat late at night, you are not eating because you are hungry but because of habit, boredom or stress.  You may eat while you are watching a TV show or a movie, and before you know it, an entire box of cookies is gone and you are not quite sure how it happened.  Some people may benefit just by cutting out snacking after dinner to help avoid the extra calories.  Remember that just 100 calories extra daily causes you to gain 10 lbs per year.

So what should you do?  When you get home at 9 pm and haven't had dinner and you are eating because you are hungry, by all means, eat a well-balanced meal! It's not the time of day when you eat that matters, but how much and what you eat for the whole day.  In the future, make an effort to eat throughout the day to avoid the "starved" feeling. Eat well balanced meals with healthful snacks throughout the day. If you identify that you tend to snack late at night, figure out why you are eating.  It may benefit you to make dinner the last thing you eat for the day.  The goal is to eat regularly throughout the day, make healthful choices and eat smaller portions.

This information was provided courtesy of Emily Hoffman, Clinical Dietician at Memorial Hospital.

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